The Colorado Rapids said they remain positive even though the match Saturday at the Columbus Crew is their first since being eliminated from playoff contention in the Western Conference.
Colorado (6-16-6, 24 points) has lost four straight, all shutouts, but forward Giles Barnes said no one is discouraged.
"It's been disappointing for the results lately, but the end goal is still in our eyes," he said. "It's about going out and having a good end to the season, preparing for next season, showing the fans what we're capable of."
Colorado may catch Columbus (12-9-8, 44 points) at an opportune time. The Crew tied FC Dallas 0-0 last Saturday and lost 3-2 at Portland on Wednesday.
While travel and fatigue may be an issue for the Crew, only five of 11 starters against Dallas were in the first XI vs. the Timbers. Playmaker Federico Higuain did not travel to Oregon, so he will be fresh for the Rapids. Midfielder Justin Meram and leading scorer Gyasi Zardes (15 goals) were on the bench but did not play.
Columbus took a 1-0 lead on a goal Niko Hansen but allowed three consecutive scores before Hansen scored late in second-half stoppage time.
"I think in general the guys didn't give up. And I think that's important," Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. "I think the start of the game was excellent. I think we fell short in some key areas of the match that ended up hurting us, and there were some chances that we could've finished that we didn't."
The Crew is fourth in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the Philadelphia Union, with five matches left. They meet in Columbus on Sept. 29 in a pivotal match for seeding.
Colorado could play the role of spoiler down the stretch, beginning at Mapfre Stadium, where the Rapids have picked up four points in their past two trips.
A victory would reinforce Rapids coach Anthony Hudson's belief that better days are coming for his team despite being outscored 13-0 in the past four games.
"It's upbeat, it's positive," he said. "What's been enjoyable is no one's dropped his head, the staff is all pointed in the right direction and the players still want to learn, they're still hungry.
"I know we're doing things exactly the right way. We're building the right way and we're going to be a good soccer team. In the meantime, this is tough and it's tough for the fans."