Portland, OR – A pair of clubs hoping to improve their standing in the Western Conference table will meet at Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday as the Portland Timbers play hosts to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Portland comes into the affair with a one-point edge on Los Angeles, and the Timbers will be eager to extend their current 12-game unbeaten record on home soil after picking up a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids at Jeld-Wen last time out.
The Timbers are unbeaten in their last three matches, and a big reason for the solid run of form has been the impressive play of Diego Valeri, who bagged the lone goal against Colorado.
"That was class. That's what he is. He's a class player," Portland head coach Caleb Porter said after the match. "We've been managing his minutes because we've had to. We knew he was ready to start this game. We knew this was an important game. We got a good 75 minutes out of him, and he was tremendous tonight."
The Argentine should be a prominent figure for the Timbers down the stretch, and his rich vein of form that has many in Portland calling for MVP consideration.
"I'm biased. I love him. I think he's one of the best players in the league, no question about it," Porter continued. "But I don't decide those things. I think the better we do obviously means the better he's doing. Those decisions will be made at the end.
"I can tell you this, he cares more about winning than any individual accomplishment, and that's one of the reasons we love him. He's very humble, a team guy. He tells me almost every week, 'Coach, we're going to win championships here.' He's a great player and a great person."
Sunday should provide a stern test for Portland's title aspirations as the club will come up against the two-time defending MLS Cup champions.
The Galaxy will be hoping to make history this year by becoming the first-ever MLS club to claim three successive titles, but improvements will need to be made if they hope to achieve that feat.
Los Angeles enters Sunday's clash on a three-game winless run, a streak that has dropped the club to fourth place in the West.
The club most recently played to a 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC at the StubHub Center. It was a positive result given the competitive history between the two clubs, but perhaps the greatest positive to take from the match was Juninho's long-awaited return to the scoresheet.
"We have been waiting all year. It is probably his first goal of the year," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after the match. "On the night, we had a couple of good looks at the goal and we didn't force their 'keeper into making a whole lot of saves. I don't know what the statistics say, but the final product on the night for us was poor. It was obviously the difference in the game."