MiB Group F: What’s At Stake heading into the finale of group play

MiB Group F
Photo of LAFC courtesy of Devin L'Amoreaux, Jared Martinez, Matthew Stith/Major League Soccer.

Editorial — When the groupings were announced for the MLS is Back Tournament, all eyes shifted to Group F. The fabled “group of death” had seen several big changes before play even began. With LAFC and the LA Galaxy arriving in Orlando without some of their respective impact players, the group seemed up for grabs. That parity has provided a few surprise results, and a final match day with plenty left to play for.

MiB Group F: What’s At Stake as Group F Heads Into Final Round of Play

LA Galaxy

We start with the team with the most to prove, but with little chance. Next to Inter Miami, the Galaxy have arguably the most surprising flop in the tournament. Arriving without star midfielder, Jonathan Dos Santos, was tough, but losing Chicharito after a tough 2-1 loss to Portland, was the death blow. A weakened Galaxy got blown out in the rivalry game, losing 6-2 to LAFC.

With just one match left, they face a Houston Dynamo side with an outside chance at advancing. That will surely motivate them to do well. The Galaxy will want to avoid not only being eliminated, but doing so with zero points. While the tournament title is no longer within reach, Galaxy can garner some good will with a win heading into the season restart.

Houston Dynamo

The Dynamo were always expected to have a rough time in this group. However, after an incredible near upset of powerhouse LAFC, with the match ending in a 3-3 draw, there was hope for the underdogs. While they may be a long shot after losing their second match to Portland, 2-1, they are mathematically in it.

Their final match is against a Galaxy side that likely want to follow Chicharito on the first flight out. However, even if they somehow win by a massive margin, which is needed, they will also need help from Portland. The Timbers play LAFC, who currently hold the advantage in both goal differential, and goals for, tiebreakers over Houston. Still, for a team that was written off the day of the draw, to even have a chance is proof they’ve played some great soccer.

LAFC

Los Angeles were the favorites to win this tournament, even before groups were drawn. Even after it was announced their star striker, and reigning league MVP, Carlos Vela would be opting out, they were considered the favorites to win it all. However, it hasn’t been easy for LAFC, who still have plenty of work to do. After a surprising 3-3 draw against the Dynamo, LAFC took advantage of a hobbled Galaxy side in their rivalry match. While they beat Galaxy 6-2, they played arguably their worst soccer yet.

Heading into their final match, this team will likely advance, but how will they look? Another poor first half and chances Portland won’t leave opportunities for a comeback. A win for LAFC would give them seven points and the overall group win, assuring better seeding. However, a loss could not only mean second place, but a poor enough performance could spell disaster.

Portland Timbers

When it was announced that Jonathan Dos Santos and Carlos Vela would be missing the tournament, the smart money turned to Portland. Coming into this tournament with not just the talent, but the health, to win it all, the Timbers have looked good thus far. Both wins have come with 2-1 shorelines and physical play. Portland has looked the better team in this group by far, and will have another chance to flex again on Thursday.

With a place in the next round already secured, all that’s left for Portland is to come out in first. LAFC will be the opponents when they kickoff for their final MiB Group F match Thursday. And, as history has shown, this will be a physical match.

Both teams will be riding the high of victory, with LAFC feeling themselves that much more after netting six goals in their last outing. A win for Portland not only means a perfect MiB Group F record, but sets them up as the favorites to win the whole tournament.

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