FC Dallas seems to be have a good shot at making the postseason, but it has hardly looked like a playoff-bound team lately.
The Houston Dynamo's playoff chances are far more uncertain, but they received a significant boost to their hopes last weekend.
Coming off back-to-back shutout defeats, Dallas tries to avoid losing three straight matches for the first time in more than two years in Saturday afternoon's Texas Derby against a Dynamo club that's winless on the road.
Dallas (13-9-7) has made the playoffs four of the last six seasons, and with five games remaining and a 10-point advantage over New York -- the last team out -- a return to the postseason seems likely. A cause for some concern, however, is Dallas' 180-minute scoreless drought.
Schellas Hyndman's team had several chances in last Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls, outshooting New York 18-7, but only three shots were on goal -- its fewest since registering two in a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Aug. 6.
Dallas has just one victory in its last six games after winning five of its previous eight.
"It doesn't seem like we're playing with the same type of intensity and we're not having as much success as we had perhaps in the middle portion of the season," goalkeeper Kevin Hartman told the team's official website.
"I don't know if it's because we have different personnel on the field, if it's because we're lethargic, we're tired. I don't know exactly what it is. I know we need to hurry up and rectify the situation as quickly as possible."
Dallas, which hasn't lost three straight games since April 25-May 9, 2009, is hopeful that the return of Brek Shea can provide a spark. Shea, the team leader with 10 goals, was forced to serve a one-game suspension last Saturday for yellow-card accumulation.
The Dynamo (9-9-12) received a boost of their own in last Saturday's 2-1 win over San Jose. Will Bruin scored in the 79th minute -- five minutes after entering the game -- to lift Houston to its first victory since Aug. 20 after an 0-2-1 road stretch.
"It's a huge win," Bruin told the Dynamo's official website. "Coming off a loss in Kansas City and an unfortunate tie in Columbus, it was almost a must-win. Three points were huge to get, and hopefully this gets the ball rolling to a playoff push."
Houston is in the mix for one of the top three spots in the Eastern Conference, which would earn an automatic playoff berth, but is also just three points ahead of the cutoff should it need to get in via a wild-card spot.
With four games remaining, the battle for El Capitan is intensified for the Dynamo.
"It's Dallas, and we have an in-state rivalry going, but right now we have a rivalry with every team we're playing, because we're trying to get points," midfielder Brad Davis said.
Dallas has won the cannon two of the last three seasons after the Dynamo took it the first two years.
The teams played to a 2-all draw on May 28 with Houston's Colin Clark scoring the equalizer in the 87th minute.