landon donovan celebrates vs. D.C. United, 9/14/13 (ISO)

LA Galaxy expecting a stern challenge as they head north to face the Portland Timbers

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan still vividly recalls that mid-July night in Sandy, Utah, where he had just led the U.S. National Team to a victory over Cuba in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Following that game, Donovan turned on his TV and watched the Galaxy’s stunning 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field with Andrew Jean-Baptiste scoring the game-winner in second half stoppage time.

“I was probably as heartbroken as everyone else,” he said.

The Galaxy will have an opportunity to exorcise any demons that remain from that result on Sunday when the two sides meet again at JELD-WEN Field (12:30 p.m., NBC, 1330-AM, LIVE CHAT). Still recovering from a left ankle injury, the 13-year veteran is understandably looking forward to the challenge of playing in what he said is one of the toughest venues in MLS.

“Outside of our field I think it’s the hardest place to go play,” said Donovan, who has missed the last three games in all competitions, as well as the second half of the 2-2 draw with D.C. United on Sept. 14 after being injured late in the first half of that game. “I think over the years teams would say they don’t want to come to LA and I would say now they would say we don’t want to go to Portland or Seattle.

“I think Portland has done a fantastic job with their team , with their passion, their fans obviously. I think for most teams it’s pretty intimidating. For us it’s exciting. We always play in front of full stadiums, but this is a little bit different.

“It’s an exciting game for us.”

Another capacity crowd of more than 20,000 will be on hand for an important Western Conference showdown. Portland (11-5-13, 46 points) is third in the west behind Seattle (15-8-5, 50 points) and Real Salt Lake (14-10-6, 48 points), with the Galaxy (13-10-6, 45 points) and Colorado (12-9-9, 45 points) right behind Portland in a congested playoff race. Vancouver and San Jose are tied for sixth with 41 points and while FC Dallas, eighth with 40 points, remain firmly in the postseason picture.

The Galaxy are just 4-8-3 on the road in the league this season, however, the club is unbeaten in their last three road matches in league play, going 1-0-2 in that time, while also using a reserve-laden lineup to beat Cartagines 3-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night. But for Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant, he could not care less if the Galaxy are at home or on the road this week. They simply need to get results.

“Home or away it doesn’t matter. We need points,” he said. “Portland is right there with us, all these games matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s home or away, we have to get points.”

Sunday’s matchup could be highlighted by the appearances of the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane and Portland’s Diego Valeri, arguably two of the leading candidates for the league’s MVP award.

Valeri, a 27-year-old Argentinian who has been bothered by a recent hamstring injury, is tied with Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux for the league lead in assists (12). He also has eight goals, including the game-winner in Portland’s 1-0 victory over Colorado last Friday.

“I think he’s been fantastic,” Donovan said. “I think outside of Robbie Keane he’s been the best player in the league this year.”

This is the third and final meeting of the regular season between both teams. The Galaxy are 0-1-1 against the Timbers so far this season.