The Houston Dynamo have an opportunity to make a big move in the Eastern Conference, though they must end an ugly slump to get it done.
Fortunately, the Dynamo could be near full strength Saturday night when they visit the Philadelphia Union and try to move past them in the East playoff race.
With seven matches remaining, sixth-place Houston (10-10-7) trails fourth-place Philadelphia (10-9-9) by two points. The Dynamo and fifth-place New England both have 37 points, but the Revolution hold the tiebreaker because of a 37-31 scoring advantage.
With a chance to move ahead of the Union and into a playoff spot, Houston will have to break through for its first MLS victory since Aug. 17. That game was part of a 4-1-1 stretch in which the Dynamo yielded only five goals.
They've since gone 0-3-1 in league play while getting outscored 12-2, including a 4-1 loss to New York on Sunday.
"We're going to have our full team going into Philadelphia, so we're right in the middle of things, luckily," midfielder Brad Davis said. "We just have to keep our heads up and keep pushing forward."
Davis and defender Jermaine Taylor return from World Cup qualifiers looking to provide a boost for a Houston team hit hard by international call-ups and injuries during its slump. Davis has four goals and six assists this season and has scored in two of his last three matches against the Union.
The Dynamo also hope to have defender Corey Ashe and midfielder Andrew Driver back after they sat out Sunday.
Philadelphia also has struggled lately, going 0-2-2 since Aug. 10. The Union will try to bounce back at home, where they're 6-1-3 in their last 10 games across all competitions.
"We've done a good job being able to rebound off losses; we haven't lost two games in a row all season," forward Antoine Hoppenot told the team's official website. "I think we'll go out there and put a lot of pressure on them and hopefully get the three points."
The Union have been shut out in three of their last four games, including a 1-0 loss at San Jose on Sunday. They might be able to break out against a Houston team which hasn't blanked any of its last nine MLS opponents.
Star striker Jack McInerney (10 goals) looks to end his lengthy drought, having failed to produce a goal in 11 consecutive games. He scored the last time he faced the Dynamo, a 3-1 road loss Oct. 20.
McInerney didn't play in the clubs' only matchup this season as Philadelphia lost 1-0 in Houston July 6, when Taylor assisted on Ricardo Clark's goal in the 59th minute. While they've won five of six against the Union, including the playoffs, the Dynamo are 0-1-2 in three regular-season meetings in Philadelphia.
Houston is 1-5-3 on the road since May 26, and the club is looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak overall since dropping four straight Aug. 28-Sept. 22, 2010.