By THOMAS FLOYD
For the crowded top of the Eastern Conference table, which features a four-way tie for first, a packed slate of midweek games should provide some of clarity to the muddled race.
All four first-place teams are in action Wednesday night, with two of them — the New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact — going head to head. After dropping a 1-0 result at Montreal in March, New York will look to exact revenge at Red Bull Arena.
Meanwhile, the Houston Dynamo will travel to face D.C. United in an Eastern Conference final rematch, while Sporting Kansas City will host the Seattle Sounders in their first meeting since last year’s U.S. Open Cup final.
And to round out the schedule, the New England Revolution welcome Real Salt Lake; FC Dallas plays host to the Portland Timbers; and Toronto FC pays a visit to the San Jose Earthquakes.
Here is a rundown of the Wednesday night slate:
D.C. UNITED vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (7 p.m., MLS Live)
Fresh off a 1-0 win at Los Angeles late Sunday night, the Dynamo now make the cross-country trip to face United, who after a 19-game unbeaten streak at RFK Stadium have lost three straight in the nation’s capital.
While Houston left winger Brad Davis will make his return from suspension, United counterpart Chris Pontius (groin) likely will be held out until the weekend.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Still without midfielder Dax McCarty to pull the strings, the Red Bulls will continue to lean on the offensively gifted but defensively limited duo of Tim Cahill and Juninho as the Impact come to town.
After Marco Di Vaio struck for the goal in these teams’ first meeting, Red Bulls centerbacks Markus Holgersson and Jamison Olave will be sure to keep a close eye on the prolific poacher.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. REAL SALT LAKE (8 p.m., MLS Live)
With Juan Agudelo acquired too late for this contest, the Revolution will again lean on Jerry Bengtson, who with one goal in seven matches has struggled to get going.
Considering Alvaro Saborio (quad) is out and Robbie Findley (knee) is questionable, RSL seems poised to again depend on the youthful duo of Joao Plata and Devon Sandoval up top.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Back from his loan to Norwich City, Kei Kamara could make the game-day roster for Kansas City, which will be shaking things up already with midfielder Paulo Nagamura suspended.
While Seattle will be missing players of its own to suspension, with DeAndre Yedlin and Lamar Neagle sidelined, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is poised to return after missing this past weekend’s trip to Philadelphia because of the birth of his daughter.
FC DALLAS vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (9 p.m., MLS Live)
Having emerged as the Western Conference front-runner, Dallas will face a tough test from the Timbers, who have surged up the standings in recent weeks thanks to a seven-game unbeaten run.
The match could very well be won in central midfield, where the Dallas trio of Michel, David Ferreira and Andrew Jacobson or Je-Vaughn Watson (depending on the former’s health) will be up against Portland’s Diego Chara, Will Johnson and Diego Valeri.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. TORONTO FC (10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
It’s another game without the suspended Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon for the Earthquakes, who have found a suitable replacement in supplemental draft pick Adam Jahn (three goals).
Considering San Jose’s fair for the dramatic and Toronto’s penchant for giving up last-gasp goals, this could be a contest worth watching until the very end.