The pressure may be starting to mount on the Houston Dynamo.
The club welcomes Real Salt Lake to BBVA Compass Stadium on Thursday, giving the Dynamo a chance to snap their four-game winless run.
"It's frustration," Dynamo striker Brian Ching told MLSsoccer.com of the team's mood at training Tuesday. "We're a team that thinks we're better than the results that we're getting. We've got to put the work in and it���s going to be hard to get back into the swing of things, but I think we've got the team that can do it."
Earlier this season, Houston looked to be in a strong position to contend for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but its recent slide has dropped the club to fourth place where it sits eight points out of first.
"We have seven games left and we're a team that feels we're better than having to play off to get into the playoffs," Ching continued. "It's a difference between an entitlement feeling and going out there and proving it and putting the work in to be one of the best teams."
It's often said that you have to beat the best to be the best, and Houston will face a stern test to its credentials against Real Salt Lake.
The Claret and Cobalt have occupied second place in the Western Conference for virtually the entire season, but that position was threatened by their four- game winless streak during the month of August. That run came to end on the first day of September as they claimed a 1-0 win over D.C. United last time out.
"Another pretty strong one," head coach Jason Kreis said of the performance against United. "I think there were some critical errors back there that we covered ourselves pretty well with, but in the first half in particular we nearly gave them a goal. [Nick] Rimando's performance was outstanding again [Saturday]; obviously he made some critical saves for us in the second half."
Will Johnson, who provided the lone goal against D.C. United, stressed the importance of the win over the Eastern Conference club, as well as each remaining match until the close of the season.
"It gets us one more step closer to a playoff position," Johnson said of Saturday's win. "It keeps the pressure on the other teams in and around us.
"It's very tight in our conference at the moment. There's only five or six or seven games for most teams left so it's getting down to crunch time and every three points gets you closer to the playoff seat."