It's Heineken Rivalry Week! After Wednesday's heated NY Derby, Thursday offers up a pair of compelling matchups with more to come every day through Sunday. Here's a preview of the action:

Thursday Doubleheader

Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC
7 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Hard to find a more evocative GIF than this:

One of the most important things a central midfielder can do is get the defense to commit before playing a pass. Trapp was masterful at it over the weekend against one of the league's best and most savvy defensive teams.

Chicago, uh, aren't that. The Fire have looked better the past couple of weeks after an absolutely miserable July and first week of August, but they still took a pair of losses, and they're still on an eight-game losing streak overall. It's because they can't go forward without leaving themselves exposed at the back, and they can't stay solid at the back without giving up any pretense toward going forward.  

There have been only six nine-game (or worse) losing streaks in league history, and only two in the post-shootout era. The Fire are playing to avoid ignominy, but who can say how they'll come out and approach the job?

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas
9 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Houston aren't quite in that neighborhood with their own, more modest five-game losing streak. This past weekend was the Dynamo's season-long problem writ large: They squander the (very good) chances they generate to put away winnable games, and then in the last 10 to 15 minutes – or in this case, during the duration of second-half stoppage time – they collapse and squander results.

That said, Houston were lucky to even be in that situation against RSL in Saturday's dramatic loss. The Dynamo were battered for the full 90, somehow conceding 25 shots at home, to a lousy road team, while playing 11v11. The xG map was telling:

Dallas, who got themselves a convincing if un-flashy 2-0 win over Minnesota United on that same evening, need to figure out what RSL did and bottle it. I'll give them a hint re: where to start looking: RSL generated 11 chances on passes from Zone 14.

When you're able to set up camp right there and combine through the heart of a team, you're gonna have a good time.

As Bobby Warshaw pointed out in his weekend recap, new FCD No. 10 Pablo Aranguiz looks like a guy who can do some damage from that area:

Worth noting, though, that Aranguiz played as a sort of "go-ahead-and-float-inside" winger, or even a wide midfielder, in what Dallas like to call a 4-2-3-1 but to me looks like a box-ish 4-4-2. This is exactly where Oscar Pareja used Mauro Diaz this spring, and it's worked so far in limited minutes for their new Chilean enganche.

One More Thing To Ponder

We'll be back for Part 2 on Friday morning!