In the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, D.C. United appear to have a good chance to gain some ground in the standings this weekend.
United try to extend the longest home unbeaten streak in team history to 15 games Sunday night when they face last-place Chivas USA, mired in its longest winless stretch in seven seasons.
Having been outscored 14-3 during a six-game road losing streak, D.C. (14-10-5) pulled out a 1-0 victory at Philadelphia on Thursday. Chris Pontius found Lionard Pajoy in the 67th minute for United, who were playing their second game since losing reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario to a season-ending sprained MCL.
"It wasn't the greatest performance, but that's what you've gotta do these days," coach Ben Olsen said. "We're still trying to find ourselves. As far as life after DeRo and our shape, tweaking things."
D.C.'s play at home hasn't left much room for improvement. Since falling 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City in their season opener, United have outscored opponents 33-14 during a 10-0-4 run at RFK Stadium.
Despite that success at home, D.C. knows taking Chivas (7-14-7) lightly could prove costly.
"It's a dangerous opponent, especially when a team like Chivas doesn't have a whole lot to lose, they become very dangerous," said Pontius, who leads United with 11 goals. "I think people are playing for their jobs there."
While Chivas has gone 4-2-2 in the last eight matches in this series, it could have a hard time keeping up Sunday. The club has been outscored 23-7 during an 0-6-2 skid - its longest winless stretch since its inaugural season of 2005.
"With our team, it's not necessarily about the X's and O's right now, because we do some of those things well," assistant coach Greg Vanney told the league's official website. "It's about keeping that belief and keeping them pushing forward and staying positive with them - keep urging them on to do what they do, because we have good players."
Last in the West with 28 points, Chivas is coming off its fourth consecutive loss, 1-0 at Columbus on Wednesday. The club appeared headed for a draw before allowing a goal in the 89th minute.
"You get that same sinking feeling, no matter where you are on this team," said Vanney, who took over with coach Robin Fraser suspended after getting ejected during the previous match for arguing with a referee.
"When you get so close to the end, something goes sideways for us and we end up not walking away with anything. It doesn't matter whether it's the first coach, the second coach, the third coach, one of the players, anybody, it's still the same sinking feeling."
Chivas hasn't dropped five in a row since a team-worst six-game losing streak in 2010.