Los Angeles FC have little margin for error in their battle to gain a Western Conference playoff spot.
LAFC reside in ninth place but look to stretch their unbeaten streak to four matches when they face Minnesota United on Saturday night at Saint Paul, Minn.
Even with their recent mini-run (2-0-1), LAFC (11-12-7, 40 points) stand three points behind the playoff line with four matches left. The Vancouver Whitecaps (43 points) own that important seventh spot with Real Salt Lake (42) hovering in eighth place.
Being on the outside as the final stretch of the season arrives isn't what LAFC coach Bob Bradley envisioned.
"We didn't expect to be in this spot this year but we are," Bradley said during a press conference. "And so there's no looking backwards. It's keeping everybody alive. You can never be afraid of these kind of challenges. The most important thing is the mentality of the group."
It is possible that 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela will be available on Saturday. He injured his quadriceps against the Whitecaps on Aug. 21 and has missed the past 10 games.
Vela recently returned to training but wasn't ready to play in Wednesday's 3-2 road win over FC Dallas. Vela has five goals in 17 matches this season.
Cristian Arango had a hat trick in Wednesday's victory and has 11 goals in just 13 matches since joining LAFC in early August.
Minnesota United (12-10-8, 44 points) is in sixth place in the West. The Loons are one point behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and two behind the fourth-place Portland Timbers.
Minnesota United have won their past two matches, including a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. Robin Lod and Franco Fragapane scored second-half goals four minutes apart as the Loons rallied for the win.
While Minnesota United are better positioned than LAFC, the match is still vitally important. A loss on Saturday would see LAFC move within one point of the Loons.
"Saturday is a huge game for us, but it's a huge game for LAFC," Minnesota coach Adrian Heath told reporters. "Us winning the game here this weekend could make a big swing. But, hey, we know it's going to be tough. It's probably one of the most expensively assembled teams in the league, well-coached and really good individuals."
The teams played to a 2-2 tie in Los Angeles on July 28. Minnesota's Hassani Dotson scored in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time to give the Loons the draw.
--Field Level Media