The Montreal Impact started September eight points ahead of the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference. They now have to avoid a loss in Houston on Friday night to stay in front of the Dynamo in the playoff race.
The slumping Impact try to get back on track when they face a Dynamo team that's unbeaten in its last three.
Though the Impact (13-9-7) have a game in hand on Houston, that may not matter if they can't get back to their winning ways. They've gone 0-2-1 in three games since a 3-0-1 stretch.
They managed to avoid a third straight loss with a 2-2 draw at Chicago on Saturday, needing Maxim Tissot's header in the 87th minute to earn the point.
Despite the rough stretch, Montreal, in third place in a tight East race, is in good position to take control of its playoff fate.
"We are where we wanted to be," team president Joey Saputo told the team's official website. "We will play some of the teams trailing us (in the final five games), including Houston, New England and Philadelphia, making them six-point games."
The most important of those comes Friday, as the Dynamo (12-10-8) can pass Montreal with a victory as they look to move to 3-0-1 in their last four.
"(The Impact) still have a game in hand but it doesn't matter," Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis told the team's official website. "Once you get the points and put pressure on the other teams, that's always a good thing. Three out of our final four at home is a great opportunity for us to really pick up some momentum and hopefully take that into the postseason."
Houston is beginning a three-match home stretch against the top three teams in the conference.
Will Bruin's goal in the 76th minute Saturday gave the Dynamo a 1-1 tie at New England. Bruin has scored in consecutive matches for the second time this season, and his team is 6-0-1 this year when he finds the back of the net.
While an Impact loss would drop them behind the Dynamo, a Montreal win would vault it one point ahead of Sporting Kansas City for second place heading into the weekend.
"Our destiny is in our own hands," Impact forward Marco Di Vaio told the team's website. "Now it's up to us to finish the job."
The Impact have done that twice against the Dynamo this year by a combined score of 7-0, but both games were in Montreal.
Di Vaio has three goals in those two matches while midfielder Felipe scored twice.
" ... the most important thing (Friday) I think is just going out and playing as we have in the past few games, a good full 90 minutes, a complete game and that's what we were lacking all year," Davis said. "Finally we're starting to put that together and that's the way we need to finish up the season."
The Dynamo are 8-3-3 at home and have gone 4-1-2 in the past seven there.
There isn't enough urgency on the Impact's side to rush defender Alessandro Nesta or midfielder Hernan Bernardello back from injury, though there is a chance both could play.
Nesta missed the trip to Chicago with an adductor injury while Bernardello's sprained ankle has kept him out since Aug. 31.
"We don't want to take any chances in both cases, because in the end, a setback could hurt us all the way to the end of the season," assistant coach Mauro Biello said. "We want to play it safe with these two important players."
The Impact have gone 2-4-2 without Nesta in the starting 11.
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