What to watch for Wednesday: LAFC look to bounce back vs. San Jose, Columbus-Philadelphia East elite clash and more

Cade Cowell - closeup - 2020

With 11 games on the docket, there are plenty of intriguing storylines ahead of Wednesday's Week 9 matches. From the clash of titans in the East between Columbus Crew SC and the Philadelphia Union, to a first-ever meeting between Atlanta United and Inter Miami and the San Jose Earthquakes looking for a first win over LAFC, let's dive into what to look forward to on Wednesday.

Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami CF

7 pm ET | FS1 in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada

This was set to be one of the more intriguing matchups in Week 8, when the teams were slated to meet for the first time at Inter Miami CF Stadium. But it was one of five matches postponed that night with players showing solidarity with other professional athletes to protest another systemic racism and police brutality following the shooting of Jacob Blake. 

Both teams feature enticing young talent from South America, though on short rest it's uncertain how much squad rotation will go into this one. Could Cubo Torres get his first start for Atlanta? Will Ezequiel Barco be healthy enough for a larger role than his 30-minute shift in a loss to Orlando? If Diego Alonso opts to rotate, will veteran Lee Nguyen get his first start? Or maybe Brek Shea? And then there's Leandro Gonzalez Pirez's return to Mercedes Benz Stadium. Who will he foul first?

FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire FC

7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

Two teams looking to establish some consistency in their rebuilds meet at Nippert Stadium where FC Cincinnati are seeking to exact some revenge for a 3-0 Soldier Field-opening defeat to the Fire a week ago. 

Jaap Stam's side's success relies on stingy defense, which was on full display in a Hell is Real 0-0 draw against Columbus Crew SC. The Fire know that while chance creation might be reduced, being clinical in the attacking third, and on set pieces as they showed in a 3-1 loss to NYCFC, will be even more critical. 

Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union

7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

Looking for a match of two teams looking to play on the front foot, possess and get into the attacking third? Look no further than this Eastern Conference clash of titans. 

Caleb Porter expects a "fun game" between teams with similar attacking tactical approaches.

Don't expect any arguments from Jim Curtin, not after his side scored three goals in the opening 21 minutes to cruise to a 4-1 win over D.C. United on the weekend to extend their unbeaten streak to seven after consecutive wins. Speaking of fun, there's a lot of that in terms of potential matchups with Brenden Aaronson locking horns with Darlington Nagbe in the center of the park, Kacper Przybylko squaring off against Jonathan Mensah and Gyasi Zardes battling center back Jack Elliott

New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United

7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

The bite might not be there like it once was, but the Atlantic Cup is the longest-running rivalry in the league and there's still not a lot of love between the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United. Here's a refresher on the rivalry.

Ben Olsen said he needs his team to be tougher on the opposition after a 4-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Union, but they'll be without one of their hardest players with Felipe Martins set to have ACL surgery after suffering a season-ending injury in training Tuesday. Will that mean more minutes for the Black-and-Red's talented Homegrown players? 

Chris Armas hasn't shied away from giving his team's younger players big minutes as he displayed in a 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution when 20-year-old Ben Mines set up 21-year-old Omir Fernandez for the lone goal for the Red Bulls, who are unbeaten in the last 10 meetings with D.C. United

Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United

8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

Houston will be looking to keep up the momentum after a big win, while Minnesota United will be trying to get back on track following a tough loss when the sides meet in this Western Conference clash at BBVA Stadium.

The Dynamo were winless coming into their last match, but took their first three points in emphatic fashion, blitzing Sporting Kansas City 5-2 with a late brace from Darwin Quintero sealing the lopsided scoreline. It was a surprising result given Sporting's place at the top of the Western Conference table, but Houston have never lacked for attacking talent, so perhaps it was just a matter of time before they found their stride. Either way, this matchup affords them a golden opportunity to show it was for real against another tough in-conference opponent.

Now Quintero will try to guide his new team to a second win of the season against his former team, the first time he's facing the Loons since being traded in November. Adrian Heath's side was one of the stronger sides at the MLS is Back Tournament, but they've now dropped two straight games since the league's restart. There's excitement (and relief) for finally getting the Bebeto Reynoso deal across the line. MLSsoccer.com's Tom Bogert reports Reynoso already has his ITC, so it's possible he can make his long-awaited debut tonight.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC

8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

Positioning in the Eastern Conference table will be on the line when the Revs take on the Cityzens at Gillette Stadium.

The sides are currently separated by just two points, with NYCFC currently two short of New England's pace of 11 points from 8 matches. More than that, the Cityzens will be looking to find some consistency in what has been an erratic season to this point.

