(Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
LAFC and Real Salt Lake will both look to push toward the upper reaches of the Western Conference standings and lock up a playoff berth when they meet on Sunday in Southern California.
The weekend began with LAFC (12-9-9, 45 points) in second in a crowded West field, ahead of Seattle only on the second tiebreak of goal differential, and two points in front of fifth-place Salt Lake. LAFC has won 11 of the last 12 regular-season meetings, including the last seven in a row.
And they may be carrying some frustration after failing for a second time to win a continental final in as many attempts.
The Black and Gold were edged by Tigres UANL of Liga MX on penalties in Wednesday's Campeones Cup following a 0-0 draw. Earlier this season, they were beaten by Club Leon, another Mexican side, in the Concacaf Champions League final over two legs.
"If dealt with in the right way, if channeled in the right direction, it can keep a group, it can keep an individual, it can keep an organization hungry for more," manager Steve Cherundolo said of those continental frustrations. "And I think that's what we're trying to do, and from what I can tell all the signs are pointed in that direction."
LAFC leading scorer Denis Bouanga enters Sunday with 14 goals -- one off the MLS lead -- but has failed to score in seven of his last eight league appearances.
Meanwhile, former LAFC striker Cristian Arango will make his second visit already to his old club with Real Salt Lake (12-11-7, 43 points).
The first was a 4-0 defeat in the Leagues Cup in early August, in which influential midfielder Pablo Ruiz was lost to a season-ending knee injury.
That kicked off a slide that totaled six losses in seven games in all competitions before RSL finally pulled off a come-from-behind win against Vancouver at home last weekend.
Arango already has five goals since signing for RSL during the summer transfer window, one behind Jefferson Savarino for the team lead and tied with Justen Glad, who scored the match-winner against Vancouver and received a bloody nose for his efforts.
"Glad's goal encapsulates everything that this team is, which is willing to put your body on the line to get a result," manager Pablo Mastroeni said after the game. "We have some tough games left, but if we bring that same mindset, the talent level will shine through."
--Field Level Media