First place Union welcome Sounders
In terms of wins and losses, the Philadelphia Union are significantly further along than they were a year ago.
Manager Peter Nowak would admit, however, that they haven't always looked particularly dominant.
Following another 1-0 victory, the surprising Union try for their fourth win Saturday when they host a Seattle Sounders team coming off their first victory.
As an expansion team last season, Philadelphia (3-1-0) finished with the MLS' third-fewest points at 31. The Union are well ahead of that pace this year, having already earned nine.
Philadelphia, the Eastern Conference's only team with more than one victory, has had a simple formula for success - finding ways to win in low-scoring games.
In last Saturday's 1-0 win over New York, second-half substitute Roger Torres scored in the 68th minute off a pass from forward Danny Mwanga. It was the first MLS goal for Torres, who entered the match in the 67th minute.
With Faryd Mondragon stopping the Red Bulls' only shot on goal, the Union played to their fourth 1-0 decision of the season.
"What's the difference if we win 5-0 or 1-0? At this point of the season, beauty doesn't count," Nowak told MLS.com. "You count the goals and you count the points. We have three goals, three wins and three shutouts. I am not going to complain about that too much."
Mondragon has stopped eight of nine shots on the year to help Philadelphia record one more shutout than it had all of 2010.
The Union didn't post their third victory of last season until June 27, when they defeated the Sounders 3-1 in their 11th MLS game and PPL Park opener. Philadelphia failed to record its fourth victory until three weeks later when it beat Toronto on July 17.
"We have made some huge strides," said Union defender Danny Califf, who has one of the team's goals. "Everybody recognized last year we were better than our record, and this year we are validating that we are a better team and are putting up the results."
The Sounders (1-2-2) finally got the result they were hoping for last Saturday, when they defeated Chicago 2-1.
Steve Zakuani scored the go-ahead goal in the 25th minute for Seattle, which snapped a five-match winless stretch - one shy of the club record set in 2009.
"It feels really good to get the three points,'' O'Brian White said. "We're a work in progress. We've come close a couple times in the previous games, but we didn't get the three points. It definitely feels good to get the first win.''
White set up Zakuani's game winner, and got the Sounders on the board with a goal in the seventh minute, his second score in as many games.
White has carried Seattle's offense with Freddy Montero sitting out the last two matches following wrist surgery.
Montero, who had a team-high 12 goals last season - including one in Seattle's 2-0 home win over Philadelphia last March - has returned to training and is listed as questionable for this game. He is still seeking his first score of the season but leads the Sounders with nine shots on goal.
Seattle will be without midfielder Servando Carrasco, who was suspended for one match by the league Friday for a reckless challenge on Chicago's Patrick Nyarko in last week's victory.