Los Angeles FC will take their high-scoring offense across the country for a matchup against host Charlotte FC on Saturday.
While LAFC (11-6-7, 40 points) will be playing for the second time since their Leagues Cup run ended, Charlotte (6-9-8, 26 points) will be playing for the first time since a quarterfinal defeat against Lionel Messi and Inter Miami.
Defending MLS champion LAFC have scored 17 goals over their past four games across all competitions. They earned a 4-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday in their return to league play.
Denis Bouanga leads LAFC with 12 goals, while Carlos Vela has nine goals and seven assists while looking ready to flash his former MVP form after tallying a goal and an assist against the Rapids in his return from a leg injury.
LAFC lead MLS with 13 matches across all competitions of at least three goals.
"If we are finding the right spaces with our passing, we should have opportunities (one on one) with (Bouanga) wearing down players or Carlos on his left foot coming inside, which are very difficult situations to defend," LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said.
While Charlotte FC last saw action in their 4-0 defeat to Inter Miami on Aug. 11, when Messi piled on with a late goal, they are unbeaten in their last four home matches across all competitions (1-0-3), and 6-1-5 in their last 12.
Charlotte was supposed to return to MLS play Sunday at Inter Miami, but that match was postponed due to the Herons' continued Leagues Cup run.
Karol Swiderski leads Charlotte with seven goals and three assists, while Enzo Copetti has four goals and two assists but is expected to remain out with a lower leg injury. Swiderski added two goals across five Leagues Cup games.
Swiderski has drawn outside interest with the European transfer window set to close next Friday, leaving head coach Christian Lattanzio concerned about the upcoming uncertainty.
"This is something that any coach in the world hates because you can have players that are not focused," Lattanzio said. "It's easy to say that it's their job, to be focused all the time, they are paid for that ... but the reality is that we are human beings and this kind of overlap in windows makes it difficult for everybody."
Charlotte FC has faced LAFC just once, getting crushed 5-0 in a game at Los Angeles last August.
—Field Level Media