The Columbus Crew finished third in MLS' Eastern Conference on the strength of a formidable record at Mapfre Stadium.
On Saturday, the Crew will see if home-field advantage pays off when they host No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls in a Round One single-elimination match in the MLS playoffs.
"We're trying to leave a legacy this year, so we have the first game at home and it's important that we take care of business as soon as the whistle blows," Crew forward Gyasi Zardes said.
The Crew was 9-1-0 in games at Mapfre Stadium this season, tying the Philadelphia Union (9-0-0) for the most wins in a home stadium. In the first year of the single-elimination bracket format used last season, the home team won nine of 13 games.
However, the Crew announced Thursday that because of rising COVID-19 cases in the community that attendance will be limited to "an extremely small number of family members and guests of the team (players, staff)" instead of the 1,500 fans allowed at the previous seven home games.
Columbus, 2-1-0 in the previous three games, will try to stop the Red Bulls' late 3-1-3 surge in the past seven games under interim coach Bradley Carnell, who replaced Chris Armas on Sept. 5.
Carnell was put in charge because Gerhard Struber, announced as the permanent coach on Oct. 6, was unable to join the Red Bulls until last week. The former coach of Barnsley in the English Championship makes his debut in the most important match of the season.
Struber had to wait weeks for a work visa to come to the United States, and then had to go through a government-mandated quarantine period because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I took over a team in a very good mood and a good energy," Struber said. "I know my first 11. I have a good impression of the team. I have a good feeling. In this game we need not only the first 11, but we need every player in the squad."
--Field Level Media