What to watch for Thursday night: Can Columbus, Philadelphia continue momentum?

August 20 matches with players

The 2020 MLS regular season restart continues Thursday night with a trio of matches that’ll be streamed on MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US (out of market) and available on TSN and MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada.

Here's what to watch for as six Eastern Conference teams get ready for action.

New York Red Bulls vs. NYCFC

7 pm ET | ESPN+, TSN in Canada (local TV)

The Red Bulls are looking to recover from a disappointing MLS is Back Tournament, where they failed to advance from their group. NYCFC didn’t fare much better in Group A, but snuck into the Knockout Stage by the skin of their teeth before bowing out in the quarterfinals.

That provides a glimpse into current form, but this one’s all about a rivalry that head coach Ronny Deila will taste for the first time. And the Hudson River Derby has historically tilted towards the Red Bulls, who own a 9W-5L-2D record across all competitions. That dominance has leveled off as of late, though, with NYCFC holding a 2W-1L-1D record from their last four meetings.

If you’re looking for players to focus on, NYCFC need to find their attacking rhythm through Heber and Jesus Medina given the absence of playmaker Maxi Moralez, who entered the match as questionable and was in fact kept out of the squad.

As for RBNY, will Kaku finally get unleashed and put in a position to thrive? He'll have to do it off the bench while newcomers Dru Yearwood and Samuel Tetteh aren't yet available for selection.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Chicago Fire FC

7:30 pm ET | ESPN+, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada (local TV)

Columbus were largely crowned victors of the offseason, then stormed through the group stage at the MLS is Back Tournament with conviction. They were sent packing, however, against Minnesota United in penalty kicks in the Round of 16. 

It’s a different story for Chicago, a club that’s been in transition mode on and off the field for the last year-plus. We’re still waiting to see their true potential under head coach Raphael Wicky, with the cold moments outweighing the warm ones in Orlando.

Look out for Crew SC's midfield duo of Artur and Darlington Nagbe, who dictate the team's pace of play. We'll see if they can get a result without big-money signing Lucas Zelarayan who was out of the squad for this match. For Chicago, Designated Player forward Robert Beric has shown glimpses of world-class forward play with two goals through five matches.

New England Revolution vs. Philadelphia Union

7:30 pm ET | ESPN+, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada (local TV)

This matchup offers familiarity, as New England dropped a 1-0 decision against Philadelphia in the Round of 16 at the MLS is Back Tournament. That paved the way for Philly making the semifinals, while the Revs are searching for solutions after Carles Gil underwent Achilles surgery, which will likely put him out for the rest of the regular season.

Another layer of intrigue is the continued development of Union midfielder Brenden Aaronson and center back Mark McKenzie, a pair of Homegrowns for Philadelphia. Could this be one of their last games before they head to Europe? At the very least, head coach Jim Curtin thinks they’re ready.

If you’re looking for one more angle, the Revs should receive a midfield boost from new acquisition Matt Polster. The No. 6 was signed in July from Scottish powerhouse Rangers, and seems primed for a key role moving forward in central midfield.