After a promising start to this season, the Minnesota United carries a three-match winless streak into Sunday's match with Real Salt Lake in Saint Paul.
Minnesota (5-5-3, 18 points) has slipped from the top of the Western Conference standings all the way to seventh place. The Loons have scored just three goals over their last three matches.
Their latest setback came in the form of a 2-1 loss at Columbus on Wednesday, when they could not overcome an early deficit against the Eastern Conference leaders. Columbus scored on a header from Lucas Zelarayan in the 31st minute and Pedro Santos added one in the 70th. Robin Lod pulled one back for Minnesota in the 88th minute and the Loons nearly stole a road point in stoppage time, but Jose Aja's goal was waved off when he was ruled offside in the waning seconds.
Getting back home should offer a boost to Minnesota after three straight tough road matches.
"Obviously, results change the way that you are mentally," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "And, at this moment in time, with the away games that we've had, it's been mentally tough for the guys. You know, if you're winning games, you don't feel as tired."
The Loons are hoping to find the magic they enjoyed when RSL last visited Saint Paul less than a month ago. On Sept. 6, Minnesota dominated in a 4-0 rout.
Salt Lake (4-4-5, 17 points) snapped a two-game losing streak of its own Wednesday with a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. It was RSL's second clean sheet in four matches.
Albert Rusnak scored one goal off a penalty kick in the 65th minute and assisted on the other by feeding a cross to Damir Kreilach in the 72nd minute, which gave Salt Lake a much needed second-half boost. RSL moved back into the playoff position and trail Minnesota by a single point in the Western Conference standings.
"The team played a well-rounded game, both offensively and defensively," Salt Lake coach Freddy Juarez said. "It was a great group performance. Some individuals really looked good as well. It matters, and that's what we play for."
With three clubs lurking within three points of both of these teams in the standings heading into the weekend, the winner will solidify its position, while the loser be forced to play catch-up in the playoff race.
--Field Level Media