With one win in their last 10, the Houston Dynamo's chances seem bleak, but despite being five points out of playoff position, their schedule is conducive to recovery.
The Dynamo, whose final 12 matches come against Eastern Conference teams, get their first opportunity to turn things around Friday night at home against the more upbeat Philadelphia Union.
The match is the first of two remaining between Houston (6-12-4) and the Union (6-8-9), who hold the fifth spot in the East. The Dynamo have at least one contest left against each team in the conference as they try to avoid missing the playoffs after reaching the Eastern finals in three straight seasons.
"The only way we can get higher is by beating the teams above us and that's what we get the chance to do pretty much every week," coach Dominic Kinnear told the club's official website.
The Dynamo are 1-7-2 in league matches since May 21 and have been shut out six times. After a 1-0 win over D.C. United on Aug. 3, they reverted to their old ways with Sunday's 2-0 loss at Seattle.
They do have some home success to fall back on with a win and two draws in their last three in Houston.
Their history with the Union has also been kind. Houston is 6-1-2 against Philadelphia since Aug. 6, 2011, and hasn't conceded a goal in the last three meetings. The clubs played to a scoreless draw April 19, and both contests a season ago ended in 1-0 Dynamo victories on goals by Ricardo Clark.
In Houston, Philadelphia has suffered four straight losses.
More recently, the Union haven't lost in their last five league matches, going 2-0-3 after Saturday's 2-1 home win over Montreal. Sebastien Le Toux scored both goals, giving the forward eight in his last nine MLS contests.
Houston has been watching.
"They have decent pace out wide with Le Toux and Danny Cruz, and Conor Casey I think is having a good season for them," Kinnear said. "A team that we're chasing, too, so I think it's an important game and one that we hope to get maximum points out of."
In addition to their league run, the Union added a U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory with Tuesday's 2-1 triumph on penalty kicks over FC Dallas, reaching their first final in club history.
They now prepare for a third match in seven days.
"It's awesome. It's a feeling that this club has never had before and I know our fans back home are really excited," defender Amobi Okugo told the club's official website. "We're happy to be able to bring it back home. Now we shift our focus to Houston and hopefully look to finish this trip to Texas on a high note."
Having Carlos Valdes back in the middle of their back line could help with any fatigue. The Colombia defender, who started one match for Los Cafeteros in the World Cup, returned to the Union for the Montreal match after spending 2013 and the start of 2014 on loan in Colombia and Argentina.