If it can continue to regroup after a tough week, Sporting Kansas City might help its chances of reclaiming first place in the Eastern Conference.
A return home would seem to aid Sporting's quest, but it hasn't had much success over the past few years against the surging Chicago Fire, who will try to extend their unbeaten streak in Kansas City to six matches Friday night.
Sporting KC (9-4-2) was perhaps feeling the effects of a busy stretch of its schedule during a 4-0 drubbing at Philadelphia on Saturday. That match was its third in a week and followed a 1-all draw in Seattle just three days earlier.
Kansas City took a small step to getting back on track Tuesday with a 3-0 win over USL Pro side Dayton in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday as Graham Zusi and C.J. Sapong scored three minutes apart in the second half to seal the victory.
"I think more than anything we were embarrassed. We know we're so much better than that and the way we played that game," defender Seth Sinovic said. "We wanted to get back on the field as quickly as possible and get a win under our belt."
Victories, though, have proved more difficult to earn against the Fire (7-5-3). Kansas City has one win over the last nine meetings (1-3-5) and is 0-1-4 over the past five home matchups.
Chicago earned one of the victories in that series at home May 12, when Dominic Oduro scored the tiebreaking goal in the 81st minute of a 2-1 win.
Kansas City, which trails D.C. United and New York by one point in the East, is 6-1-0 at Livestrong Sporting Park this season and 16-4-5 since it opened with a scoreless draw against Chicago on June 9, 2011.
While they've lost three straight road games in league play, the Fire are seeking their first three-match overall win streak since Sept. 17-28. Oduro and Marco Pappa scored in the first 26 minutes of a 2-1 victory over Columbus, and Chicago held on despite playing the last 61 minutes with 10 men after defender Gonzalo Segares was given a straight red card for a late tackle.
The ejection also has ruled him out of this match.
Chicago could get some help with Brazilian midfielder Alex possibly making his debut after the transfer window opened Wednesday. He has spent the past three seasons playing for FC Wohlen in Switzerland and trained with the Fire in the preseason in January.
"He's going to travel with us and depending on how the game goes, on the situation, we'll see," coach Frank Klopas told the league's website. "He's available for the team, so that's good."
Kansas City, meanwhile, got Matt Besler back during the U.S. Open Cup win. The defender, who missed three games after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, played 68 minutes and is hoping to be available for Friday's match.