By Ridge Mahoney
In addition to pair of prestigious friendlies matching Seattle with Manchester United and Chivas Guadalajara against Real Madrid, there are five MLS games on tap for the busiest midweek date so far on the 2011 schedule.
Once MLS confirmed it was expanding its schedule in the same season it was adding two more expansion teams, head coaches and executives knew there’d be days, and weeks, like this.
An increase of 66 games (306 this year, 240 in 2010) in a slightly lengthened season means ample doses of midweek matches at certain points in the season. Eight of the 10 teams in action Wednesday played last weekend, and incredibly, all eight play again on Saturday. The Revs lost to Philly, 3-0, on Sunday, and after a match at D.C. United Wednesday, travel to Colorado to play at altitude and on two days' rest this Saturday.
If fatigue induces caution, which it does in many cases since attacking usually requires more energy than defending, maybe all those ties and goalless matches aren't so surprising.
Five Wednesday league games are scheduled, highlighted by the Galaxy hosting the Crew at Home Depot Center. All five games are available on-line and via the Direct Kick package.
D.C. United (5-5-8) vs. New England Revolution (3-9-7), 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Mired in a nine-game winless streak, which ties a club record, the Revs go to RFK Stadium without suspended midfielder Benny Feilhaber but will get back Shalrie Joseph, who sat out a suspension in a dismal 3-0 loss at Philadelphia last weekend.
United added midfielder Austin da Luz from New York in exchange for an international slot, and at the least will expect to break a four-game losing streak against New England.
Toronto FC (3-9-9) vs. FC Dallas (10-5-5), 8 p.m.
No matter how many of his new players TFC coach Aron Winter chooses to field, the BMO faithful will see a new team. Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans will be in uniform, and Ryan Johnson, Terry Dunfield, Andy Iro and Leandre Griffit are also in the fold.
In search of an offensive spark last weekend, FCD coach Schellas Hyndman gave Ricardo Villar his first start since March 26 and brought on Bruno Guarda, who hadn’t played since May 14, to replace him. The result was a second straight blanking, 0-0 at D.C. United, so Hyndman may shake things up yet again.
Colorado Rapids (6-6-9) vs. New York Red Bulls (6-4-11), 9:30 p.m.
Just two points apart -- 27 and 29, respectively -- these teams vividly demonstrate the gap between the conferences. The defending champions are fifth in the West and ninth overall, which would be a wild-card slot; the Red Bulls are second in the East and entrenched as automatic qualifiers.
Caleb Folan will probably get the start in place of Conor Casey, who went down with a ruptured Achilles' tendon in a 4-3 loss at Seattle last weekend. Midfielder Brian Mullan didn’t make the trip to Seattle, which is where his vicious tackle sidelined Steve Zakuani, but could make his return from a long suspension in this game. The Rapids hope to give a real test to new Red Bulls keeper Frank Rost, who didn’t need to make a save Saturday while posting a shutout in his MLS debut against Chivas USA.
San Jose Earthquakes (5-6-8) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2-10-8), 10:30 p.m.
The Quakes aren’t losing, yet neither are they scoring, and after back-to-back 0-0 ties with Philadelphia and Columbus – and a goalless run of 292 minutes -- hope to fatten up their production against the Whitecaps, which on the road are winless (0-8-3) and have conceded 17 goals. Jacob Peterson, one of three players acquired last week in a trade with TFC, debuted against the Crew; Alan Gordon and Nana Attakora await their first calls.
The ‘Caps latest trade acquisition, left back Jordan Harvey, is suspended. Mustapha Jarju – a Gambian striker signed last week as a Designated Player – played 45 minutes against Manchester City in a friendly Monday. Former San Jose goalie Joe Cannon might get the start against his former teammates.
LA Galaxy (10-2-9) vs. Columbus Crew (7-5-7), 10:30 p.m.
Fresh off a 4-1 pasting inflicted Saturday by Real Madrid, the Galaxy faces Columbus, which recently acquired midfielder Tony Tchani from Toronto FC in exchange for midfielder Leandre Griffit and defender Andy Iro.
The Galaxy is dinged up – David Beckham (back spasms) is one of a half-dozen players listed as questionable -- but rides into this game on a 12-game unbeaten streak in league play. Columbus has scored only one goal in the last three games, and that was Jeff Cunningham’s record-tying 133rd career goal in a 1-0 defeat of Vancouver July 6.