The winless Vancouver Whitecaps begin a busy stretch at the Chicago Fire on Friday already thinking about their perilous position in the Western Conference.
Even though the Whitecaps (0-4-1) have 29 matches remaining, coach Marc Dos Santos says the turnaround needs to begin, because Vancouver is seven points out of a playoff spot.
Following the match at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Ill., the Whitecaps host Los Angeles FC on Wednesday and play at Orlando City SC on April 20.
"Are we in a critical situation? For me, if you're talking about making the playoffs, of course we are, 100 percent. We can't be delusional," Dos Santos said. "We can be talking about it's only the beginning, and at game 15 we can say it's only the beginning, right? So, we're very aware of that."
Vancouver will see a familiar face in Fire goalkeeper David Ousted, who played 142 games for the Whitecaps from 2013-17.
"It's always fun to see old friends and pair up against them," Ousted said. "The most important thing for me is three points for us. We need to get on a roll, get those points at home. I'm looking forward to playing them, but it's all business on Friday."
Chicago (1-2-2) has a win and a tie in its past two matches but can't afford to overlook Vancouver.
"This league is very interesting," Fire forward CJ Sapong said. "Things can go any which way, depending on where the wind is blowing, so staying true, staying focused, being happy and having some joy on the field will definitely get us to where we need to be."
Vancouver has not scored in 216 minutes. Included in the streak is a failed penalty kick by Ali Adnan -- whose soft chip down the middle was easily saved -- early in the 2-0 loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy on April 5.
"All it takes is a couple of bounces [to break the drought]," Vancouver midfielder Russell Teibert said. "We have guys who are notorious for scoring."