The Los Angeles Galaxy and Portland Timbers are searching for answers as they head into this weekend's matchup at the Home Depot Center.
While Portland coach John Spencer has stepped up the intensity in practice, Los Angeles is hoping the return of David Beckham will help it avoid its first three-game losing streak in nearly five years Saturday night.
One season after winning their third MLS title and second straight Supporters' Shield, the talent-laden Galaxy are in last place in the Western Conference, and injuries to Landon Donovan and Beckham haven't helped.
Donovan shook off his ailing quadriceps muscle to play last Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, but Los Angeles (1-3-0) fell 1-0 to the league's lone unbeaten squad.
Beckham has been limited to 45 minutes over the past two games because of a hamstring injury, one of his many nagging ailments in the early season.
"I'm feeling a lot better than I was. It seems to have cleared up but it's still a little bit tight. It shouldn't be an issue for this weekend," Beckham told the league's official website.
If he plays as expected, Beckham will try to help the Galaxy avoid their first three-game losing streak since dropping six in a row Aug. 9-Sept. 1, 2007.
"It's weird to say early in the season but it's a game we have to have," Donovan said. "We've put in a lot of good work this week and we have to put it together on Saturday."
Portland (1-3-1) will be trying to avoid a franchise-worst fourth consecutive defeat and earn a rare road win. The Timbers have given up late goals in each of their past two losses, including 2-1 to visiting Chivas USA last Saturday.
"We're a young team, but there are no excuses for the way we've been losing," goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. "It's a little embarrassing the way we've (lost), and we have to rectify that. For me, it's coming and doing your job the best you can day in and day out."
In response, Spencer has held some energetic practices this week and might shake up the starting lineup.
"We're really motivated for this matchup," Perkins said. "Guys are working a lot harder, a lot more is being said by the coaching staff about what is expected of the guys.
"There's a lot of intensity. Guys are getting really chippy, but it's good. There's an edge to this team."
Portland is 2-10-7 on the road as an MLS franchise and lost 3-0 to Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center last April as Donovan had a pair of goals and an assist. The Timbers avenged that defeat with a 3-0 win at home in August.
Los Angeles might have some help as it tries to contain Portland this time. The Galaxy acquired defender David Junior Lopes from Chivas USA on Tuesday for midfielder Paolo Cardozo, a former first-round draft pick.