CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy believe, after a gutty and focused performance last weekend, that they know what they're going to bring to Friday night's Fourth of July clash with the Portland Timbers.
They just don't have a clue which Timbers team is going to show up.
It's a critical showdown between would-be Western Conference title contenders sitting much further behind the leaders than expected, and LA, which is on a five-game MLS unbeaten streak, would like to think they turned a corner on a frustrating first third of the season with their 1-0 win last weekend at San Jose.
They called it their most complete performance, in terms of keeping concentration and doing what needed to be done for the full 90 minutes. They've played this year, but they hadn't had fewer blips than in the 1-0 triumph.
"I think [we need to capitalize on that]," forward/midfielder Landon Donovan said ahead of the second meeting between the teams this year. "We weren't great, technically we weren't perfect with our passing, but the effort and energy and concentration was excellent. And if we do that at home with our quality, we're going to win more often than we lose."
The Galaxy (5-3-5) could be unbeaten if they'd avoided lapses during their superior performances, and they deserved more from the 1-1 draw in Portland on May 11, when Robbie Keane finally gave LA a lead in second-half stoppage and Diego Valeri answered just before the final whistle.
The Timbers (4-5-8) have dealt with some of the same problems. They haven't always claimed the points they've deserved, needed nine games to notch their first victory, and have struggled to find goals against defensive-minded opposition.
"They're a little bit of a tricky team to scout, because you watch them last week against [Sporting] Kansas City, they lost the game, but you look at them and you see so many flashes of greatness, and you saw that last year," Donovan said. "So it's dangerous, because they're a team that if they turn it on and they're playing well, then they can be a very good team, and they can beat you.
"We don't know what we're going to get, but we're going to expect a really good game."
The Galaxy won't have Omar Gonzalez back -- he's about to rejoin the club after the U.S.'s World Cup elimination, but Arena said he would not consider using him Friday -- and they decisions about who's going to fit where on the backline. Gonzalez will move into his usual spot in the middle, and head coach Bruce Arena and his staff must determine who's next to him -- and who plays on the outside.
Dan Gargan and Robbie Rogers have been the outside backs for three of the last four competitive matches, and A.J. DeLaGarza has spent time on both sides and in the middle. Leonardo, Tommy Meyer and Kofi Opare also are bidding to partner Gonzalez.
Meyer's strong showing against the Earthquakes helped his cause. Arena called it the "best game of his career."
"He's at a point in his career where it should be coming together a little more for him," Arena said. "He's gotten an opportunity, and, hopefully, he can take advantage of it."
The third-year defender has started six of the last eight Galaxy games, and the time is helping his development.
"He's still a guy that's relatively young, but I think he understands when the moment comes to grab a spot," associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. "I think now he's really dug in, and his level of concentration, his recognizing when there's danger, all of that has improved, and I think the physical part of his game has improved. Because I think that's some of the areas he didn't do so well at as a younger player. And I think now he's pushed himself into our conversation."