MLS is Back Group C: Adjustments Each Team Needs to Make

MLS is Back Group C
Full Time Photos of Toronto FC vs D.C. United on Matchday. Xavier Dussaq.

EDITORIAL – Every team in Group C of the MLS is Back tournament has now played a match. The first game resulted in a positive 1-0 win for the New England Revolution, while the other game ended in a 2-2 draw between Toronto FC and D.C. United.

The Revolution led the group with three points. TFC and United are tied for one point, and the Montreal Impact currently has zero points.

Group C – Changes Each Team Needs to Make

D.C. United

A Better Start and More Possession of the Ball

D.C. United was fortunate to get the one point against TFC. A big reason for that was their lacklustre first half, where they went behind 2-0 and were a man down against TFC. Their defence was not great with Ayo Akinola on his first goal. They also needed to possess the ball more as they had only 34 percent of the possession compared to TFC’s 66 percent.

Although that is partly understandable as United was down a man in the second half, which showed their efficiency of possession. They also had eight shots, with five of them on target. Still, they only had 44 percent of the possession against TFC late in the first half.

United head coach Ben Olsen talks about the positive result according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post:

“It has not been an easy 10 to 11 days since we got here,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “A lot of moving parts, a lot of cancellations and games being moved. So to get something out of that game says a lot about our group.”

Montreal Impact

Getting More Shots at Goal and More Efficient Use of Possession

The only important statistic that the Montreal Impact led in was possession. The Impact had 56% of the ball while the Revs only had 44% of the ball. However, in all other aspects of the game, they were behind the New England Revolution.

Most notably, the Impact had seven shots and only two shots on goal. This is far behind the Revolution’s 18 shots, in which five of them were on target. This statistic clearly shows that the Impact was not efficient when they had possession of the ball.

They played well in the first 11 minutes of the second half, but for most of the game, they were outplayed. In fact, according to Ian Quillen of mlssocer.com, the game against the Revolution was easily the worst game played under Thierry Henry (new Impact head coach).

Also according to Quillen, Henry was also not happy with the Impact performance:

“No shape. You don’t fight, and you don’t win battles and you lose balls,” Henry lamented. “There is no need to talk about tactics because there was nothing to do about tactics today. It was about desire that we didn’t have, and it can not happen.”

New England Revolution

Capitalizing on Scoring Chances

The New England Revolution was the only team to win a game in their Group C opener. As a result, the Revolution will have fewer things to work on then the other three teams. Most notably, there were quite efficient with their possession of the ball against the Impact as mentioned previously. However, with only one goal as a result they clearly did not take full advantage of their chances. An example would be Gustavo Bou, who should have scored late in the first half.

Bou was able to redeem himself in the second half with a tremendous individual effort to score the Revolution’s lone goal.

According to Frank Dell’Apa of boston.com, head coach Bruce Arena was impressed with Cristian Penilla’s performance against the Impact.

“He was outstanding, he played both sides of the ball.”

Toronto FC

Holding a Lead and a Better Finish

While United had a terrible start, Toronto FC had a poor finish resulting in the 2-2 draw. A 2-0 lead is known as the most dangerous lead in soccer. However, Toronto FC was also a man up and had all the momentum in the world heading into the second half with a 2-0 lead. This was done because of the heroics of Akinola who scored two goals in the first half.

One does understand TFC Head Coach Greg Vanney trying to give everyone a chance at the end of the game. However, the what-ifs of the TFC-United game was if Chris Mavinga and Omar Gonzalez continued to play. Although the blame should not go only to Vanney in the second half as TFC looked sluggish and their passing was slow.

Lastly, TFC did not capitalize on their scoring chances. They had 17 shots and 11 on target, but only two went into the back of the net. This includes Akinola, who had an excellent game but should have scored one more goal in the first half.

The frustration is shared with the Toronto FC players. This is what Michael Bradley said according to The Canadian Press:

“We’re angry with ourselves, we’re frustrated,” said Toronto captain Michael Bradley. “For a team that wants to be as good as we do and for a team that holds ourselves to the standards that we do, there’s no way that you should let a team like that back in the game today.”

Overview of Group C

The next two games this Thursday are critical as it will give a clearer picture of group c. However, based on the first set of results TFC, United, and especially the Impact will feel a need to produce a positive result in their second group stage match. Meanwhile, the Revs should be the most confident as they dominated the Impact.

Júnior Moreno will be out for United against the Revs after a red card against Toronto FC. According to Ben Bromley of black and red united, Moreno is one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS, which is a huge loss for D.C. United.

Lastly, TFC will not have both Jonathan Osorio and Jozy Altidore against the Impact. Vanney confirmed this news on Michael Singh’s Waking the Red article.

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