The Seattle Sounders look to build upon a three-game unbeaten run to open the season when they visit the rival Portland Timbers on Sunday afternoon.
It's not just that the Sounders (2-0-1, 7 points) have two home wins and an away draw, results that put them in second place in the Western Conference standings.
It's the opposition they've faced: Two teams in Minnesota and LAFC hoping to avenge playoff losses to Seattle in 2020, and an LA Galaxy team that won its first two matches before losing to the Sounders last Sunday.
"I don't want to jinx it, but it's been a good start," said Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. "It's been a good start because we haven't had an easy schedule. We've faced some tough tests."
After 2020 MVP candidate Jordan Morris suffered the second ACL tear of his career while on loan at Swansea City, and with 2016 MLS newcomer of the year Nicolas Lodeiro nursing a quad injury, there were questions where Seattle's offense would come from.
They've been answered with four goals in three games from striker Raul Ruidiaz, and assists from eight different players.
"I think if you see the goal scoring, where it's coming from, who is scoring it, but also the other people that are involved, we're sharing a lot of that load through quite a few people," Frei said. "So that's a very good sign."
The Timbers (1-2-0, 3 points) have had a sluggish start to the season while also managing CONCACAF Champions League commitments. The latter is now finished after Portland lost 3-1 at Club America on Wednesday night and 4-2 on aggregate in their quarterfinal.
Jeremy Ebobisse has appeared in consecutive matches as a substitute after he was kept out of Portland's first two league games with a hamstring issue.
That should help an offense that has only three MLS goals. But Timbers 'keeper Jeff Attinella knows success Sunday begins with stopping Ruidiaz and the Sounders.
"It's just making sure you know where he is at all times," Attinella said of Ruidiaz. "You don't want to give him the opportunity to run at your back line. And he's very clever inside the box. He makes a living inside the box making smart runs."
--Field Level Media