Unable to ride a home-field advantage, Minnesota United has turned its defense stingy to stay in the MLS Cup playoff race.
It has conceded four goals combined in its last seven games, all without a loss.
Loons coach Adrian Heath attributes their 3-0-4 streak to "a collective desire to defend."
If they manage a win or draw Saturday against Sporting Kansas City, the Loons will tie a club record for their longest unbeaten streak in MLS regular-season play.
They've done so despite winning just three times in 13 home games this season.
"That's a testament to what we've done over the last few weeks," Heath said. "You've heard me say average two points a game. You even that up over a season, and invariably you'll be near the top of the league."
The Loons and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair shut out Houston 3-0, New York City FC 2-0 and Colorado 3-0 in this seven-game streak and allowed the other four opponents one goal each. Included were three 1-1 draws at home to Los Angeles FC, Seattle and New England.
That's 12 points earned since a 4-1 home loss to Austin FC on July 8.
"We're in a good little run of form," Heath said. "That should probably be 16 or 17 points. We've played a lot of good teams. We need to keep it going. If we do, it gives us a really good chance."
The Loons went unbeaten in eight consecutive games from Sept. 27 to Nov. 8 in 2020. That's when star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso arrived Sept. 1 and led his new team to the MLS Cup playoffs' Western Conference final.
They had a seven-game undefeated streak last season, never losing in July. But the Loons went winless in six games down the season's stretch before a 2-0 home victory over Vancouver on the final day finally clinched a playoff spot.
The Loons are the Western Conference's only team that has reached the playoffs the last four seasons. Now 3-2-8 at home, they remain seventh in the West.
With seven games left, they're four points out of 10th place in a season when the top nine teams make the playoffs. They're also a mere point away from that eight-game unbeaten streak.
"I didn't know that," Loons defender DJ Taylor said. "That makes this week even more huge."
On Saturday, the Loons can put more distance between them and another Western opponent in the playoff race. They're five points ahead of 12th-place Sporting Kansas City and have played one fewer game.
"If we win, we're eight points clear with a game in hand," Heath said. "It's going to take an awful lot to close that gap between now and the end of the season."
Heath praises his team's defense, from recently acquired striker Teemu Pukki up top through a Wil Trapp-Ján Gregus central midfield to a back line anchored by center backs Micky Tapias and Michael Boxall — and all the way to keeper St. Clair.
"We're helping the next guy," Taylor said. "As a back line, we've really focused on how we can defend well in space. We've been reviewing every game, seeing our mistakes from outside the game. That helps as we move forward as a team."
The Loons have three clean sheets in their last seven games. They had five in the regular season's first 20 games.
"It comes from everybody," Heath said. "The days of being two or three units in a team have long gone because now you defend from the front and you attack from the back.
"You attack with 10, and you defend with 10, and if people take plays off and don't want to do their job, it shows. The reason we've been successful is because of the honesty of this group."