Five months removed from playing in their respective conference finals, the Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers look nothing like playoff-caliber clubs.
Instead, they're two of the league's most desperate teams entering Sunday's match in Houston.
The Dynamo (2-4-1) have gone 319 minutes without a goal, the second-longest drought in club history behind a 388-minute stretch from June 1-July 6.
The Timbers (0-3-4) are one match shy of tying the franchise's longest winless streak.
Houston's season started favorably, with the team outscoring opponents 5-0 in two straight victories as Will Bruin contributed three goals. The Dynamo have since been outscored 12-2 with Bruin going scoreless.
Despite seven shots on goal, Wednesday's 4-0 road loss to New York marked the third straight time Houston was shut out. It was also the second-most lopsided defeat in franchise history behind a 5-0 defeat at Montreal on Aug. 24.
"We had chances," coach Dominic Kinnear told the team's website. "Teams are not going to jump out of the way and let us score. It's difficult to do. Sometimes they come in bunches like they were at the beginning of the season, sometimes they're hard to come by."
The Dynamo have also been shut out in two straight against Portland, including a 2-0 road loss in the only meeting last season.
They may find a spark with the expected return of captain Brad Davis, who has missed three straight contests with an ankle injury. The midfielder helped set up Ricardo Clark for Houston's last goal in a 4-1 home loss to FC Dallas on April 5. Davis' nine assists during the 2013 regular season were tied for the fifth most in MLS.
"A lot of good stuff can be played through him," Kinnear said. "It's just a good player to have on the field. …You don't want him out for an extended period of time, and I think we've missed him."
It's not clear if Clark will be available after leaving against New York with an apparent head injury.
The Timbers appear to be in real danger of going without a win for an eighth straight match for the first time since July 7-Aug. 19, 2012. They've been outscored 5-1 while dropping all three of their fixtures on the road, where they're 2-8-5 dating back to June 8.
Portland allowed a goal in the 78th minute of Saturday's 1-0 loss at Salt Lake - the fourth straight match in which it surrendered a tying or go-ahead goal in the 78th or later.
"It's all about results. We have to step up and make plays, and there are plays out there that are there to be made," said Will Johnson, who has one score after tying for the team lead with 11 last season, to the team's website.
"This is professional soccer, and when we get in those big moments we look like amateurs," he said. "So we have to face the reality that we have to be better."
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- Houston Dynamo
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