There are three matches involving MLS teams Wednesday, and each one carries a good deal of significance.
In league play, D.C. United and the Chicago Fire meet in a clash of teams both currently in the playoff picture and looking to jockey for a safer position as the home stretch continues. The Columbus Crew are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but the club has precious games in hand and a golden chance to add three points by welcoming last-place Toronto FC to Crew Stadium.
Outside of the league, the Houston Dynamo begin their quest at CONCACAF Champions League glory, opening group play against Salvadoran side CD FAS.
Here is a closer look at Wednesday's action:
D.C. UNITED vs. CHICAGO FIRE (7:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
The Fire are on a roll as winners of three straight, but they'll be tasked with doing something no team has been able to do since Sporting Kansas City on opening night — beat D.C. at RFK Stadium.
United are 8-0-3 at home since the season-opening loss and are in need of more points to put some distance between themselves and the surging Montreal Impact. The club will be shorthanded, though, as centerback Emiliano Dudar and midfielder Branko Boskovic are both suspended after picking up red cards in the wild final moments of Sunday's 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union.
While D.C. tries to regroup from that match, which ended with teammates directing pointed comments at each other on the field, Chicago looks to continue building its momentum and can pull even with the New York Red Bulls for second place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind SKC, with a win. Chris Rolfe has been at the center of it all, thriving in a playmaking, supporting role while scoring four goals in his last four games. The game also pits a pair of former college teammates-turned-star-rookies against each other, as D.C. winger Nick DeLeon takes on Chicago centerback Austin Berry.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. TORONTO FC (7:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
This game is the rescheduled date between the two clubs after Toronto agreed to push the original matchday to allow the Columbus organization to attend Kirk Urso's funeral.
Both teams' key new players who are coming off stellar debuts will go head-to-head in this Trillium Cup bout. For Columbus, DP forward Federico Higuain was a true difference maker in the club's draw at Houston Sunday night, immediately making an impact, notching an assist and showing that there's more to his game than just his famous last name. He is still working his way toward 90-minute match fitness but could be a starter for Robert Warzycha.
For TFC, Darren O'Dea performed very well in a 90-minute performance on short rest against Sporting Kansas City, and the Irish international centerback will be tasked with shutting down Higuain and Jairo Arrieta while continuing to integrate himself along TFC's back line.
CD FAS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (10 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel)
The Dynamo play the second match in their six-game, 19-day stretch, opening CCL play away from home while facing the challenge of trying to win at Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador.
They'll be facing a somewhat desperate FAS side that fell to Honduran club Olimpia 3-0 in their Group 3 opener earlier this month. For Houston, it is the first of two straight road matches in group play, meaning that the final two group games will be at BBVA Compass Stadium, and the club can position itself well with any points it can capture away from home.
Dom Kinnear is turning to 23-year-old Homegrown Player Tyler Deric in goal for the match, giving Tally Hall a breather. While trying to balance his roster with the hectic schedule, Kinnear is likely to turn to other reserves — including veteran forward Brian Ching — in an attempt to win without sacrificing his starters for the future.
Who do you think will take the big D.C.-Chicago match? Do you think Columbus can be a player down the stretch for a postseason berth? How do you see Houston faring in the CCL this season?
Share your thoughts below.