For New York City Football Club, the rise in the Eastern Conference standings can be attributed to a few things, including a hot streak by Maximiliano Moralez.
On a scoring streak since May 4, Moralez will attempt to get a goal or an assist in his eighth straight MLS match Sunday night when NYCFC hosts the Portland Timbers at Yankee Stadium.
NYCFC (7-1-8, 29 points) entered this weekend six points behind first-place Philadelphia, though its 16 games played are tied with Portland for the fewest in the league. Moralez has six goals and eight assists during his past seven matches and NYCFC is 5-0-2 in those games.
Overall, Moralez has six goals and 11 assists and his tear is part of NYCFC's recovery from a slow start.
NYCFC was 0-1-3 in its first four games but since a 4-0 loss in Toronto on March 29, it is 7-0-5 in its past 12 games and has scored 12 times during a three-game winning streak.
"It's always important to be able to contribute with goals and assists, for the club, as a whole," Moralez said through a translator. "On a personal level, its always great for me too. The team's been able to, over the past two months, increase our standing and do really well and keep moving up."
Moralez scored in the 58th minute of Wednesday's 3-0 win over Seattle, with Jesus Medina and Ebenezer Ofori also scoring in the second half. During NYCFC's winning streak, Valentin Castellanos has two goals and two assists while Brad Stuver has filled in nicely with starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson competing for the U.S. at the Gold Cup.
Portland (6-8-2, 20 points) is making its sixth trip to the Eastern time zone and will attempt to win consecutive games for the second time this season. The Timbers won three straight from April 20-May 4 and are 3-3-1 in their past seven games.
Portland is coming off a 1-0 home win over FC Dallas on Sunday when Brian Fernandez set a league record by scoring a goal in his fifth straight game to open his MLS career.
The Timbers are hoping Fernandez's quick start can get them rolling as they make their last trip to the Eastern time zone. They are 3-2 since Fernandez joined the team and the Argentine has six goals.
"He's a competitor," Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said of Fernandez. "He's hungry. He wants to score. He wants to help the team. He not only scores for himself, he wants to be important for the team."
Portland has won three of four all-time meetings against NYCFC and its three wins are shutouts.