D.C. United looked poised to become a contender after a strong showing last term, but the club's start to the new campaign has left a lot to be desired.
United finished the 2012 regular season in second place, but a slow start this year has seen the fabled club manage just four points from its first seven matches.
Things won't get any easier with a trip to Crew Stadium on Saturday to face the Columbus Crew, and D.C. head coach Ben Olsen has thrown down the gauntlet to his side.
"Now, I'm going to hold [the players] to very, very high standards," said Olsen. "If it's not working, we'll make changes. But I believe in the group."
D.C. has produced just four goals in its seven games, second-fewest in the Eastern Conference. With Dwayne De Rosario missing a handful of matches through suspension, the club's futility has fallen upon the shoulders of striker Chris Pontius.
"I look at myself after ever game," responded Pontius when told that Olsen was turning his focus to the team. "I am my biggest critic... I know I haven't played up to my potential."
United comes into the match riding a five-game winless run, losing its last four contests.
Columbus is not in the best vein of form either, though. The Crew are winless in their last three league matches, taking just two points over that stretch.
The club's last league win came against D.C. United in a 2-1 defeat at RFK Stadium on March 23. Crew head coach Robert Warzycha offered some insight as to how his side can replicate the result on Saturday.
"We played very organized and we created a lot of chances," Warzycha told the club's official website. "We were very aggressive and we have to play the same way at home on Saturday."
Defender Josh Williams also stressed the importance of set pieces in match that is likely to be closely contested.
"I think that was the start of us being dangerous on set pieces," Williams said. "We had good service and I think we used the flank play a lot to start the game. Tyson [Wahl] and I were getting forward really well. We were pretty effective. Hopefully we can pick that back up and get a little bit more possession on Saturday."