After a brutal first three months, the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy are surprisingly optimistic about turning around their season.
A visit from the road-weary Portland Timbers could help them start to do just that.
The Galaxy try to snap their longest winless streak in four years while the Timbers aim for their first road win of the season Sunday night when both teams return to action following the league's extended break.
Currently last in the Western Conference, Los Angeles (3-8-2) had its frustrations continue with a 2-1 loss to Houston on May 26. Playing without captain Landon Donovan for the second consecutive match, the Galaxy's winless streak reached seven - their longest such slide since a franchise-worst 12-game drought June 21-Sept. 13, 2008.
Given its recent funk, Los Angeles knows it doesn't have much time to get on track.
"We're looking at this game on Sunday against Portland as a huge opportunity to put things right," defender Todd Dunivant told the league's official website. "You don't change everything overnight but we need to start getting wins but we feel like we've been playing better the last couple of games. Now we need to start getting results."
"The good thing is we still have 20 some odd games to go ... I think we just need to remind ourselves how to win again."
While Michael Stephens and Mike Magee won't be available due to one-game suspensions and Robbie Keane remains with Ireland at the European championships, Donovan has rejoined the Galaxy after playing for the U.S. national team for World Cup qualifying.
"It's real nice to be back," he said. "Every time I go and come back I feel like I'm a little more confident, I feel good about the way I'm playing. It was a pretty successful trip so I'm feeling good about it, but now I realize - very clearly - that this is a team that needs to win, and win soon, so that's my goal."
With only 12 goals in 12 matches, Portland (3-5-4) is hoping to receive a spark from recently acquired Danny Mwanga. While the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft failed to score in five starts with Philadelphia before getting traded, pairing him with Kris Boyd could give the Timbers a formidable 1-2 punch.
"It can take weeks, and sometimes it can take minutes," Boyd, who leads the team with four goals, said about getting on the same page with Mwanga. "But in (Friday) morning's training session everyone trained well, and we're looking forward to Sunday."
While Portland is 3-2-2 over seven home games after posting a 1-all draw with Vancouver on May 26, it's failed to get much going in opposing stadiums. The Timbers have been outscored 7-2 in going 0-3-2 on the road.
One of those defeats came at Los Angeles on April 14. Boyd gave Portland an early lead in that game before the Galaxy scored three unanswered goals to prevail 3-1.
Portland also struggled to slow down Los Angeles in its only other visit to the Home Depot Center, falling 3-0 on April 23, 2011, as Donovan scored twice and added an assist.