MLS receives a lot of, in my opinion, undeserved criticism for their scheduling decisions. I understand why they didn't feel like taking time off for the Gold Cup. I'll forgive them for scheduling nationally televised games for 11 p.m. Eastern. But scheduling two games on the same day as the Gold Cup semis? Really? Is that remotely necessary?
Neither game is on national TV, so that's obviously not the reason. All four teams do have a weekend game scheduled, but that doesn't mean these games couldn't have been played on Thursday. The one game being played on Thursday is being broadcast on ESPN2, but both of Wednesday's games could have been scheduled early enough not to conflict. This just seems to be an example of the league being purposefully obtuse.
With all that said, we're pretty sure these will be among the most ignored games of the season. I know my attention will almost certainly be on Mexico-Honduras and United States-Panama, but if one of your teams is playing tonight, I suppose I can't begrudge you that...
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday
A few weeks ago, this would have seemed to be an overwhelmingly obvious pick. But the Union have not looked so hot since laying that 6-2 beat down on Toronto FC and Sporting KC has actually looked pretty good in recent weeks. The Union haven't won in three matches, while Sporting is on a five-match unbeaten run. If current form holds, this will likely be a low-scoring affair. A result from Sporting would be one of their loudest statements yet, while anything less than a win for the Union must really make us question if they are really to make a run at the Eastern Conference title. Pick: Tied 1-1.
Frank Klopas has yet to lose since taking over as the Fire head coach and his team has yielded just one goal in the four games with him at the helm. It's hard what to really make of that run of succes, though, as none of the teams they've played are exactly offensive juggernauts. The best of the bunch was probably the Seattle Sounders, whom they tied 0-0. Real Salt Lake will be much closer to full strength this week as Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio and Arturo Alvarez are all back from national team duty. They are also looking to rediscover their groove as they've won just once in their past seven. Pick: RSL 2-1.
Seattle Sounders vs. New York Red Bulls, 10 p.m., Thursday (ESPN2)
The Sounders have already sold about 45,000 tickets for this match and are hoping to come close to putting 50,000 people in the house. It's unclear how many of those casuals will even be aware that Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez won't even be playing, but their absence probably doesn't help the potential walk-up. Still, it should be a pretty impressive atmosphere as more tickets have already been sold for this game than any other MLS game in Sounders history. With Tim Ream and probably Luke Rodgers also out for the Red Bulls, this would seem an opportune time for the Sounders to turn around their so far lackluster play at home. Pick: Sounders 2-0.