1) With three matches left and the Crew within striking distance of a playoff spot, how likely do you think it is for the Crew to get into the playoffs?
Funny you should ask... I've been writing a weekly column for @massivereport on the Crew's playoff chances since June. This season has seen their playoff chances go from bad to worse to threadbare. At one point I estimated that the Crew would need to win 6 straight games to be back in contention... for 5th place. But a funny thing happened on the way to the 2014 SuperDraft- the Crew have now won 4 of 5 and have injected new hope into their fan base.
The Crew cannot afford anything less than 7 of 9 points in its last three games. That would put them at 48 points, which still may not be enough to jump Chicago, Philly and either the Revs or Houston. Even winning out and earning 50 points wouldn't guarantee anything; last year the Crew missed the playoffs with 52 points. As well as they're playing, the Crew winning 3 more in a row would be an unlikely and dazzling feat that would end up one of the stories of the year in MLS. My heart says yes, but my head says they'll be close but just miss the playoffs.
2) Last match Sporting dominated a tired and depleted Crew squad. What'll be different about the Crew for this match as opposed to last match?
Sporting KC should expect a completely different squad than the one they faced in September. I was lucky enough to be at the match at Sporting Park, and the oppressive heat wore me out by the 20th minute. (Early in the second half, I tried to get in the Members Only club, only to learn it was truly members only.) The Crew were playing their 3rd match in 8 days, plus they were missing Josh Williams and Federico "Heart of the Crew" Higuain. Josh may or may not be back, but with Higuain firing on all cylinders and a strong home crowd behind them, the Crew will be ready for the challenge this Saturday. I expect a close and chippy game.
3) The Crew are on a three game winning streak where they've outscored their opponents 9-3. What's been the biggest reason for the sudden explosion of offense?
My take on the recent success goes beyond any "new coach bump". I think the Crew have had above average talent on the team, but underperformed under Coach Warzycha. With the continual lineup tinkering that used to happen, players couldn't feel any sort of confidence that they could make a mistake here or there and not be benched. As my @massivereport colleague Justin Bell said on our podcast this week, players are now making more aggressive runs into the box... just because they can. I think that these players are starting to trust themselves and their teammates more, which leads to more creative, fun and successful play. Of course, I'm a total homer and really want for all that to be true! Maybe it's simply the soccer gods shining down on us after our insane loss to LA in Carson this year.