Crew visit Atlanta United, have eye on top of table

Knocking off the best home team in Major League Soccer has Columbus coach Wilfried Nancy thinking big when the Crew play at Atlanta United on Saturday in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup.

The Crew (15-9-8, 53 points) defeated New England 2-1 on Wednesday to hand the Revolution their first home loss of the season in 16 matches. Diego Rossi had a goal and an assist.

More importantly, the Crew moved into fourth place by a point over the Revolution with two matches left. New England has three to play. The top four teams get home field for the best-of-three first round.

But Nancy wants his players to look past Philadelphia (54 points) in third to Orlando City (57), holder of second place in the conference.

“We want to be limitless,” Nancy said. “So, what does it mean to be limitless? For us, it’s to go as far as possible. We’re trying to catch up to second place. We know this is difficult, but for the moment, it’s one game at a time. … We’re trying to push for everything and see where we can go.”

On the Atlanta (13-9-10, 49) side, coaches and players know anything other than a win would eliminate them from fourth-place contention.

Expect Atlanta to be desperate and angry after feeling aggrieved by a 3-2 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda in his post-match comments used a variation of the phrase “there should have been three PKs, only one was called,” eight times. Thiago Almada scored on that lone penalty kick, giving him 27 goal contributions (11 goals, 16 assists) on the season, which ranks third in Atlanta United history.

Pineda is particularly upset, that in his view, other coaches criticized the referees before playing Atlanta and then get calls going their way.

“Do I need to talk before every game about the referees not giving us calls?” Pineda said. “What else do we need to do? Rather than playing good football, dominating the game, creating a lot of chances. What else do we need to do to earn the respect?”

His comments should add more intrigue to the matchup of the top scoring teams in MLS (Columbus, 64 goals; Atlanta 63).