Daniel Rios of Charlotte FC hopes his historic game last Saturday won't be for naught when the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference are decided.
The same holds true for Derrick Etienne Jr. of Columbus, as the Crew (10-7-15, 45 points) prepare to play at Charlotte (13-17-2, 41 points) on Wednesday to complete a match from July 30 that was 0-0 in the 16th minute when it was suspended due to inclement weather.
The stakes are much higher now in the final week of the regular season with the fifth through seventh postseason spots in the East up for grabs.
Eighth-place Columbus is equal in points with Orlando City and Inter Miami, and one point behind fifth-place FC Cincinnati, but the Crew would lose a tiebreaker to all of them.
A win over Charlotte moves the Crew ahead of idle Cincinnati, while the Orlando at Miami match on Wednesday will also affect the standings. The regular season concludes Sunday.
Even though Rios had the first four-goal performance by a player on an expansion team in MLS history in Saturday's 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, Charlotte would be eliminated from playoff contention if it doesn't win Wednesday.
"It hasn't been an easy season, but we are still fighting, we still believe," Rios said.
Columbus is in a better spot only because of the miraculous comeback engineered by Etienne, who came off the bench to tie the New York Red Bulls at 1-1 in the 89th minute, then scored the winner in the third minute of stoppage time.
It marked the first time in club history (founded in 1996) that the Crew won a match it trailed entering the 89th minute.
"I think our guys know we're not out of the woods," Crew coach Caleb Porter said. "We've got to go to Charlotte and win. It's that simple."
Crew forward Cucho Hernandez (nine goals in 15 matches) will return from serving a one-game suspension for abusive language toward a Portland Timbers player on Sept. 18.
--Field Level Media