The Portland Timbers will put their impressive unbeaten run to the test on Saturday when the club welcomes first-place FC Dallas to Jeld-Wen Field.
Portland is without a loss in its last 12 league matches after playing to a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire last weekend, but the result felt a bit more like a loss given the fact that the Timbers held a two-goal lead and only managed to come away from Toyota Park with a point.
However, in typical fashion, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter opted to focus on the positives, which includes Portland's distinction of being the only remaining club in MLS this season to boast an unbeaten road record (2-0-6).
"It's a bit of a bitter pill but I think we will learn from it, we will be better from it," said the Timbers boss. "We didn't lose the game. We still got a point; we're still unbeaten on the road. In 14 games, there's only been one team that's beaten us. So I think it's a great thing. We are still getting points but we're a little bit ticked off leaving this game feeling like we left two points slip away."
Portland has had to deal with multiple absences at key positions in recent weeks, meaning that Ben Zemanski made his first start for the club since March 30. He bagged Portland's second of the match at Chicago, underlining the club's impressive depth.
"Whenever you have guys out of the lineup on international duties or injuries or anything like that you need other guys to step up and help the team continue to get points and continue this good run of games," Zemanski said. "I'm looking forward to stepping up for the team and doing my part to help out."
While the Timbers will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run to 13 games, FC Dallas will hope to squash that run in a bid to remain atop the overall MLS table.
Dallas enters the weekend with an MLS-high 28 points, one point better than Real Salt Lake and five points better than Portland. With RSL enjoying a weekend off, Saturday's clash at Portland offers FCD a golden opportunity to gain further separation.
Blas Perez would be the ideal man to help Dallas achieve that feat, but the Panamanian striker, who netted a brace in the club's 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids last time out, is away on international duty.
His absence places more of a burden on the rest of the team to produce goals. Perez leads the team with five goals on the season; the rest of the club's tallies have come from nine different sources.
Jackson and Kenny Cooper are FC Dallas' most prolific scorers after Perez with three goals apiece, but Cooper could miss the Portland tilt as he recovers from a concussion sustained against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 25.
"We just wanted to be a little bit safe and didn't take him to Colorado," Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman said. "We'll get him training and bring him along slowly."
Saturday's clash at Jeld-Wen also will serve as a prelude to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on June 26 when the two sides will meet at FC Dallas Stadium.