Only two points separate Atlanta United and New York City FC, but their recent performances are more disparate.
Atlanta seeks its fifth straight home win Wednesday when it hosts NYCFC, which hopes to snap a five-game winless skid.
Atlanta (11-9-9, 42 points) enters this week in fifth place, three points in back of Orlando City, four behind Philadelphia, and one ahead of D.C. United and CF Montreal.
Atlanta is 9-3-0 in its past 12 games following an 12-game winless skid from May 23-Aug. 4. During its surge, Atlanta has six shutouts, including Saturday's 2-0 win at Toronto when Luiz Araujo and Marcelino Moreno scored.
Atlanta picked up its latest win without leading scorer Josef Martinez, who sat out with knee and hamstring injuries and could be out again Wednesday.
"We had six games left in the season. Winning this one away was a very, very good statement from the team to say 'Hey, we really want to be in playoffs,' and I needed this trend for the next three games at home, I needed this confidence," Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "It was a massive, massive victory."
Not only is NYCFC searching for a win, it also is searching for a goal. NYCFC (11-11-7, 40 points) enters without a goal since Sept. 22, when Valentin Castellanos scored in the 31st minute of a 1-1 tie against the New York Red Bulls.
NYCFC is 0-3-2 since a 2-1 win at FC Cincinnati on Sept. 18 and is 3-5-6 in its past 14 games since winning three straight July 21-30.
The slide has dropped NYCFC into eighth place, tied with the Red Bulls. They're one point behind Montreal and DC United and two in back of Atlanta.
"It's small details that will get us on the right path again," NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said. "You need to simplify things. You need to play simpler. We need to go to every game like a cup final and have every energy into the games."
The latest setback was a 1-0 decision against the host Red Bulls when it allowed a goal three minutes in, had two shots on goal, and lost despite holding possession for 62.5 percent of the match.
"We are good players," NYCFC defender Alex Callens said. "So, these last five games we are going to play our hearts out. This isn't over yet."
--Field Level Media