Despite not being at full strength, the Seattle Sounders have made significant strides from their lackluster start.
The Sounders, though, know they'll face a stiff challenge Saturday night, with a visit from league-best FC Dallas - undefeated in nine straight.
The Sounders (3-3-3) are 3-0-2 in their last five games with shutouts in all but one of those contests. They routed San Jose 4-0 for their first win in four home games last Saturday. Lamar Neagle scored his first two goals of the season, and Michael Gspurning made three saves while extending his team's scoreless streak to 219 minutes.
Neagle and DeAndre Yedlin were returning from suspensions and are among a group of players who have missed games this season.
"That (blowout win is) what we've been waiting for. We knew only time was going to prevent us from doing it. We eventually got a bunch of guys on the field, and we still have more to come," Neagle said.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid is now eager to see how his club performs against Dallas (7-1-3).
"Obviously, Dallas right now is the top team in our (conference). It becomes a good measuring stick for us," he said. "Most important for us is we want to keep accumulating points. ... They're a very confident team right now so we have to play with a lot of confidence ourselves."
That seemingly hasn't been a problem for Seattle, which has outscored Dallas 7-2 in going 3-0-1 in the past four league matchups. In the only home contest during that stretch on Oct. 21, the Sounders won 3-1 behind two goals from Brad Evans.
FC Dallas, however, heads into Seattle having gone 6-0-3 in its last nine, matching the second-longest unbeaten run in franchise history. The club went 19 games without a loss in 2010.
Je-Vaughn Watson helped deliver another victory for his team with a tiebreaking goal in the 77th minute in last Saturday's 2-1 win over visiting D.C. United. Jackson scored in his first game since March 23 with an assist from Eric Hassli, who was making his first start with the club.
"It was a great three points for us," coach Schellas Hyndman said. "I thought we had a really difficult first half. But we challenged them and they came back and showed their character."
Hyndman might have to overcome a pair of key absences in this game. The statuses of star midfielder David Ferreira and defender George John are unknown because of ailing hamstrings.
"The thing we don't ever want to do is put a player in jeopardy, where they may make it worse for the next week," Hyndman said. "If they're not (available), I think we've shown we have some depth on this team."
Dallas, 1-1-2 in its four road games this season, is 1-2-1 in its four all-time league visits to Seattle.