Before Rivalry Week kicks into full gear this weekend, we get a brief preview of the passionate derbies across North America on Wednesday during a busy seven-game slate.
The third installment of the Texas derby is the headlining match on Wednesday night, but there’s also a rivalry clash in Cascadia that will have major implications on the Western Conference standings.
Elsewhere, Atlanta United’s return to the field is the biggest story as they come back into the fray in the thick of an Eastern Conference playoff fight.
Here’s a look at each of the seven games taking place on Wednesday night.
LA Galaxy at Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The LA Galaxy are used to being in the thick of the playoff race at this point in the season, but they are closer to earning the first pick in the draft than the red line. In fact, the Galaxy are one of four teams within one point of each other at the bottom of the league table. The only thing keeping LA above Minnesota United, the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United is a 5-5-1 road record.
Gregg Berhalter’s Columbus Crew can’t be lured into a false sense of security because of where they sit in the East right now. Although their fifth-place spot looks nice right now, they have played two more games than the sixth-place Montreal Impact and four more than Atlanta in seventh place. A win at home is mandatory to keep the pressure on the two teams below them,
Atlanta United at D.C. United (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The excitement is building for Atlanta United to open Mercedes-Benz Stadium in September, but before they embark on a long stretch of home games, they have an August road trip to take care of. Atlanta is 4-0-2 since leaving RFK Stadium with a defeat on June 22. This is also Atlanta’s first game in 17 days so it will have to shake off a little rust.
Rust is something that can only be seen on the beams at RFK Stadium. It can’t refer to the on-field product D.C. United is putting out, especially after their big summer window moves. The focus is clearly on next year, but doing the double against Atlanta would be quite a feat in 2017.
Philadelphia Union at Toronto FC (8 p.m. ET, TSN1, MLS Live)
No one does heartbreak quite like a Philadelphia team and the Union left San Jose broken in many ways after conceding a late penalty that led to a draw. With their playoff hopes already bleak, the Union need to find a way to pull a miraculous point out of BMO Field.
Toronto FC have started to put themselves in the discussion for best team in league history. It’s a debate that will continue throughout the rest of the season, but right now you can’t argue against their presence in the debate. A win on Wednesday would put the Reds seven points clear of New York City FC and 12 points in front of the Chicago Fire.
Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas (8 p.m. ET, UniMas)
Two draws in the first two Texas derby showdowns have put El Capitan up for grabs on Wednesday night. The Dynamo took the cannon home last year thanks to its 5-0 thumping over FC Dallas at the start of the season. Bringing El Capitan back to Houston for the first time in consecutive years since 2011 and 2012 will be a hard task, especially with FC Dallas trying to revive their form.
FC Dallas haven’t been overly impressive in the last month, but Wednesday sets them up with a perfect chance to reignite their season. Oscar Pareja’s men will undoubtedly be up for the rivalry game at home that also has playoff implications. A win keeps FC Dallas safe for another week, but a loss or draw allows the Whitecaps or Earthquakes to jump over them.
San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake (10 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
If the San Jose Earthquakes are for real in the Western Conference playoff race, they need to pick up a point on the road. With four teams above them playing each other, the Quakes are bound to gain ground on someone in the West with a victory at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake are five points back of the red line, and just like the Quakes, they need to win in order to stay relevant in the postseason conversation. A 4-4-4 home record has held back the Claret and Cobalt, but it isn’t too late to make a run at the top six, especially with how congested the West is.
Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps (10 p.m. ET, TSN1, MLS Live)
The Sounders can ill afford to look ahead to the big Cascadia game on Sunday against the Portland Timbers. Not only would a win set the Sounders up to remain atop the Western Conference, it would put them level with the Timbers in the hunt for the Cascadia Cup.
The Whitecaps haven’t fared too well against the other two teams from the Pacific Northwest this season with one win and two losses in the books. Now is the time for the Whitecaps to get into a nice run of form. They have five of their next six games at home, which is ideal for a team looking to set its spot in the top six in concrete.
Colorado Rapids at Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The Rapids failed to respond to Pablo Mastroeni’s firing with a storm of enthusiasm as a dubious own goal led it to defeat against D.C. on Saturday. Now, the task gets harder for the Rapids as they head up to Providence Park. The Rapids have one win since the last time they took on the Timbers on June 17. Based off what we saw Saturday, that streak isn’t about to change.
The Timbers appears to have an easy victory in its hands with the Rapids coming to town, but it can’t get too confident as this may be a perfect setup for a trap game with the Sounders upcoming on Sunday. The Timbers must take the Rapids seriously, and they should, but once the final whistle blows all the focus will be on Seattle.