Columbus Crew defender Michael Parkhurst is looking forward to finally facing the team with which he began his career.
The New England Revolution are also surprisingly upbeat despite being one defeat away from their longest losing streak in 16 years.
The Revolution look to end a seven-game slide and spoil Parkhurst's return to Gillette Stadium in Saturday night's matchup of teams level on 23 points.
Parkhurst broke in with New England from 2005-08, winning league rookie of the year honors. He was part of the franchise's most successful spell as it reached three straight MLS Cup finals in his first three years.
The Rhode Island native left to play for two teams in Europe before joining Columbus (5-7-8) this year.
"I'm excited to play in front of friends and family again," Parkhurst told the Crew's official website. "It's been a long time. I had four really good years there - a lot of good memories, a lot of good people. I'm looking forward to seeing some of those people that are still there and to bring back some good memories."
The Crew are mired in an 0-5-4 road slide, but that's not the streak on anyone's mind this weekend because New England (7-10-2) is seeking to avoid its longest skid since dropping nine in a row May 13-July 1, 1998. That matched the club record, and this is its longest losing streak in the post-shootout era of MLS.
The Revolution have been outscored 17-3 in the slide but are still in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with Columbus and Philadelphia. New England, which plays twice at home in the next five days, has also played fewer matches than those teams.
"We're not playing the way that we want to but we're still in a decent spot in the table so hopefully we can get some points here in these next two games and get right back in the mix of things," defender Darrius Barnes said.
There's reason for confidence since New England has won four straight over Columbus, outscoring the Crew 6-2 in three 2013 meetings heading into the first of three this year.
Coach Jay Heaps has tried different combinations to get his team untracked. He made five lineup changes for last Saturday's 2-0 loss at FC Dallas.
"You can't really identify exactly what lineup they're going to play," Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. "I think that becomes tricky. Fortunately, we're watching a lot of the games, so we have a good feel for most of the guys."
Charlie Davies made his first start while fellow forward Patrick Mullins came off the bench after starting his first 11 matches. Davies has yet to score while Mullins has no goals in seven straight games after scoring in four in a row.
New England has dropped three straight at home after beginning 4-0-1 there.
The Crew's Federico Higuain has team highs of six goals and five assists with none in his last five games.
Bernardo Anor scored twice in the second half to rally Columbus from a goal down in last Saturday's 2-1 win over Montreal that ended an 0-3-4 slide.