Seattle Sounders FC bring a six-match unbeaten streak into its showdown at the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday in a rematch of last season's Western Conference final.
The Galaxy downed Seattle, 4-2, on aggregate, including a 3-0 win over the Sounders in the first leg at The Home Depot Center.
But the two sides are at opposite ends of the form table ahead of the match, with the Galaxy having lost three of its last four games.
The Sounders have overcome their early-season struggles by winning three straight games by a combined score of 9-2, including a 4-2 victory over Western Conference leaders FC Dallas last weekend.
"We wouldn't be where we are right now if we didn't want to play the best and be the best. We couldn't have asked for a better team, who's been hot all year, to come here and really challenge us as a team and see where we are," said Seattle forward Eddie Johnson following Saturday's victory. "We showed our true character. We really put them on our terms from start to finish, and when we got our chances in the second half, we put them away."
The improved results for Seattle are due in part to a sudden surge in offensive production. But head coach Sigi Schmid believes that the competition level in training has played a big part.
"Guys have put in the work, guys have believed in themselves. The competition level with guys getting healthy has made for more competition in training, so everybody's game has increased as a result of that," Schmid said.
The Galaxy returns home after a three-game road trip that saw the side lose two of those three matches.
Head coach Bruce Arena was particularly upset with the 1-0 defeat at Red Bull New York last time out as the Galaxy lost the match to a stoppage-time goal from Tim Cahill.
On the play, Juninho swung a free kick into the penalty area that Arena felt should have been handled by goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who instead remained on his line and watched as Cahill headed home the decisive goal.
"That's not good. That play tonight can't happen," Arena told media at Red Bull Arena following the match. "That's 90 percent goalkeeper ball there.
"You saw that goal. We had plays the other way to get a goal, too. ... You have to make a play. They made a play, we didn't - that's the difference in the game. That game should be one point."
A Seattle win could see the club climb as high as fourth place in the conference, while the Galaxy needs a victory to stop its poor run of form as the club gets set to play four of its next five games away from home.