When D.C. United and the New England Revolution played to a draw six weeks ago, neither club realized it was starting a streak that would last at least until their next meeting.
While United would be happy to push their unbeaten run to eight games in the rematch, the Revs will hope their six-match winless streak finally comes to an end Saturday night in Foxborough, where the Eastern Conference rivals will meet for the final time in the regular season.
D.C. was coming off a loss to Real Salt Lake when it tied New England 1-1 on April 17, but that remains the season's only defeat for United (3-1-7), who are 2-0-5 in their last seven matches.
Still, they are hoping for better results after four straight draws in MLS play. D.C. felt it deserved a victory after outshooting the Revs 20-4 last month, and it was equally disappointed with a scoreless tie at home against Real Salt Lake last Saturday.
It was the first time the team's explosive offense, which features Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno, had been blanked in league play this year.
"I don't think we've come across a team that played that defensive, and we didn't know how to break them down. Our ideas weren't that great and it showed," midfielder Santino Quaranta said. "I guess you take the point, but it's not good enough at all."
United coach Tom Soehn was certainly happy with the performance from Josh Wicks, who made eight saves. Including a U.S. Open Cup win over the New York Red Bulls, it was Wicks' second straight start in place of previous regular Louis Crayton.
"Josh came out of the box real well, made a couple of big saves when we needed it," Soehn said.
Wicks could be in net again against a New England offense that ranks last in MLS with eight goals. The Revs (2-3-4) have played the entire season without top striker Taylor Twellman, who is doubtful for this game with a lingering neck problem.
New England has not won since beating FC Dallas 2-1 on April 4. The club is 0-3-3 since, falling 3-1 at Toronto FC last Saturday.
Even though the Revs quickly blew an early lead in that game, Shalrie Joseph scored his third goal and coach Steve Nicol felt there was progress with his team's offensive production.
"What we can take is the fact that we made chances," Nicol said. "We haven't been doing that so far this year, up until Toronto."
Scoring goals has not been the only problem for the banged-up Revs, who are in sixth place in the East after reaching the playoffs for each of the last seven seasons.
New England has conceded 13 goals in its last five matches, as defenders Chris Albright and Gabriel Badilla and midfielder Mauricio Castro remain sidelined with injuries.
"We just have to keep getting smarter," defender Jay Heaps said. "We're just not playing real smart right now and we're kind of up against it a little bit."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press