After a 16-day layoff, the Kansas City Wizards begin a stretch of five games in two weeks when they host the Eastern Conference-leading New England Revolution on Sunday night.
Kansas City (8-6-5) entered its extended break with a 2-0 loss at New England (10-5-6) on Aug. 2, snapping a seven-game unbeaten run against the conference rival.
The Wizards still have a three-game unbeaten streak against the Revolution at Arrowhead Stadium. Their last home loss to New England was a 2-0 defeat on June 11, 2005, the first of consecutive seasons they missed the playoffs.
Kansas City now hopes the time off will prepare it for the upcoming grueling stretch, which starts with a pair of home contests before ending with three games on the road.
"I think (the long break) is pretty good," Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad said. "It's a time to kind of reflect, and kind of see what we can do a little bit better. At the same time, get our legs some rest, and get us focused for the stretch run, which we all know is the most important part of the season for Major League Soccer."
The Aug. 2 defeat was only the third shutout suffered by the Wizards this season. Kansas City ranks among the highest scoring teams in MLS with 32 goals in 19 games, led by Eddie Johnson's 12 in 13 contests.
The United States national team player needs just one more goal to surpass his career high, set in 2004 with Dallas. He totaled only seven goals in two injury-plagued seasons after his breakthrough year, but claimed he wanted to net 20 goals in 2007.
Johnson notched his first career hat trick in a 4-3 win at New England on May 26. The Revs, though, limited Johnson to one shot on goal in the Aug. 2 meeting.
New England is looking to rebound from one of its worst losses of the season, a 3-0 defeat Thursday at Colorado, a team on the outside of the playoff picture.
"We really didn't come to play today," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. "When you come in at halftime two-nil down, and you are playing away from home, you're climbing a mountain. When things are going well, maybe you think you can just turn up, and every now and then you get a kick on the backside."
The Revolution, who are also among the highest scoring teams in the league with 34 goals, have been outscored 6-1 in the last three games (1-2-0) since defeating Kansas City. Their lone win in that span was a 1-0 victory over Los Angeles.
"Uncharacteristically, over the last couple games, we have had a couple mental lapses," Revs midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said.
New England could find itself shorthanded Sunday with midfielder Steve Ralston (flu and left knee sprain) - the league's all-time assist leader - and forward Pat Noonan (right groin strain) listed as questionable. Noonan has five goals and four assists in 20 games.
If Noonan can't start, rookie Adam Cristman, who is probable with turf toe, could be inserted into the lineup next to Taylor Twellman at forward. Twellman leads New England with nine goals in 18 games, and has the team's lone score in the last three contests.