By THOMAS FLOYD
The last time D.C. United recorded back-to-back league wins, Tom Soehn was the coach, Josh Wicks was in goal, and the attack was led by Ben Olsen, Christian Gomez, Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno.
That was June 2009. Needless to say, a lot has changed for United and now-coach Olsen in the past 27 months, but the lack of any sort of winning streak has continued. Coming off a 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, United will look to end the drought with a victory in Thursday night's key Eastern Conference clash at the Philadelphia Union.
"I think a problem of ours has been you get a win or a good result and you get a little complacent during the week," veteran midfielder Clyde Simms said. "We think we're better than we are, and it shows the next game. So the key is that game is over, so forget about it and keep working hard and doing the things leading up to the game to have that performance again."
Added Olsen: "You guys know about it, we know about it. I don't really harp on it anymore. But it's got to change at some point."
Here are some more notes from around the Eastern Conference:
With Wednesday's 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake, Chicago is remarkably just three points back of the final wild-card berth thanks to five wins in six matches. In recording a hat trick against Salt Lake, playmaker Marco Pappa found net for the first time since June.
"That was great to see," defender Dan Gargan said to ESPN Chicago. "He's a player that we need, and when he's sticking the ball into the back of the net, that's phenomenal for us because that's just another weapon that we have. It's been coming. He comes to training every day and puts in extra sessions. He's such a talented player."
With an 0-5-1 mark in its past six matches, including a 2-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday, Columbus has fallen from comfortable position atop the Eastern Conference to the fringe of missing the playoff completely.
"I liked our position six games ago when we had  points and everyone else had 30. But in the possible 18 points, we got only one," coach Robert Warzycha said. "Obviously, games like this, against Kansas City, you have to get the point and we didn’t."
Since Geoff Cameron slid from the central midfield role he has played most of this season to a centerback position alongside Bobby Boswell, Houston has gone 2-0-1, including a 1-0 win over FC Dallas last weekend keyed by a Cameron strike off a set piece.
"[Cameron] gives us a bit of pace back there, which I think we've been missing," forward Brian Ching told the Houston Chronicle. "I think Geoff feels a little bit more comfortable back there. Obviously, he and Bobby have formed a pretty good partnership over the past few years before last year, before Geoff stepped up in the midfield."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
There weren't many bright spots from New England's 3-2 loss at home to Chicago over the weekend, but one positive was the emergence of midfielder Ryan Guy, who scored two late goals in his second start since joining the club in June.
"I'm really happy for him," midfielder Benny Feilhaber said to ESPN Boston. "He hasn’t had too many chances to prove himself. I think he's a guy that is always going to give 100 percent, that's for sure. I think everyone can see that."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
While this past weekend's 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers lifted some of the pressure off the Red Bulls, slotting them back into the projected playoff field, coach Hans Backe knows his team still has plenty of work to do if it is going lock down a postseason spot.
"With four games to go, everyone is very aware of what it means," Backe told NewYorkRedBulls.com. "As we said before Portland, every game is a cup final now."
Philadelphia seems set to receive a major boost in its crucial match against D.C. United on Thursday, as right back Sheanon Williams is set to start for the first time since suffering a concussion in a win over Columbus on Sept. 17, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
"We still have injuries, and we are doing all we can to get guys back healthy," coach Peter Nowak said. "We are trying to have 24 to 25 guys back that are fit and healthy for this [playoff] run."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
With Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew, Kansas City now is now alone atop the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the Houston Dynamo. But considering first place is still just six points clear of clear of missing the projected playoff field entirely, Kansas City isn't taking anything for granted.
"I didn’t really think about first place," defender Matt Besler said. "I just knew it was a big game. There are going to be a lot of teams up there in the next few weeks."
With 10 league appearances and another six matches played in Champions League play, Homegrown Player Matt Stinson has already established himself as a dependable presence in the Toronto midfield.
"I'm getting more comfortable," Stinson said to MLSsoccer.com. "I'm not as hesitant to try and play, try different things and take some risks."