It won't take much, if anything, for FC Dallas to be motivated to play well when it hosts talented and dangerous Portland on Saturday night in Frisco, Texas, even though the Timbers arrive winless in five matches this season.
After all, it was the Timbers that dispatched FCD in the knockout round of the playoffs last season, and the wound from that defeat is still fresh, despite the fact that the loss was six months ago and Dallas has a roster that's changed considerably since last fall.
But what's most important for the home side is to keep its record perfect on its own pitch while bouncing back from a tough loss in Philadelphia on April 6 and making sure it doesn't let the foundering Timbers off the deck.
"There will be some extra motivation for some of our team after Portland knocked us out of the playoffs last year," FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez said. "Things haven't gone their way so far, so they are going to come in here hungry -- we know that and will be ready to deal with it."
FCD (3-2-1, 10 points) returns home after splitting a two-game road trip to Salt Lake and Philadelphia, winning the first match in Utah on March 30 before dropping a 2-1 decision in added time against the Union last Saturday.
"We have our own hunger having just come back from a situation when we dropped some points that we should have had -- that were in our hand," Gonzalez said.
Portland has dropped four straight matches after a season-opening draw in Colorado, most recently losing 3-0 at San Jose on April 6.
The Timbers (0-4-1, 1 point) have struggled offensively this season, scoring just five goals and only two in their last three matches.
Defender Larrys Mabiala said a combination of things has led to Portland's slow start.
"We are working very well, but unfortunately the work and the amount of work we've put into the preseason and the beginning of the season is not what we've shown on the field, on weekends," Mabiala said. "Yeah, it's hard.
"My opinion is (it's) mostly because we are less united than what we used to before. Last year, especially," Mabiala added, speaking about the Timbers' run to the Western Conference championship and spot in the MLS Cup. "Even if we were not the best team soccer-wise, we were not playing the most pleasant soccer in the league, we knew what we had to do all together."
FC Dallas owns a 7-6 edge all-time on the Timbers, with seven draws, and a 35-26 scoring advantage in those 20 matches. FCD has won six of the 11 all-time games played in north Texas, with four ties.