A season ago, Minnesota United went winless in six consecutive games before beating Vancouver 2-0 at home on "Decision Day" to reach the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.
The Loons go to L.A. Galaxy on Wednesday, eighth in a Western Conference race that will decide its nine playoff teams.
They have six regular-season games left, all against Western Conference foes. They'll play the Galaxy, Los Angeles F.C. and Sporting Kansas City on the road, and face St. Louis CITY, San Jose and the Galaxy at home.
Coach Adrian Heath calls them all six-point swings.
"There are no easy games between now and the end," Heath said. "But it's the same for everybody. We've got to concentrate on our own. They're going to be difficult."
Here are five Loons whose play could the difference:
Emanuel Reynoso, midfielder
It may be too simplistic to say his team goes as the Loons' star playmaker goes.
But it's not far off.
He has been at his best since he missed four months while at home in Argentina. He has six goals and two assists in 13 MLS games and another two goals and five assists in five Leagues Cup games.
He might have to be even better if his Loons are going to reach the playoffs.
"Rey is going to be integral in everything we do between now and the end of the season if we want to make a run in the playoffs," Heath said. "We're going to need a fit and healthy, top-of-his-game Reynoso."
Teemu Pukki, striker
He was brought to Minnesota and MLS as a designated player to score goals on a team that still seeks them.
He did so in consecutive games against Colorado and San Jose after an eight-game drought. He scored a third one — his second that night at San Jose — that was reversed by a controversial video review.
Pukki could have scored another last Saturday in his return from a stint with his Finland national team. Sporting K.C. keeper Tim Melia stopped his short shot at an open goal. It came in the 73rd minute of a scoreless game that was scoreless no more when Kansas City's Gadi Kinda provided the winner in the 82nd minute.
"It's one of them he probably thinks he should have scored," Heath said. "We had enough chances. I seem to have said that an awful lot this year."
Franco Fragapane, left-side attacker
He returned to the starting 11 last Saturday after he was a substitute for five games before that.
Fragapane's last-kick winning goal — his first MLS goal this season — that tied New England 1-1 helped him get back as a starter last Saturday.
"He does make things happen," Heath said. "We can't have people who don't do the defensive side. We've spoken to him. You have to play both sides of the ball. If you don't, it sticks out. We want him to defend as well as attack."
Ethan Bristow, left back
The former English second-division defender made his MLS debut in August for a Leagues Cup game against Columbus. He moved into the starting lineup two games ago and allowed Kinda by him for the winning goal.
Heath also attributed the conceded goal to a lack of ball pressure and thought veteran Bakaye Dibassy "could have done better" after Bristow challenged for a crossing pass and Kinda came away possessing the ball. "If you're going to go, you have to win the ball," Heath said. "We made it too easy for them to score."
Heath was non-committal Monday if Bristow will remain in the 11 on Wednesday. He said he was undecided about the lineup and added it will depend on what he thinks the Galaxy will do.
Kervin Arriaga, central midfield
Once feared lost for the season, his recovery from knee meniscus surgery in early August progressed faster than expected. He trained fully on Monday and will work all week toward a return Saturday at home against St. Louis City.
"We won't risk him for Wednesday," Heath said.
The Loons brought back Jan Gregus in a trade with Nashville after Arriaga's injury. Gregus scored as a second-half sub in his first game and has started ever since. Where Arriaga fits still is TBD.