While the Chicago Fire again have a chance to move into playoff position this weekend, FC Dallas is on the verge of missing the postseason for a second consecutive year.
Looking to win two straight league matches for the first time in two months, the Fire hope for a rare victory at Dallas on Saturday night in the clubs' only meeting of 2013.
Chicago snapped an 0-3-1 road slide with a 3-0 win over league-worst D.C. United last Friday to briefly claim the fifth and final playoff spot in Eastern Conference. The Fire (12-12-7), however, slipped to sixth after Philadelphia beat Toronto FC 1-0 the next day to move into fifth.
Two points behind the Union - they host D.C. on Saturday - and with New England and Columbus nipping at their heels, the Fire know the importance of these final three games and the momentum earned from last week's victory.
Chicago is 3-3-3 since last posting consecutive league wins Aug. 3-10.
"We need to find points to be there," coach Frank Klopas said. "It's never easy."
Following this match, Chicago hosts lowly Toronto and concludes the regular season at New York.
"The most important thing is not giving away easy chances for the opponent," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko told MLS' official website. "If they're going to get a chance or score, they should earn it in a spectacular way. Just make sure you do whatever is necessary not to give away an easy chance, which all comes down to the fact that you need to be one unit as a team, and move forward and attack as a team, and defend and attack, and all that as a team."
Winning at Dallas (10-10-11) has not been easy for the Fire, who are 3-14-3 there all-time, including the playoffs. Chicago's only win in its last 17 matches (1-13-3) at Dallas was a 3-1 victory in 2009.
The Fire, however, did win 2-1 at home in the teams' only 2012 meeting to end an 0-3-2 slide in the series.
Mired in an 0-3-1 stretch, Dallas will be eliminated from postseason contention with a loss or tie Saturday.
Though it snapped a three-game losing streak with a 1-1 road draw against Real Salt Lake last Saturday, Dallas is eighth in the West and seven points behind fifth-place Colorado for the final playoff spot. After this contest, Dallas concludes the regular season by hosting Seattle and visiting San Jose.
"We know we have to get points," said forward Kenny Cooper, who scored the tying goal in the 72nd minute against RSL. "I think you're going to see a really determined squad over these next couple games and finally get some points."
Cooper, back with Dallas after playing 2012 with New York and for Portland in 2011, snapped a 15-match goal drought in MLS play last weekend. He has six goals in 12 league matches against the Fire, but none in his last five.
After scoring twice in a 2-2 draw with Montreal on Sept. 28, Fire midfielder Mike Magee was held without a goal last Friday while captain Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumare and Quincy Amarikwa scored.
Magee has a team-leading 12 goals in 19 matches since the Fire acquired him from Los Angeles in late May.