Major League Soccer returns from the CONCACAF Gold Cup break on Wednesday with a bulky slate of matches. However, they will be overshadowed by the quarterfinals of the continental competition.
Regardless of what you think of the scheduling nightmare, which many think is ridiculous with 38 players set to miss the night’s matches because of the Gold Cup, the games will go on Wednesday with the chase for the playoffs beginning in earnest.
Here’s a look at the seven games taking place in MLS on Wednesday night.
Philadelphia Union at Montreal Impact (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live, TVA Sport)
The last time the Union and Impact met on April 22, the Impact came back from three goals down to tie Jim Curtin’s men at Talen Energy Stadium. Both teams have been up and down since the six-goal thriller and a result is a must for both teams as they try to emerge above the red line.
The Union will be without Chris Pontius, Andre Blake and Derrick Jones and possibly Alejandro Bedoya, whose wife gave birth to the couple’s second child on Tuesday. Montreal is without Ambroise Oyongo and Ignacio Piatti, Patrice Bernier and Anthony Jackson-Hamel.
San Jose Earthquakes at New York Red Bulls (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The Earthquakes and Red Bulls take part in their annual meeting on Wednesday evening. The last two contests in this matchup have been won 2-0 by the home side. The Red Bulls are still trying to find their form, and reinforcements in the transfer market, but they should take care of business at home against the revitalized Quakes.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Quakes are fifth in the Western Conference and are playing a very attractive brand of attacking soccer, but they’re only 2-6-1 on the road.
Toronto FC at New York City FC (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live, TSN4)
Two of the three best teams in the Eastern Conference are set to square off twice before the end of July, starting at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night. A win by New York City FC at home would close the gap between the top three to two points and it would set the tone for Saturday’s showdown with Chicago at Yankee Stadium.
Toronto has a chance to burst open a bigger gap between itself and NYCFC, which could go a long way in determining home-field advantage in the postseason. More pressure will be on Sebastian Giovinco to succeed up top on Wednesday night, with Jozy Altidore and Tosaint Ricketts away on international duty.
Houston Dynamo at Minnesota United (8 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
When will the Houston Dynamo get their first road win of the season? If we’re being honest, it probably won’t happen on Wednesday. Alberth Elis, Erick “Cubo” Torres, Boniek Garcia and Romell Quioto are all out on international duty for the team’s trip up north. If the Mauro Manotas-led front line can somehow pull out a point from the Loons, it would be seen as a positive result.
Minnesota is missing a few of its key players with Johan Venegas, Francisco Calvo and Jermaine Taylor still alive in the Gold Cup. But the Loons still have Christian Ramirez and Kevin Molino, which should be enough firepower to blast past the depleted Dynamo.
Vancouver Whitecaps at LA Galaxy (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live, TSN1)
After a bit of dormancy in front of goal in the matchup between LA and Vancouver, the Whitecaps won a 4-2 contest back in April. Before that contest, a combined three goals were scored in four previous matches. Although they are missing five players to international duty in defense and midfield, the Whitecaps still have Fredy Montero, Christian Bolanos and new signing Bernie Ibini at their disposal. The back four led by Tim Parker and Christian Dean might face the most struggles.
The Galaxy are one of two teams playing on Wednesday not to be affected much by the Gold Cup, as only Gyasi Zardes is away with his national team. But despite having a near full compliment of players, the Galaxy are a brutal 1-5-3 at home. At some point, that atrocious record has to be broken and Wednesday presents a perfect opportunity for it to happen.
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The only team to not face a Gold Cup absence on Wednesday is Real Salt Lake, and that is a massive boost, especially with the momentum they carry from the 6-2 thumping of the Galaxy on July 4. Now the key for the Claret and Cobalt is to build off that performance and find a result in Portland. There should be plenty of scoring opportunities out there for Albert Rusnak, Yura Movsisyan and company with David Guzman and Alvas Powell missing for the Timbers.
Guzman, Powell, Darren Mattocks and Darlington Nagbe are not available for selection, but the Timbers still have both 10-goal scorers in Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi ready to go. Although Guzman has been a key for Caleb Porter’s side in defensive midfield, Diego Chara will still be on the field. As long as he can hold down the fort in front of the back four, the Timbers should be in decent shape.
D.C. United at Seattle Sounders (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
On paper, this seems like a straightforward victory for the Seattle Sounders against one of the worst teams in the league who they’ve beaten four times in a row. The Sounders are missing Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey, which means Will Bruin will have to step into the scoring role, something he is more than capable of doing. Cristian Roldan’s return from the USMNT is a nice boost for the Sounders with Osvaldo Alonso out with an injury.
D.C. has everything going against it on Wednesday, especially with Bill Hamid away on international duty. The last-place team in the Eastern Conference is tied for the worst goal differential in MLS with Minnesota and RSL and it could get worse without one of the top shot stoppers in the league.