The New England Revolution have been the worst team in MLS over the last 2 1/2 months, and the Portland Timbers have had very little trouble with Eastern Conference opponents.
The clubs meet in Foxborough on Saturday night in a matchup of teams narrowly outside their respective playoff races.
After Sunday's 2-0 home win over Chivas USA, the Timbers (7-7-9) have won three of four. Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace scored first-half goals with Valeri's 10th-minute strike extending his scoring streak to four games.
Their attack, which is among the best in the league at 1.65 goals per game, is well respected throughout MLS, but they're now trying to make those goals mean a bit more with similar production at the other end. It was their league-low second shutout of the season, both of which have come against Chivas.
"We talked about that all week," coach Caleb Porter told the club's official website. "We've been scoring goals, we haven't been defending well enough. And when I say defending well enough, that's as a team. And I thought in the first half especially, and in the second half the way we kind of shut things down, it was our most complete defensive performance."
The Revolution (8-12-2), however, might present Porter's side with another prime opportunity for a clean sheet.
Portland is 3-1-4 against the East, and the only loss was to defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City. It hasn't lost an away game against the East since July 7, 2013 at Columbus, going 3-0-2 since.
New England has been the worst team in the league since May 31, collecting three points with eight goals scored in 10 games. After a 3-0 win over Colorado on July 30, it got right back to losing in a 2-1 final at New York on Aug. 2.
The two-week break will be followed by a six-game stretch with five home matches and plenty of recovering to do for the now seventh-place club.
"These next six games could be a little mini season for us and tilt us one way or the other," midfielder Steve Neumann told the club's official website. "It's an exciting race in the Eastern Conference. I think there are a lot of really good teams that are separated by a few points, so coming down the stretch here in the second half of the season, it's going to be very interesting."
The Revolution could also view Portland as an opportunity to get the attack back on track. Prior to its prolonged struggles, New England scored 16 goals on a five-game winning streak, so it certainly has the ability to open things up with Portland.
"They have a great coach and they have a great system. Any time you play in a game like that it's going to be a fun time," Neumann said. "I think we've been preparing well for them and I think we have a lot of players and a lot of talent that can give them some problems. So it's going to be a fun game and hopefully we come out on top."
New England will have midfielder Shalrie Joseph available for the first time this season after he was sidelined by a calf injury.
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