Giovanni Savarese and the Portland Timbers finally see some positives after welcoming back a number of key men.
And this optimism is in good time, too, with Los Angeles FC the next visitors to Providence Park.
The Timbers had been hamstrung for much of the season so far by selection issues, whether injuries or international call-ups.
Yimmi Chara and Felipe Mora returned from the Copa America to face FC Dallas at the weekend, though, and a 1-0 Portland win left coach Savarese grinning.
“You can always continue to build from a positive,” he said. “(The Dallas game) was very positive.
“I think there’s going to be areas that we’re going to continue to grow, that we’re going to continue to make better as a team, getting into our confident path that now that we have the players back we’re going to get into.
“The important thing is now that we have a group that we’re going to be able to do different things.”
A capacity crowd roared Portland on in that game, a factor next visitors LAFC are only too aware of having themselves thrived in front of a full house against Real Salt Lake.
Bob Bradley said: “We’ve been so excited to getting back to playing games with a full stadium and the atmosphere that is so important to us, the connection between us and our supporters.
“I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that we’ve continued to push hard in training and raise our level. The mentality in terms of showing up every day, pushing in training and competing, that part of this last stretch has been, for me, the key.
“You can really sense something’s taken hold with the way they are collectively pushing things every day.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Portland Timbers – Felipe Mora
A promising first season in MLS comprised of seven goals and two assists, and Mora will now aim to kick on after returning from international duty. His only two goals in 2021 so far came the last time a team from LA visited, the Galaxy beaten 3-0 in Oregon.
Los Angeles FC – Diego Rossi
Rossi won the Golden Boot in 2020 but had endured a five-game goalless streak before netting in LAFC’s past two matches. The last time Rossi scored in three in a row, he smashed four against the Galaxy.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Los Angeles FC are unbeaten in the past seven meetings with Portland (W3 D4) after losing the first ever meeting between the sides in May 2018. The Timbers have had just one longer winless run against a single team in their MLS history: 10 straight against Real Salt Lake from 2011 to 2014 (including playoffs).
– Portland’s 1-0 win over FC Dallas on Saturday came after losing their previous home match to Minnesota United, also 1-0. Including last season’s playoffs, eight of the past nine MLS games at Providence Park have been drawn or decided by a one-goal margin.
– Los Angeles FC have won three straight matches for the first time since a five-match run in July and August 2019. Two of those three wins came on the road, though LAFC have never won three straight away matches in their MLS history.
– Jeremy Ebobisse has scored Portland’s past three goals, including the lone strike in the 1-0 win over FC Dallas on Saturday. Ebobisse has 25 career regular season goals in MLS, scoring nine with his left foot, nine with his head and seven with his right foot.
– Carlos Vela attempted eight shots and created six others in Los Angeles FC’s win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, including scoring the winning goal. The 14 shot involvements by Vela was the most by any LAFC player in an MLS match.