With a rocky July finally behind them, the San Jose Earthquakes hope to start climbing in the Western Conference following the arrival of several impact players.
Chris Wondolowski and Cordell Cato return to Avaya Stadium, while Marc Pelosi makes his debut there as San Jose tries to avoid its longest skid in six years Sunday against the Portland Timbers.
Without their leading scorer and one of their top midfielders, the Earthquakes (7-9-4) were outscored 12-3 while dropping five straight across all competitions last month.
They were blanked in three consecutive games before falling 5-2 at Los Angeles on July 17. Wondolowski (U.S.) and Cato (Trinidad & Tobago) returned from CONCACAF Gold Cup duty last Sunday, but couldn't help San Jose end the slide in a 3-1 loss at Vancouver.
Quincy Amarikwa, acquired June 26 from Chicago, has scored the club's last three goals.
"He's fit in great - three goals in three games. He's a threat," coach Dominic Kinnear told the team's official website. "He's made a couple of looks in the games leading up to this."
Wondolowski, who has a team-high nine goals, hopes to get on track after scoring six times in nine matches prior to leaving for the Gold Cup. He's had three goals in his last two versus Portland.
Pelosi subbed in for Wondolowski in the 70th minute in his MLS debut against the Whitecaps. The former Liverpool reserve system standout now looks to provide a spark in his first home game.
The Earthquakes will try to avoid their first five-game losing streak since 2009. They've only allowed two goals in their last four at new Avaya Stadium, where they'll play nine of their final 14.
The Timbers (9-8-5) entered Saturday seven points up on San Jose for the sixth and final playoff spot in the West, but they've been outscored 14-1 during a four-game road slide across all competitions.
Portland showed off a new star of its own in a 4-1 loss at FC Dallas on July 25. Lucas Melano, a 22-year-old Argentine forward, created the tally by drawing a foul in the box.
The Timbers have won three straight in this series, including a 1-0 win on Jack Jewsbury's score in the 91st minute July 5. San Jose did not have Wondolowski, Matias Perez Garcia, Sanna Nyassi or Cato.
Rodney Wallace had both goals in a 2-1 win in the most recent meeting at San Jose on Oct. 4.
"They are a team that looks to attack at home. They didn't really do that against us in the last game," coach Caleb Porter told Portland's official website. "They had a few players out so that was probably the right approach; it almost got them a point. But now at home they've got pretty much their full group, all their attackers back and they're at home, so we definitely expect them to attack more."
Since joining MLS, Portland has lost just once in 12 league meetings (5-1-6) with San Jose - its fewest losses against any conference opponent.