D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls have played many intense games over the years, but it has been a while since a meeting this late in the season between the two rivals has had playoff implications for both sides.
The latest edition of the Atlantic Cup will be decided at RFK Stadium Wednesday night in the rubber match of the season series between two teams looking to gain a stronger foothold in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Wednesday also marks Sharlie Joseph's first return to New England since the stunning trade that sent the Designated Player and former Revolution captain across the country to Chivas USA; the Columbus Crew's latest attempt to stay hot following the acquisition of DP Federico Higuain; and the Los Angeles Galaxy's quest for three more points in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Here is a closer look ahead to Wednesday night's action:
D.C. UNITED vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (8 p.m., Galavision)
With Montreal and Columbus charging hard for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, D.C. United is in need of a bounce-back performance following a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the Impact on Saturday.
Fortunately for D.C., which can move up to third in the conference ahead of Houston with a win, the club returns to a place that has been a fortress, as it rides a 12-game home unbeaten streak (9-0-3) into this crucial meeting against New York, which has had road struggles of its own. Despite being able to leapfrog Sporting Kansas City and claim first place in the East, New York is 0-4-3 in its last seven games away from home.
The teams, who last both made the postseason in 2007, have split the two meetings this season, with D.C. taking the first meeting at RFK Stadium by a 4-1 scoreline and New York striking back at Red Bull Arena with a 3-2 result spearheaded by former D.C. reserve Brandon Barklage's two goals.
There are also historical implications in play Wednesday, as Dwayne De Rosario can become the seventh member of MLS' 100-goal club if he can find the back of the net against the team that traded him to D.C. a little more than a year ago.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. CHIVAS USA (8 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
It will certainly be odd for Shalrie Joseph to be in the visitor's locker room at Gillette Stadium after playing for the Revs from 2003 up until the Aug. 1 trade that saw him head west in exchange for Blair Gavin, allocation money and a draft pick.
The move has yet to pay dividends for either team. New England is 0-4-0 since the deal, while the Goats are 0-2-1, with the club conceding 10 goals in the two losses to Los Angeles and Seattle. Even with the club's struggles, though, Chivas still controls their own destiny in the West considering their four games in hand on fifth-place Vancouver. That makes tonight's match a must-win for Chivas, which was completely exposed defensively over the weekend, which overshadowed an improved attacking game.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. COLUMBUS CREW (8 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
The Crew have become a transformed attacking team since the integration of Federico Higuain, the reigning MLS Player of the Week after his efforts to help deliver wins against Toronto and New England. It has not just been the Argentine getting it done, though, as Costa Rican Jairo Arrieta has played his part as well, with the two forming a strike tandem the Crew have been yearning to put on the field.
Matt Lampson is set to remain in the nets in the place of injured starter Andy Gruenebaum for Columbus, but the Homegrown Player was sharp when he came on as a substitute against the Revolution over the weekend.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is all but eliminated from postseason contention and is in search of a solid foundation for 2013. One player who won't be a part of that is Colombian striker Jorge Perlaza, who was unceremoniously cut from the club Tuesday after being acquired for Danny Mwanga in early June and never left his mark with the Union.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. PUERTO RICO ISLANDERS (10 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel)
The Galaxy's CCL nemesis comes calling again, as the Islanders head to the Home Depot Center looking to spring an upset. Puerto Rico dumped the Galaxy out of the preliminary stages of the 2010-11 CCL in a stunning development, and Los Angeles will aim to exact a bit of revenge in the first of two Group 5 meetings between the two sides.
With Robbie Keane suspended, David Beckham sick and Landon Donovan nursing a hamstring injury, there is the potential for all three Galaxy DPs to miss out on this match, the club's final home bout during the group stage. The Galaxy can take control of the group by taking three points off the Islanders, as that would put them three points clear of Metapan and six clear of Puerto Rico with all having played two matches.
Who do you think will win the D.C.-New York matchup? How do you see Joseph's return to New England unfolding? Do you think the Crew will make the playoffs in the East? Do you think the Galaxy can defeat the Islanders without any DPs?
Share your thoughts below.