Photo by David Bernal/ISIphotos.com
Euro 2012 might be on its first day off in almost two weeks, but that doesn't mean there is not a full slate of soccer to command your attention on Wednesday.
MLS makes up for lost time during the international break with six mid-week games, including a pair of headliners. Real Salt Lake renew their rivalry with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and the Seattle Sounders look to snap a five-game winless drought against Sporting Kansas City, a team that has refound its swagger after a four-game winless stretch of its own.
Those are just two of the night's matchups. Here's the full Wednesday night slate in MLS:
REAL SALT LAKE vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (9 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
The rematch of the 2009 MLS Cup final takes on added significance this time around, with the Galaxy looking to turn the corner with a landmark victory, while Supporters' Shield race-leading RSL aim to put their rivals in a deeper hole in the Western Conference table.
The Galaxy are coming off their first clean sheet of the season, with Josh Saunders' return to goal coinciding with the 1-0 victory over the weekend, and they'll be looking to exact a bit of revenge for an earlier meeting this season. Real Salt Lake landed the first of what has turned out to be many blows against the Galaxy this season, going into the Home Depot Center and winning 3-1 in the opening game of the 2012 campaign.
The scene shifts to Rio Tinto Stadium, where standing room tickets are all that's available for fans hoping to take in what has become one of the regular must-see matchups on the MLS calendar.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. TORONTO FC (9 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
After three Toronto FC players were arrested outside of a Houston bar and promptly sent away from the team, the Reds will try to accomplish what no visiting team has been able to do just yet: win at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The Dynamo have made their new home into a fortress, going 3-0-1 in the downtown Houston park, with FC Dallas being the latest casualty in a hard-fought Texas derby over the weekend. If new Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner is to break Houston's home dominance and get his first win in charge, he'll have to do so without Nick Soolsma, Luis Silva and Miguel Aceval.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (9:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
After watching 18 teams return to action over the weekend, San Jose marks its return from the break by traveling to Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Earthquakes welcome back key starters Chris Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez from international duty, but they won't be at full strength, as goalkeeper Jon Busch will be serving his one-game suspension for an altercation with a ball boy in Kansas City.
Colorado is coming off a missed opportunity in Vancouver, when the Rapids could not score on the Whitecaps despite a man advantage and succumbed to a Sebastien Le Toux game-winning goal. With just one loss at home in six games, the Rapids, who wait on the status of Omar Cummings, Conor Casey and Marvell Wynne — all listed as probable in the latest injury report — will look to continue their success at DSG Park.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (10 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Seattle has been mired in a bit of a league slump, but with new American citizen Osvaldo Alonso making his return to the lineup from a two-game suspension, there's reason to believe that the Sounders will be able to turn things back around.
The problem is, CenturyLink Field has not exactly been a house of horrors for visiting teams — Seattle is just 5-3-0 at home this season — and Sporting KC is playing with confidence after a straight-forward 2-0 victory over Toronto FC over the weekend. Added incentive for SKC is that the club can leapfrog D.C. United and move into first place in the Eastern Conference with a three-point road haul.
CHIVAS USA vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (10:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Chivas USA will take aim at improving their 1-6-1 home record by welcoming the expansion Impact to the Home Depot Center.
The Impact are not playing like a typical expansion side, though, and are riding high after the most comprehensive victory in their brief MLS history, a 4-1 thumping of Seattle. With Matteo Ferrari ruled out for at least the next month, Shavar Thomas steps into the lineup at centerback to deal with the Juan Pablo Angel-Juan Agudelo strike tandem.
While he has been seldomly used since being a surefire starter earlier in the season, Justin Braun may get the chance to go up against the club with whom he spent the first four years of his career before being traded to the Impact. Bernardo Corradi is out for the match with a left knee injury, but rookie Andrew Wenger, who has scored in two straight games, figures to get the start up top. Braun is not the only one in for a homecoming, as Montreal coach Jesse Marsch goes up against the team he used to captain as a player.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (11 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Two teams enter this match with opposite momentum swings following weekend results. The Whitecaps, who just introduced new Designated Player Barry Robson this week, come off an exhilarating home victory against Colorado, scoring the game-winner after being a man down. Rookie Darren Mattocks will be suspended for the match after his red card against the Rapids, but Martin Rennie has plenty of firepower to turn to in his place.
The Red Bulls, meanwhile, dropped a 3-1 result at Chicago Sunday and will continue to be without DPs Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. They also won't have the services of Mehdi Ballouchy, who cannot travel to Canada because of his visa status, meaning that the attacking spark will need to be provided by the likes of Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards and Kenny Cooper if New York is to bounce back.
Which game(s) are you looking forward to tonight? How do you see the night's results playing out? Do you think the Galaxy are on the cusp of turning things around, or will RSL halt their momentum?
Share your thoughts below.