The game could also shine a light on the importance in this league of an elite playmaker. With Maxi Moralez now fully healthy from a nagging calf injury, NYCFC played their best 45 minutes of the season in the second half of a 3-1 win over Chicago Fire FC

The Revs, meanwhile, continue to miss their injured No 10 Carles Gil. While they are unbeaten in seven, they've shared the points in five of those matches. Although Gil won't be available, Bruce Arena will be back patrolling the sideline after a three-match ban for abusive language in the team's final match of the MLS is Back Tournament. 

Sporting Kansas City vs. FC Dallas

8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

Sporting Kansas City are still in good shape in first place in the West at 16 points, but the one-sided defeat to the Dynamo was a bit disconcerting nonetheless. It's far from time to push the panic button, given their talent level and the soccer they've shown they're capable of playing, but a bounce-back effort against FC Dallas would also ease some minds among SKC fans that the Houston result was a fluky one, rather than cause for greater concern.

FC Dallas has struggled to score for much of the season, which is why the three-goal outburst against Chicago was likely cathartic for the players. We'll see if they can keep it rolling on the road against an SKC side that has likely been drilling their defending on the training ground.

Nashville SC vs. Orlando City SC

8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

Nashville SC probably aren't going to wow anyone with LAFC-like attacking play in their expansion season, but this is a gritty and competitive group, as evidenced by their 1-0 victory over Inter Miami CF in their last match. Perhaps their least competitive match of the season, though, came in the game before that against this same Orlando City, which saw the Lions take a 3-1 victory at Exploria Stadium. Now that they're the home team, Nashville will look to show they can hang with their regional counterparts.

The Lions continue to look like the best version of themselves we've seen in their MLS existence. Orlando followed up that victory over Nashville with a 3-1 romp over an Atlanta United side that is admittedly struggling at the moment, but has had their number over the years. The vibes are all positive with Oscar Pareja's group these days, and they'll try to keep it that way. The longer they do it, the more they'll have to start being acknowledged as a legitimate contender in the East.

Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders

9:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

The Sounders are flying high at the moment, with two straight big wins in their back pocket following a 3-0 rout of the Portland Timbers and a 3-1 win over LAFC in their last match, and they'll look to continue their ascent up the Western Conference table in this road matchup with Real Salt Lake.

Seattle seem to have hit their stride, but expect some squad rotation here, as head coach Brian Schmetzer manages the fixture congestion and a heel contusion to star striker Raul Ruidiaz that forced him off at halftime of the LAFC game. Schmetzer said after the match the knock was minor, but with another game against Portland coming up on Sunday, it might be Will Bruin's time to shine up top.

If Seattle are going to get their third straight win, Real Salt Lake will have something to say about it. Freddy Juarez's group pulled off one of the most dramatic results of the MLS season so far, salvaging a 4-4 draw in Portland courtesy of a pair of late goals, the last of which came from Sam Johnson deep into second-half stoppage time. 

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy

10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; on DAZN in Canada

Things have changed for these two teams since they left the MLS is Back Tournament's Orlando bubble.

Portland, of course, won the tournament courtesy of some lockdown defensive performances and clinically taking their chances in transition. But in the two games since then, tthe Timbers have conceded seven goals. Coach Giovanni Savarese was livid after their 4-4 draw against RSL, and understandably so. The Timbers were a matter of minutes from securing three points at home, but let it slip away due to some costly defensive lapses.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, are suddenly looking resurgent after their well-documented struggles at the MLS is Back Tournament, which cinluded a defeat to Portland in the group stage, and at the beginning of the season. LA have now won two straight coming off their 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes and massive 2-0 El Trafico triumph over LAFC. For all the (justified ) hand-wringing about their earlier form and suspect defending, perhaps this group has figured the cure to what ailed them. It will be interested to see if they can keep it going against a Portland side that will certainly be plenty motivated to get a bitter taste out of their mouth. 

LAFC vs. San Jose Earthquakes

11 pm ET | UniMas/TUDN in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada

We're not used to seeing Bob Bradley's group like this, but LAFC are now on a rarely-seen two-game losing streak for the first time in two years after getting blown out by Seattle 3-1 at CenturyLink Field.

They're shorthanded without Carlos Vela and Eduard Atuesta, but they showed they can still score without Vela in Orlando, so it's still surprising to see them this out of sorts. This group is surely too talented and too deep to stay down for long, and they'll get their first crack at showing they're ready to turn it around when they host the Quakes.

San Jose remain a bit of a mystery. They were one of the most fun teams in Orlando and are always entertaining. But that hasn't yet translated into consistent form this season, and the loss to the Galaxy was a disappointing one. They have a chance to further demoralize a wounded opponent in LAFC, but history is certainly not on their side: LAFC have won all four regular-season meetings between the Californian foes by an aggregate score of 15-3.