PREVIEW – All 26 (it is now 25 of the 26 with FC Dallas bowing out) Major League Soccer teams are playing in Bay Lake, Florida in a FIFA World Cup-style format tournament. Titled the MLS is Back tournament, Group C, there will have Toronto FC, New England Revolution, Montreal Impact, and D.C. United.
MLS is Back Tournament: Group C Preview
The top two teams from Group C will make the tournament knockout rounds. The third-placed team in Group C could also make the playoffs as a best third at large team.
Group C is one of six groups. The fourth-place team of Group A (which has six teams in the group) and the third-placed team of the other five groups (which have four teams, except for Group B which has three teams) have a chance of making the MLS playoffs.
The teams with the three best records from these six teams would join the other 13 teams in the knockout round stage.
D.C. United – Post-Wayne Rooney Era
The team with the most MLS Cup championships in the group. D.C. United has won four MLS Cups, with their last one being in 2004.
However, of the four teams in the group D.C. United has the worst odds of winning the MLS Group. Their odds are 10/3, which is tied for last with the Montreal Impact according to oddschecker. A big reason for this is Wayne Rooney leaving D.C. United.
Wayne Rooney: Ex-England captain's Derby shirt number 'adds to moral issue' https://t.co/PtW6EpQXkq
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) August 7, 2019
They are also still without midfielder Paul Arriola with an ACL injury per boston.com. According to Steven Goff of the Washington Post, his surgery was done on February 24th. It will take nine months (until November) for Arriola to completely recover.
There is a risk of making the injury worse by having Arriola play in Florida without having the surgery. However, expect D.C. United defender Donovan Pines to return in July according to Jason Anderson of SBNation.
With not many attacking options, expect United to have a defensive 6-3-1 formation.
Montreal Impact – Defending Voyageurs Cup Champions
The Montreal Impact, who won the Canadian Championship last year, will look to make the MLS playoffs for the first time since 2016.
As previously mentioned, the Impact’s odds are 10/3, which is tied with D.C. United as the team with the worst odds of winning the group. Similar to D.C. United, the Impact lost its best player from last season in Ignacio Piatti.
The Montreal Impact has two injuries. According to The Canadian Press in February, Rudy Camacho was sidelined with an injury that would last four-six weeks but he should return.
The one injury Impact fans should be worried about though is Steeven Saba, who suffered a broken left foot while jogging in late May according to MLSSoccer.com. It is possible that he will miss the Impact’s first season game in Florida, which is next week.
There is far worst than a broken foot right now 🙏🏻I didn’t even know my foot was broken. Didn’t feel anything, just woke up and couldn’t walk. Thank you to everyone wishing me a speedy recovery! Will Only come back stronger! May everyone stay safe! 🙏🏻❤️Much Love
— Steeven Saba (@SteevenSaba11) May 21, 2020
This might change their way of playing. The Montreal Impact is known as a counter-attacking team. A defensive 5-4-1 that can counterattack is likely for the Impact.
New England Revolution – Bruce Arena Era
The New England Revolution is the third team on this list. The Revolution has 11/4 odds of winning Group C according to oddschecker.
They barely made the MLS playoffs last year, where they were eliminated by Atlanta United FC. However, DP striker Carlos Gil believes that the Revolution can win the MLS Cup this year according to Tom Bogert of MLSSoccer.com.
Expect Carles Gil to return for the Revs according to The Sun Chronicle. Furthermore, expect two new signings, Alexander Buttner and Seth Sinovic to be healthy when MLS starts according to MLSSoccer.com and the Boston Herald.
Unfortunately, the Revolution will be without Luis Caicedo who will miss the 2020 MLS season due to an injury in his right knee according to Jonathan Sigel of MLSSoccer.com. Expect the Revolution to line up in a 4-3-3 formation, which head coach Bruce Arena has worked on for the Revs.
Toronto FC – Defending MLS Eastern Conference Champions
The defending MLS Eastern Conference Champions and the 2017 MLS Cup champions Toronto FC round out Group C. TFC is the clear favourite to win the group. According to oddschecker.com, they have a 13/8 chance of winning Group C. One of the favourites to win the MLS Cup, TFC will be a team to be reckoned with.
According to TSN.ca Staff, both previously injured players Michael Bradley and Pablo Piatti are back in training in Bay Lake, Florida. Jozy Altidore also looks like he will be available for selection in Florida.
They have also added with goalkeeper depth with Kevin Silva according to torontofc.ca. Unfortunately, it is not all good news for Toronto FC as Ifunanyachi Achara will be out for the remainder of the MLS season.
NEWS | Achara out for remainder of season with ACL tear.#TFCLive
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) July 2, 2020
It would make sense for Toronto to play in a 4-4-2. Winger and forward Pablo Piatti and striker Jozy Altidore could be a lethal combo for any of the three opposing teams.
MLS is Back Group C Preview Overview
On paper, Toronto FC would be the heavy favourites to win Group C, with the other three teams fighting for the final one or two playoff spots in the group with the Revs having a slight edge.
However, anything can happen in this peak MLS competiton. This is especially true in a short three-game group stage like this. Furthermore, the team that wins the first game would be in a good position to advance to the knockout rounds. In a league as balanced as MLS, anything can and will happen. If there are no upsets in this group, there will be upsets in another group. It is the reality of MLS.
No team should feel overly confident about doing well and possibly making a deep playoff run. That is what makes Major League Soccer and both the season and playoffs so exciting to watch.
The first two games for Group C is just around the corner. The Montreal Impact and New England Revolution will be the first match of Group C in MLS on July 9th and then Toronto FC will face D.C. United on July 12th. There was a worry that Toronto FC may not play in Florida as one player showed symptoms of COVID-19. However, fortunately, all players tested negative and have gone to Florida yesterday afternoon.
Toronto FC confirm all tests have come back negative. TFC are scheduled to leave for Orlando this afternoon. #TFCLive
— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) July 6, 2020