Preview – For better, or worse, Major League Soccer, is back. MLS returned to play in Orlando, July 3, in what is a preseason tournament of sorts. The tournament winners will receive a cash prize, as well as a berth in the 2021 Champions League. In addition, all points earned during group stage play, will count towards 2020 season totals, should the regular season resume.
MLS is Back: Group F Preview
When groups were drawn, it was this one, Group F, given the ominous distinction as the ‘group of death.’ While much has changed in the lead-up to kickoff, the strength within this group remains. In a tournament as unpredictable as this, during times as unprecedented as now, the club to advance past this group will be favorites to win it all.
Houston come into this tournament as one of the long shots. In addition to being in the toughest group, they lack the talent and depth that many of the other clubs come with. In the two matches prior to the halt, they were outscored 5-1. However, they will have forward, Alberth Elis returning. His partnership with Mauro Manotas and Darwin Quintero could be what pushes Houston to a Cinderella run.
The Timbers are the wild card of the group. After a 3-1 loss to Minnesota in the 2020 opener, they grinned out a 1-0 victory over expansion, Nashville SC. Portland have depth in attack, with players like Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, and Jeremy Ebobisse. With players from both Los Angeles teams withdrawing, this group is shaping up perfectly for a Portland smash N’ grab.
It’s no surprise that the Galaxy will arrive in Orlando as one of the favorites to win it all. While Jonathan Dos Santos won’t be with the squad, having had hernia surgery, they still have players who can impact a match. Christian Pavón and Chicharito Hernandez will highlight the Galaxy attack. The biggest question for LA is how well they defend. With Dos Santos out, defense in the middle of the pitch will have to step up big.
Far and away the favorite of the tournament, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neither should the news that broke earlier in the week, confirming reigning MVP, Carlos Vela, would opt out of the Orlando tournament. Vela’s wife is pregnant with their second child, and his decision to put family and health above all else, is to be respected.
With that said, LAFC still have one of the most talented attacks in the MLS. New signing Bradley Wright-Phillips will make his debut, and forward, Adama Diomande, will begin his return from an injury suffered during preseason. As it was when the 2020 campaign began, the biggest question will be how well they defend.
MLS is Back Group F Predictions
This is the toughest group of the tournament for a reason. Any of the four teams could advance, and any of them have a legitimate chance at winning the tournament. That said, the two teams from Los Angeles will be the likely duo to advance to the next round. While their defenses may be suspect, both clubs can score in bunches. Galaxy will win the group, with LAFC advancing in second.