It will be quite a meeting of the minds, so to speak, when the LA Galaxy take on the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Columbus Crew Stadium.
It's difficult to argue that this perhaps is the most-anticipated match of the young MLS season. The Galaxy are a league-best 8-0-2 for 26 points and are 10 points ahead of their closest pursuers in the Western Conference. The Crew has been impressive in their own right with a 6-0-2 record for 20 points and are five points clear atop the East.
The Galaxy has had its share of problems in Columbus in the past -- an all-time franchise record of 2-8-5 -- and their last regular-season loss was 2-0 at Columbus last Sept. 26, but players and coach insist their past history will have no bearing on their chances this weekend.
"I don't think it really matters," head coach Bruce Arena said. "If we had all of our players for the last 15 years I'd probably be concerned about that.
"It has no consequence to this group of players. I don't think it factors in at all."
There is no disputing, however, that Columbus Crew Stadium has been long regarded as one of the toughest venues for visiting MLS teams. Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein attributed the Crew's long-running success at home to their bruising style of play.
"They work hard," he said. "They have a group that physically beats you up over 90 minutes. They can wear you down and can be very effective in their style of play and in what they do. We have to match that and continue to do the things we have been doing to this point in the season.
"They have quality, guys that can put the ball in the back of the net. They have guys that can battle and they're always very organized defensively. They also have good goalkeeping. That's the recipe of a good team."
The Galaxy's recipe has worked exceptionally well. Last Thursday's 1-0 victory over FC Dallas stretched their unbeaten streak to 10 games to start the season and 13 regular-season games overall dating back to late 2009. They are 10-0-3 in those games and have accumulated 33 of a possible 39 points. Los Angeles also has shut out 11 of those 13 opponents and have not trailed in any of those matches.
This also marks the fifth unbeaten streak of 10 games or more in club history and the second-longest in the history of the franchise. Only a 15-game unbeaten streak from Sept. 7, 1997 to May 17, 1998 is longer.
The Crew, by the way, hold the longest unbeaten streak in MLS history at 19 games from July 2004 to April 2005.
Midfielder Eddie Lewis, who returned to action in Sunday's friendly against Boca Juniors, said Saturday's game isn't one the Galaxy have necessarily been pointing to -- "Every game is an opportunity for three points," he said -- but he also didn't deny the fact the two remaining unbeaten teams going head to head brings some additional spice to the matchup. But he was also pleased to see the Galaxy aren't placing any more significance on Saturday's game than any others to this point in the season.
"We've done a real good job of taking it one game at a time," he said.
Arena also downplayed any added incentive to the match.
"It's another challenging game for us," he said. "We look forward to going to Columbus and giving it our best."