Sporting Kansas City can count itself lucky to have maintained its position atop Eastern Conference.
A run of three losses in its last four league outings has seen Sporting take just three points from a possible 12 over the last four weeks, but some lackluster play from other Eastern Conference contenders has seen K.C. share first place with Red Bull New York on 39 points apiece.
Sporting can move into sole possession of top spot with a positive result against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Friday, but the team will need to produce a more cohesive road performance than they did last time out when they suffered a 1-0 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes.
"I thought the guys played hard," said SKC head coach Peter Vermes after the match. "Unfortunately there were certain things that went against us and that made it hard for us to find our rhythm. I don't think either team was able to find a rhythm. The game was a pretty ugly one."
Kansas City's 36 goals scored this season puts the club level with the Red Bulls, the Montreal Impact and the Philadelphia Union for most goals in the Eastern Conference, but a slew of missed chances last Saturday resulted in the club being blanked for the sixth time this term.
"We had our opportunities, but we weren't able to convert any," defender Matt Besler said of the loss to San Jose. "They get one real solid chance and Chris (Wondolowski) puts it away. I think our finishing just wasn't good enough, that's all I can really say about it."
Chicago is also coming off of a loss as it fell in a 2-0 defeat to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
The Fire held the Revs scoreless for the opening period, but second-half goals from Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe proved to be enough to lift New England to 33 points and sixth place in the East, one spot and two points better than Chicago.
"It was difficult. I think that the second half for us was a bit better. We were able to pressure more in the midfield," Chicago's Jeff Larentowicz said regarding the loss to New England. "In the first half they had a lot of time. But that said, I don't think they had a lot of chances in the first half. I think that as the game got stretched, as we pushed more guys forward, they got a second goal. For us it was a tough game, but we try and move forward."
The Fire will have an added incentive to pick up maximum points on Friday as the club is hoping to avenge a 2-1 home loss to Sporting on July 7. The two sides also met on March 16, playing to a scoreless draw at Sporting Park.