Toronto, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire enter their clash at BMO Field on Saturday at opposite ends of the playoff picture, but both sides are still very much in the mix in a tight Eastern Conference race.
Toronto sits in third place ahead of Saturday's tilt, while the Fire is tied with Houston for eighth place.
However, Chicago resides just three points from the final playoff spot in the conference despite winning just four of its first 23 games in league play this season.
Both sides are coming off loses in their last match, and both will be eager to turn those results around as the playoff picture begins to take shape.
The Fire lost 1-0 at last-place Montreal last time out as Marco Di Vaio scored the lone goal six minutes from time for the Impact.
Chicago owns only one win from its last six games, and the result continues a worrying trend of offensive futility that sees the Fire having failed to score more than one goal in a game since a 3-2 defeat at Seattle on June 7.
After the match Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was fairly blunt about what his side must do to turn things around.
"It's just a matter of believing and going out there and doing it," Johnson said. "We just got to get it done. It's up to us, we're the players on the pitch and we have to solve some problems ourselves out there sometimes. We got to find it in us to get those results."
TFC would rather forget its last outing, which saw the club suffer a 4-1 defeat at East leaders Sporting Kansas City.
Dom Dwyer scored a pair of penalty kicks for Sporting in the opening 33 minutes before Toronto pulled one back through Gilberto before halftime.
But Sporting added two more goals after the break as C.J. Sapong and Graham Zusi both found the net to help their side coast home for the win.
"We've said from the start, it's going to be a roller-coaster season," TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told mlssoccer.com after the match. "You don't automatically turn yourself into something; it's taken Kansas City and Real Salt Lake way longer than it took us. We are who we are and we'll keep working to get better.
"We have to deal with these adversities. It's good to deal with these experiences, these hardships of football when things aren't really going your way."
The last match may have been rough, but help is on the way for Toronto as three key players returned to practice this past week in the form of captain Steven Caldwell, defender Mark Bloom and striker Jermain Defoe.
Those three players will certainly provide a boost to Nelsen's men as Toronto attempts to snap a nine-game winless streak against the Fire which dates back to May 8, 2010.