D.C. United's final regular season game Saturday night against New England at RFK Stadium has become vital to both teams for very different reasons.
The fifth-place Revolution must win to have a chance at gaining the fourth and final playoff berth in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference, while United's sudden difficulties have prompted the need for a victory heading into postseason.
To complicate matters, a New England victory in regulation coupled with a loss or shootout win by fourth-place Miami Saturday against Colorado would send the Revolution back to Washington for Game 1 of a best-of-three first-round playoff series next weekend.
"We don't want to lose to New England and then possibly have to face them in the playoffs in the first game," forward A.J. Wood said. "That would give them a lot of momentum, so our job is to win Saturday."
United will be without forward Jaime Moreno, one of the club's few bright spots during Wednesday's 4-2 home loss to Tampa Bay. Moreno received a yellow card in the 59th minute of that match to push his number of bookings over the league limit, which results in an automatic one-game suspension.
Wood likely will replace Moreno in the starting lineup and pair with Roy Lassiter, who despite scoring his league-leading 18th goal on Wednesday, has not played particularly well in recent weeks.
In addition to an inconsistent attack, United was hurt Wednesday by a lackluster defense and insufficient midfield work by Marco Etcheverry, Richie Williams and Ben Olsen.
The loss stopped United's club-record winning streak at 11, one short of the MLS single-season mark for consecutive wins, set by Los Angeles at the start of the 1996 season. United's previous loss was almost three months ago, to Colorado at RFK.