With the final four Eastern Conference playoff spots still very much up in the air, the Houston Dynamo know they can't afford to leave many points behind down the stretch.
The visiting Dynamo look to take advantage of what appears to be a favorable matchup Sunday as they go for a fourth straight win over the Philadelphia Union, who are trying to avoid a franchise-record nine-game winless streak.
While Sporting Kansas City sits atop the East, Houston (12-7-10) finds itself in a tight battle with Chicago, New York, D.C., and Columbus for the other four postseason berths. The Dynamo could have an edge given their easier schedule - all five remaining games come against teams with worse records, including two versus Philadelphia (7-14-6).
The Union, limited to four goals in going 0-4-4 since the beginning of August, also had an eight-game winless streak last season but have not had a longer one in their three years of existence. They most recently fell 1-0 to United on Thursday.
"I think as a team we need to have a little bit more fight," goalkeeper Zac MacMath told the club's official website. "Bring it all out on the field (and) not let up a goal against. We just need to find that urge to go get a goal and win games. I think that's something we all need to work at."
Philadelphia hasn't fared very well against the Dynamo of late, either. The Union fell 2-1 at Houston on June 30 and have gone 0-3-1 over the last four meetings, including two losses in the first round of last season's playoffs.
"Houston is another good team, we have to be ready for them," captain Carlos Valdes said. "We have some history and memories with Houston and they are coming here to a place where we need a win. For ourselves, for the fans. It's an important game."
While the Dynamo are coming off Thursday's 4-0 win over CD FAS in the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League, they've won only once in their past six league games (1-2-3).
In its last MLS match, Houston nearly pulled out a win at Kansas City on Sept. 14 but had to settle for a 1-all draw after allowing the game-tying goal in the third minute of second-half stoppage time.
"It's very hard because we don't go into any game just trying to get a point," captain Brad Davis told the team's official website after setting a new career high with his seventh goal.
"We go in trying to win the game and we tasted it and it was there. Guys fought like crazy and came out of here with a well earned point but, all in all, we came for three and we just weren't able to come away with it."
Since posting 1-0 wins in its first two road games, Houston has gone 1-7-5 on the road in league play while giving up 24 goals.
The Dynamo and Union conclude their season series Oct. 20 in Houston.