The Chicago Fire have won three straight as part of their solid play since July that has allowed them to overtake D.C. United in the standings.
The visiting Fire are also well aware of United's problems over the weekend as these teams meet for the first time this season Wednesday night.
Chicago (12-7-5) trailed D.C. (11-8-4) by six points heading into last month but now are four points ahead for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, although United have a game in hand. The Fire are 4-2-2 since the start of July while United are 1-3-1 in the same span.
"I call it a six-pointer," Fire forward Patrick Nyarko said. "If we win the game down there, we've separated ourselves from D.C. They've been at the top of the standings all year, and they've had an inconsistent run over the last few weeks so at home, they'll look to right the ship."
D.C. will be without Emiliano Dudar and Branko Boskovic, as both were sent off in the final moments of a 1-all draw with Philadelphia on Sunday that ended United's seven-game home win streak.
It was part of a wild finish in which Dwayne De Rosario apparently gave D.C. the lead with a penalty kick in the 87th minute before it was ordered to be re-taken. He missed on the second attempt.
Boskovic was sent off during a scuffle in between the penalty attempts before Dudar also got a red card. United teammates Chris Korb and Brandon McDonald engaged in an argument after the final whistle and had to be physically restrained by other D.C. players.
Coach Ben Olsen and team president Kevin Payne were critical of referee Mark Geiger after the contest.
"We got to (complain) and moan tonight, smash some lockers and all that stuff and then tomorrow forget about it and get ready for a very good Chicago team on Wednesday, who's moving up the charts and I think has made some good additions," Olsen said Sunday.
The Fire saw what happened at RFK Stadium on Sunday and are hoping to add to United's problems.
"You can't lose your composure, and obviously they lost their composure," midfielder Daniel Paladini said. "They were winning the game and they had some bad calls, what not, they started fighting with each other or the other team. It's unfortunate for them, but for us, they're missing two starters."
Chicago has gone 2-0-2 in its last four meetings with D.C., winning in its last two visits to RFK.
D.C. is on an 8-0-3 run at home, though, and Chicago expects to see a desperate team Wednesday.
"They can be dangerous anytime so we are not going to underestimate the fact they had a meltdown last game," Nyarko said. "If anything, that's going to make them stronger against us."
Fire midfielder Chris Rolfe has scored three times over the last two games, with one goal coming in a 2-1 home win over New England on Saturday. Designated player Sherjill MacDonald had the other tally - his first in four games since joining Chicago.
- Chicago Fire