The San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers will renew their rivalry for the second consecutive week as they finish up their home-and-home series with a meeting at Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday.
The two sides did battle at Jeld-Wen Field last Sunday with the Timbers picking up the win thanks to Will Johnson's second-half free kick.
"I've always had the ability to score goals, and it's nice to be producing for the team," Johnson said. "And also being a leader, I think that puts a little bit of extra pressure on myself and responsibility when a play needs to be made. I played on a team in [Real] Salt Lake where guys, when they needed to step up did, guys who have been around the block and now I'm that guy. So I have to step up and make plays or will other guys to make plays. It's all part of the evolution of my game and becoming a leader here in Portland."
While Johnson's exceptional free kick was the difference between the two sides on the night, the rivalry was heightened by Alan Gordon's sending off in the 69th minute. The 'Quakes striker caught Mikael Silvestre with an elbow to earn a second yellow card and leave the French defender bloodied.
Gordon will miss the return match against Portland this weekend due to the red card, but he was handed an additional three-match ban for using offensive language toward an opponent, an instance that brought the proceedings in Portland to boil.
But even with San Jose being reduced to 10 men, head coach Frank Yallop still had hopes of seeing his side take something from the match.
"Even with 10 men, I felt it was going to be 0-0 for us," Yallop said after the match. "Didn't feel that we were probably going to score tonight, but felt pretty comfortable we could hang in there. We did defend the box well. I think that for us, when your back is against the wall, with 10 men, you have to keep digging in there."
Last Sunday's draw sees Portland come into the weekend occupying third place in the Western Conference with nine points on the season. The next five clubs in the table - one of which is San Jose - are level on eight points apiece.
"We knew coming in that we could jump five teams in the conference, and you know we want to get above the red line and stay up there," Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after the game. "We made a push today and moved up the table. We need to make sure we keep pushing and stay there."
The rematch is likely to have a similar outcome, depending on Saturday's results in Western Conference action. A win for San Jose would catapult the 'Quakes back above the Timbers and restore the club's two-point lead over its neighbors to the north.
But Portland will have other ideas. The Timbers have found some organization in defense that has led to back-to-back clean sheets. With the club riding a 222-minute shutout streak, Portland will be aiming for another staunch defensive display.
"Two games and two clean sheets, that was a part of our game that people were questioning; I wasn't," Porter said. "I knew we had it in us to be a very good defensive team and we've shown that the last two games. A big reason is we've been working hard in training to tighten things up."