The Los Angeles Galaxy will expect to claim three points on Saturday at home against struggling Toronto FC in a bid to secure a top-three place in the Western Conference.
Bruce Arena's team enters the weekend tied with Real Salt Lake on 46 points in third place, but would like to avoid finishing outside the top three in order to book a place in the conference semifinals.
The Galaxy has been in good form recently, having won four of its last five games, and is coming off a 0-0 draw with the Puerto Rico Islanders in CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday.
But if the team is going to finish in the top three, it must claim three points against TFC on Saturday, considering that Arena's side faces the top three teams in the Western Conference to close out the season.
Defensively the Galaxy is starting to come together with the team having kept three successive clean sheets in the league, and Arena hopes that the attack will also begin to thrive.
"I think if we can be dangerous going forward it takes a little pressure off our back line, but having said that, they've done a good job when we've turned the ball over in bad spots," Arena said. "I think obviously the back four and Josh [Saunders] are pretty comfortable with each other, it's just going to take a matter of time. Omar [Gonzalez] still has a little time left to get fit, where we want him to be, and you know, that will come."
Offensively the Galaxy will be lifted by the return of Landon Donovan, who missed a month of action due to injury but who returned in the team's last league match to help the club claim a 2-0 win over Colorado.
Donovan recorded an assist in the game and his presence will no doubt help, as will the addition of former Sweden international Christian Wilhelmsson, who tallied a goal in his first game with the club.
"I think he's going to be a good addition to our team," Arena said of Wilhelmsson. "He showed his experience on the field, excellent first touch, understands how to play on both sides of the ball, so I think he's going to be a player that is certainly going to help us in the stretch run."
That stretch run begin on Saturday against Toronto, a team that is winless in its last nine and has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Toronto has claimed only two wins in 14 away matches this season, and the club will be short on options at striker after Eric Hassli became the latest injury casualty.
Hassli has netted three goals in six league games since joining Toronto, but he will miss Saturday's match with an ankle injury.
"It's a massive blow for us," head coach Paul Mariner said of Hassli's absence. "It's just one of those things, a bad tackle [by Philadelphia's Michael Farfan] from our viewpoint and we lose one of our star players, which is unfortunate for us."
With leading scorer Danny Koevermans out for the season after scoring nine goals in 16 games, TFC is likely left to partner Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva up top.