Kansas City, KS – D.C. United has quietly turned its fortunes around after a disastrous 2010, and its road form has been a major reason why Ben Olsen's club is just two points out of a playoff spot.
D.C., which had the worst record in Major League Soccer last season, has four wins and four draws in 11 road matches, and visits Livestrong Sporting Park on Sunday to battle Sporting Kansas City.
K.C. (8-7-9) has just one loss since its new $200 million stadium opened this season, and is 7-1-8 overall in 16 games since late May. With a win on Sunday, Sporting could move within a point of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Columbus Crew lead the East with 37 points, but Kansas City sits just four points back in third place entering the weekend's games. With three teams just two points or less behind in the standings, K.C. cannot afford to slip up.
United (7-6-10) is among the group behind K.C., as it sits even on points with Red Bull New York for fifth but just six points off the East lead.
Sporting had gone 14 straight games without a loss until a 2-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on Aug. 6, but the club rebounded with a 3-1 win over the Portland Timbers and plays its next four and six of its next seven at home.
"We needed this game," K.C. midfielder Milos Stojcev said after the Portland win. "We need wins now, and we are playing well as a team. Everyone has been playing very well, and most of all, we believe in each other.
"But now, we need more wins so we can go to the playoffs."
United overturned last season's woes early this year, but since signing Dwayne De Rosario in a trade with Red Bull New York, Ben Olsen's club has turned into playoff contender.
United is 3-1-6 in its last 10, and 3-1-4 since De Rosario arrived. Thursday's 1-1 draw at the Chicago Fire pulled D.C. even with New York, and a road win on Sunday would put the team in position for a top-three finish and playoff spot.
"When you come back and tie a game it always somewhat feels okay," Olsen said after the draw against Chicago. "The guys really worked hard in the second half. Credit them for a good second half. We have to play the whole ninety together at this point."
United will be without goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who injured his hamstring late in the first against Chicago and will be sidelined for an unknown period.
"We don't know the severity of it but we will know shortly," Olsen said after the match about Hamid's injury.
K.C. and D.C. will also know Sunday where they sit in the Eastern Conference, as the race for playoff spots will go down to the wire, and Sunday's game will put the winner in much better position.