It could be a defining four days for the Seattle Sounders FC and well-rested New England Revolution when they begin busy stretches Thursday night at Qwest Field by meeting for the first time.
Seattle (8-5-8) is locked in a tight battle for second place in the Western Conference and the accompanying automatic playoff berth. The expansion Sounders temporarily moved into sole possession of second with a 2-0 win at Los Angeles on Saturday, but the Galaxy reclaimed that position with a win Wednesday in Chicago.
New England (6-6-6) also played Los Angeles in its last match, losing 2-1 on Aug. 8. The Revolution are in fifth place in the East, but have played the fewest games in the league with 18.
Thursday's matchup is the first between these clubs and both will have to travel afterward for weekend matches. Seattle plays at West-leading Houston on Sunday while the Revolution will head home to play Real Salt Lake the same day.
"We just have to go and do our job on Thursday," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. "Playing two games quickly is not ideal, but first and foremost we have to concentrate on what we've got to do Thursday."
Nicol will complete his two-game suspension for being sent off during a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC on Aug. 1. Assistant Paul Mariner will be in charge Thursday.
The Revolution are visiting a Sounders team that is 6-1-4 at home and has a potent attack led by forward Fredy Montero, who has 10 goals and six assists.
"They're playing well, they're scoring goals and they attack and defend well," New England midfielder Steve Ralston said. "If they're going forward hopefully we can catch them on a few breaks. I think most importantly we have to be solid defensively and not give up too many chances."
While Seattle's expansion success has been a major development in MLS this year, New England has struggled through injuries with star forward Taylor Twellman not starting a game all season. Twellman remains out, but veterans Ralston and Shalrie Joseph have combined for 11 goals and 11 assists to help pick up the slack.
"New England's success is built around that nucleus of Ralston and Shalrie Joseph and Jay Heaps and Matt Reis and Twellman," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "Obviously this year, that's been torn apart a little bit and that's why their season's been up and down because they've had a number of injuries."
There also is an interesting subplot because New England midfielder Sainey Nyassi and Seattle midfielder Sanna Nyassi are identical twin brothers set to play against each other for the first time.
"I already told him they're going to lose when they get here," Sanna Nyassi said. "So we need to keep the intensity so that the victory comes our way."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press