The Colorado Rapids visit the Columbus Crew on Saturday and the internal tension among each club figures to be palpable after recent frustrating outcomes.
Neither the Rapids (2-7-6, 12 points) nor the Crew (5-6-3, 18 points) have delivered much success recently.
The Crew's 3-1 loss at Nashville SC on Sunday was their second straight and dropped them to 1-4-1 in the past six games.
"I think we're frustrated because we knew that maybe we deserve better, but it is not the time to be negative," Crew defender Mohamed Farsi said. "We still have 20 games going, so 60 points to go grab. We just have to stay positive and stay together."
Colorado has lost four straight following a 1-0 home loss to FC Cincinnati on Saturday. The Rapids are 1-4-3 in their past eight heading into their first game at Columbus since Sept. 22, 2018.
"The most important thing is not to point fingers at each other, to go into every training every day (with a) positive mindset to bring energy," Rapids defender Andreas Maxso said.
The problem for Colorado is a lack of scoring with 12 goals in 15 matches (0.80 per game) to rank 27th of 29 teams.
"It feels like every single thing goes against you," Colorado coach Robin Fraser said. "It feels like every deflection goes to them, more into our goal. When we get deflections, it goes out of bounds."
The Crew's 26 goals (1.86) are third-best in the league but a shaky defense has led to meltdowns, such as Nashville overcoming a 1-0 deficit with three unanswered scores, or Orlando City rallying from down two for a 2-2 tie on May 13.
"We get leads in games, play well in the first half and then we just haven't been able to close games out," Crew defender Philip Quinton said.
The situation could get worse because Columbus' Gustavo Vallecilla sustained an injury against Nashville that will keep him out several weeks, joining fellow injured center backs Josh Williams and Milos Degenek.
-- Field Level Media