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The Los Angeles Galaxy should have a little more motivation than just aiming to keep their winning streak going when they face a Houston Dynamo side that's also surging.
Meeting for the first the time since the visiting Dynamo ended the Galaxy's 2018 playoff hopes, two of the hottest clubs in MLS will each try for a fifth straight victory Friday night.
It was on the last day of the MLS regular season last year that Houston stunned L.A. by coming back from two-goals down to win 3-2 and keep the Galaxy out of the playoffs for a second consecutive campaign. Though the Dynamo also missed on the postseason in 2018, at least one of their key rivals did the same.
That recent history might only add to the intrigue of this initial 2019 meeting between two clubs playing well in the early weeks of the season. In fact, Houston (4-0-1) is off to its longest opening undefeated run in franchise history while winning four straight after drawing Real Salt Lake to open the season.
The Dynamo, who topped San Jose 2-1 at home last weekend, last won five in row during the 2012 season.
"It's a team that has been playing together for a long time," midfielder Tomas Martinez, who scored his first 2019 goal against the Earthquakes, told the Dynamo's official website. "We all know each other very well. We have gone through good things and bad things, from several defeats, from several victories."
Los Angeles (5-1-0) is two points ahead of Houston and undefeated since losing 2-0 at FC Dallas on March 9. The Galaxy last won five in a row during the 2014 campaign and also can record a third consecutive clean sheet for the first time since 2016.
Star Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice within the first 36 minutes of L.A.'s 2-0 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday. Though the Galaxy were by far the better team throughout the match, Ibrahimovic, who has six goals in his four MLS games this season, was not entirely pleased with his team's inability to truly put the Union away in the second half of the match.
"When you want to send a message, you send a clear message," Ibrahimovic told MLS.com. "And the first half, we (sent) a message. I mean, I think Philadelphia, I don't think they knew what to do, how to stop us, because we were all over the place - pressing winning balls, creative. Second half, I think we were worried what (to do) …
"The important thing is the intention and the mentality. What do you want? You've got to go in, and you've got to execute."
Los Angeles has had issues executing defensively while yielding 11 goals, including three each in three straight contests, during an 0-2-2 stretch against the Dynamo. Houston's star forward Mauro Manotas has gone three league games without a goal, but had two in the 2018 finale versus L.A.
It's uncertain when recently acquired defender Giancarlo Gonzalez will make his L.A. debut.
Updated April 17, 2019