Saturday's game between the Columbus Crew and the New England Revolution features two teams who have tasted success this year, only to fall hard from glory.
The Crew began the season 3-0 and were at the top of the Eastern Conference, but had only one win in their last 16 matches until last week's 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact. The Revolution won five in a row from late April until the end of May pushing them to the top of the East, but have now dropped their last seven games.
The teams enter the match tied for the final playoff spot with 23 points, yet New England has a game in hand over the Black and Gold meaning head coach Gregg Berhalter can't read too much into the losing streak.
"I don't look too much into it because they have the same amount of points as we do," Berhalter said on Thursday. "As far as I'm concerned, we're on a level playing field because we are."
Revs' head coach Jay Heaps made adjustments to his lineup recently, due to both injuries and poor form. Berhalter admitted these changes make it difficult to prepare for New England despite their struggles.
"You can't really identify what lineup they're going to play. I think that becomes tricky," he said. "Fortunately, we've been watching a lot of the games so we have a good feel for most of the guys. It's just in what constellation are they going to be lining up."
One player who has been ever present for the Revolution this season is Lee Nguyen. The midfielder has six goals and one assist on the season as the main source of offense for the Boston-based club.
Daigo Kobayashi and Diego Fagundez have also been a major source of attack when the team has generated offense and Teal Bunbury has previously demonstrated his ability to score goals in MLS.
"They are dangerous up top with Bunbury and some skill guys with Kobayashi and Lee Nguyen in the middle," Crew midfielder Wil Trapp said of the Revolution.
"Also you have Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe if he plays. They have gifted attackers."
Despite having scored one more goal than Columbus this season, New England's attack has dried up of late. The Revs have scored just twice in MLS action this month and have been unable to get the looks they were generating early in the campaign.
Defensively, the Revolution have not been solid this season, allowing 31 goals in just 23 games. This is where Trapp believes his team can take advantage.
"We just have to play our game," he said. "Lots of movement, lots of ball circulation, and kind of expose them in the areas that we deem are the areas that they can be exposed."
One factor in the game that Berhalter believes will benefit his team is New England's field. The Revolution play at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots and therefore play on turf, which bodes well for the Black and Gold according to their manager.
"I think it helps us," he said. "Look at our performances on turf. We played well. We moved the ball quickly, you can play to feet and that's what we like to do. I think it helps us."
Trapp agreed with the assessment of the team's play on the synthetic surface, but did admit that it can put a strain on the body.
"It helps, it moves the ball quicker," Trapp said.
"It's not easy on the joints by any means, but it's fine. It helps us more than the opposing team just because with our movement and ball accuracy and passing, it's very helpful and we're going to use it to our advantage."
This year on FieldTurf, Columbus won 2-1 against the Seattle Sounders and tied the Portland Timbers 3-3 in a game they gave away late. If the Crew can continue to play well on the turf, while taking advantage of the Revolution's struggles, it could be a new kind of streak for the Black and Gold.