D.C. UNITED (10-6-3) vs. RED BULL NEW YORK (10-7-3)
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
Tied with 33 points, these teams trail conference leader New England by six points but more importantly, are vying for the No. 2 conference seed - and home-field advantage -- that goes to the second-place finisher.
They would meet in the playoffs if they finish in their current places, and they've split their two games this season. Ben Olsen stunned the world with a hat trick in a 4-2 United win June 10 and RBNY proved superior, 1-0, July 22 on a John Wolyniec goal.
United, which has posted shutouts in its last three league games, must contend with midfielder Dane Richards, who shook off a month-long funk to scorch the Galaxy in last week's 5-4 barnburner, as well as frontrunners Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore. They have combined for seven of the last eight RBNY goals.
The loss of midfielder Josh Gros to a concussion complicates the decisions of United coach Tom Soehn, as the strong performance of Clint Mathis against LA might keep him in the starting lineup, with Dema Kovalenko still sidelined with facial injuries.
Soehn could field Olsen, Brian Carroll and Clyde Simms to blunt the Red Bulls' midfield. He also must decide whether or not to recall Bobby Boswell, who sat out last week's 2-0 defeat of Columbus as Greg Vanney played alongside Devon McTavish in central defense.
Speaking of central defense, RBNY coach Bruce Arena has been juggling players because of injury and inconsistent form. Carlos Mendes got his last start in the 1-0 win over D.C. after sitting out the previous game with a right calf contusion, and a right hamstring strain forced Jeff Parke out of the D.C. game at halftime. Seth Stammler replaced him.
Parke and Stammler started against the Galaxy, and while three of the four goals came from David Beckham set plays, LA did generate 21 shots.
If the teams finish tied on points, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results, and as this is their last meeting of the season, the match is doubly important.
KANSAS CITY (8-7-5) vs. CHICAGO (6-8-5)
Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
The 2007 schedule forces every team through grueling stretches and many also face barren spells with nary a competitive match.
Sometimes one follows the other. Kansas City is a case in point.
After a 17-day layoff, the Wizards lost their second straight game to New England last weekend. This will be their second game in a rough stretch.
"We have five games in 14 days, so you really have to utilize your team," says head coach Curt Onalfo. "Every game in MLS is an absolute roll-up-your-sleeves-and-fight game. You can never relax."
The teams play again Saturday in Chicago, where the Fire took a 2-1 decision April 21. Since then, Chicago has fired head coach Dave Sarachan; acquired Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Paulo Wanchope and Wilman Conde; and waived Thiago and Willian Oliveira.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Conde was awaiting the work visa that would enable him to play.
With Wanchope and Blanco in the attacking mix, and forward Chris Rolfe nearly fully recovered from the ankle sprain that sidelined him for more than two months, Chicago is primed for a playoff push. It trails eighth seed Columbus by just three points and is six points behind Kansas City, the seventh overall seed.
Rolfe set up a goal for Chad Barrett and put away the winning goal from the penalty spot when the teams met in April.
Wizards midfielder Calros Marinelli is suspended, which probably means a return to the starting lineup for Sasha Victorine, who came on a sub in last week's 1-0 loss to New England.
Onalfo may also use young (24) Argentine Eloy Colombano, who debuted as a sub in the same game.