The Kansas City Wizards seem to be peaking at the right time heading into a crucial set of home games this week.
The Wizards continue a busy stretch Wednesday night when they try to end a nine-game winless streak against the Houston Dynamo, whose angry coach has already admitted that his team's season is over.
Kansas City (8-9-6) has three wins and a draw in its last four matches, outscoring opponents 9-2 in that span. The Wizards are in sixth place in the race for the four non-automatic playoff spots, but have two games in hand on fifth-place Toronto and third-place San Jose.
"We can hope that everyone else does our job for us, but at the end of the day, we have to go and get results," coach Peter Vermes said. "If you make the playoffs and then cannot play after that, you get knocked out in the first round."
Vermes' club began a difficult week in which it plays three times in a seven-day span with a 2-0 win at Chivas USA on Sunday. The Wizards shook off a sluggish first half in which they failed to muster a shot on goal as former Dynamo forward Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury each scored after the break.
"We have eight games left in the season, and we know what we have to do if we want to make it to the playoffs," said Kamara, whose club hosts FC Dallas on Saturday.
Kansas City is 0-6-3 in its last nine meetings with Houston, but the Dynamo will come to town in disarray.
Houston (6-13-5) is 0-7-1 in its last eight road games, getting outscored 9-0 in the last four. The Dynamo, who have a Western Conference-low 23 points, have lost three straight overall after a 2-1 home loss to Toronto FC on Saturday.
"The season's over," coach Dominic Kinnear said. "The way we're playing, we are not going to do it. It's sad to say it, but it is a reality."
The Dynamo have yielded 40 goals - fewer than only New England (41), and their defensive woes were exposed again in a second-half collapse.
"What's our record? 6-13-5 - there you go," Kinnear said. "It says it all. I think we're the second- or the worst-defending team in the league. I think that says the story of where we are at."
Kinnear's club looks nothing at all like the team that handed Kansas City a 3-0 defeat May 1. The lopsided win was surprising since leading scorer Brian Ching (seven goals) was out with a hamstring injury for the Dynamo.
Ching scored Saturday to give Houston a first-half lead before its attack fizzled after the break.
"The way we're playing, conceding goals at this stage in the season, it's pretty clear for us to win six in a row is probably mission impossible," goalkeeper Pat Onstad said.