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MLS Week 22: A Midweek Look Ahead


One of the oldest rivalries in Major League Soccer takes center stage to start Week 22, but it’s only an appetizer to the flashy showdown in the City of Angels 26-and-a-half hours later.

Overall, five games take place in MLS during the next 48 hours, with a few of them carrying playoff implications.

Both New York teams will attempt to gain ground on Atlanta United, while the Philadelphia Union play one of the team’s games in hand in the race for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Over in the Western Conference, the second-versus-fourth El Trafico provides all the excitement, while the clash between the 10th-place Seattle Sounders and bottom feeders San Jose Earthquakes isn’t exactly drumming up intrigue.

Below is a deeper look at each of the five games taking place on Wednesday and Thursday in MLS.

New York Red Bulls at D.C. United (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

If we’re being completely honest, this is the match that should’ve opened Audi Field, but it’s a good second match at the new home of D.C. United.

The New York Red Bulls have dominated the Atlantic Cup recently, as they’re unbeaten in their last five league games against the Black and Red.

D.C. is looking for its first win over the Red Bulls since May 13, and if it wants to add its name to the cluster of Eastern Conference playoff contenders, it needs to defeat its archrival on Wednesday.

Outside of the normal rivalry storylines, the one thing to watch is Bradley Wright-Phillips’ quest of his 100th league goal. The Englishman is four goals away from earning five straight seasons of 17 tallies or more.

Philadelphia Union at Houston Dynamo (Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Don’t expect a ton of goals at BBVA Compass Stadium, and we’re not just basing that on the Union’s propensity to waste chances.

Each of the last eight games between the Union and Houston Dynamo featured at least one clean sheet.

Jim Curtin’s side needs to rebound from a home loss to the LA Galaxy, and any points would benefit it ahead of a week-and-a-half break.

Wilmer Cabrera’s men enter on a four-game unbeaten run and they’re in their own battle for the playoffs, as they sit three points back of the red line.

Seattle Sounders at San Jose Earthquakes (Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Even the MLS diehards might struggle to find intrigue in the Quakes-Sounders showdown at Avaya Stadium.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Quakes, they still haven’t beaten anyone not named Minnesota United.

The Sounders have held the advantage in the Heritage Cup for the last two years, with the Quakes’ last league win over Brian Schmetzer’s side coming on June 20, 2015.

If the Sounders are able to win their third game in five league contests, they might creep up into the Western Conference playoff race, as they could reach within seven points of Real Salt Lake.

New York City FC at Orlando City (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The first of two national showcase games on Thursday is a clash between forced rivals NYCFC and Orlando City.

Unlike other more serious rivalries, NYCFC has been wildly successful against its fellow fourth-year club, as it won the last three games against the Lions by a combined 8-0.

The last goal netted by the Lions against NYCFC came from Cyle Larin in the 51st minute of a game on April 23, 2017.

In addition to attempting to end their 309-minute scoreless run against NYCFC, the Lions are trying to resurrect their form, as they’ve lost 10 of their last 11 in MLS play, including the deflating loss to the Columbus Crew on Saturday that featured a poor refereeing decision.

LA Galaxy at LAFC (Thursday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

El Trafico might have to be renamed after everyone’s favorite Swedish striker if Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes an impact similar to his first MLS game.

The first meeting between LAFC and the Galaxy was a 4-3 thriller won by Sigi Schmid’s side, and there’s no lack of intrigue entering the second affair.

The Galaxy are miraculously four points back of LAFC in the Western Conference standings, and if they can find a way to win at Banc of California Stadium, it would make the race for the No. 1 seed in the West at least a four-team race.

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