It’s an abbreviated midweek of MLS action but Wednesday’s matches could have major implications on the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Currently second in the East and still very much alive for the Supporters’ Shield, NYCFC is set to take on a Montreal Impact team that is surging through the summer.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Union and the Chicago Fire collide at Toyota Park in a battle of two teams that are currently just below the red line in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s a closer look at Wednesday’s action:
NYCFC vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.)
After grinding out a win over the rival New York Red Bulls over the weekend, NYCFC steps into the second game of a busy stretch to take on the visiting Impact.
The Impact enter Wednesday’s clash on quite a tear after extending the team’s win streak to four over the weekend. Over that period, the Impact have outscored opponents, 9-1, with Saphir Taider helping orchestrate the Canadian club’s turnaround. As things stand, the Impact sit in the sixth and final playoff spot, an impressive feat considering how poor the team was to start Remi Garde’s tenure.
NYCFC, meanwhile, is in second place, six points behind Atlanta United with two games in hand. The team remains unbeaten at home this season with just one draw in nine games. That run extended over the weekend as Domenec Torrent’s side abandoned the traditional build-out-of-the-back mentality in favor of a more pragmatic approach to topping the Red Bulls.
However, NYCFC is dealing with injuries with David Villa being the obvious biggest potential absence. In his stead, NYCFC could opt to start Maxi Moralez up top once again while Jonathan Lewis’ impressive effort over the weekend could see the young winger join the starting XI.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.)
Both the Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union have had their ups and downs this season, but both have hopes of jumping above the red line by the end of the week.
Entering Wednesday’s match, the Fire sit in seventh place, one point behind the sixth-place Impact. The Union, meanwhile, are currently in eighth, two points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand. There are still several months left in the season and plenty can change, but the Fire and Union appear to be two sides that will be in the battle for the last spot in the postseason.
That battle, in some ways, begins on Wednesday as the Fire enter in solid form despite a loss over the weekend. Prior to that loss, the Fire were unbeaten in five despite a slew of long-term injuries. Aleksandar Katai began to heat up to close June, scoring four goals in three games, while reigning Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic is also finding form with a goal in each of his last two matches.
The Union, meanwhile, have struggled for goals all season, and those struggles continued in another shutout loss over the weekend. The team has lost four of five, scoring one or fewer goals in each of those four as CJ Sapong continues to struggle in front of goal.