MiB Group B Review: Stunners from San Jose, Vancouver

mib quarterfinals
Photo of Chris Wondolowski courtesy of Jared Martinez and Matthew Stith/Major League Soccer.

Editorial — Last year, the San Jose Earthquakes made major strides in Major League Soccer. San Jose had a full year under head coach Matías Almeyda, and it saw the club rise from bottom of playoff-fringe team.

Of course, San Jose did not make the playoffs. They just missed the cusp, actually. Either way, that was an improvement for a team that was downright bad and at the bottom of the table for the last few years.

This year was supposed to be a dominant year for San Jose. Instead, the team is showing off their dominance in a tournament-style setting. In a group with the Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps, it almost seemed like the Earthquakes would be a fringe team again.

Of course, when you have the reigning champions in your group, you’d expect them to take first place. However, that’s not the case. San Jose took that top spot, edging out the competition with two wins and one draw.

A group of veterans and older players. That’s what took the top spot in Group B. In this review, we’ll look at all the clubs from Group B and the surprises that took place on the pitch and in the standings.

Case File: San Jose Earthquakes dominate

As mentioned, the Earthquakes basically dominated in Group B.

In the first match, San Jose drew with the Seattle Sounders in a scoreless draw. Personally, I believe that both teams were adjusting to Orlando, the hot temperatures and the new environment.

San Jose’s best showing came in an absolutely stunning comeback against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver went from leading the match 3-1 in the 59th minute to producing a major downfall in the next 20-30 minutes. San Jose mounted a huge comeback, scoring two goals in nine minutes to equalize. And, of course, Shea Salinas scored the game-winning goal in the 98th minute.

It almost seemed like San Jose could never follow up that performance with another great outing. Let’s be honest, the conditions in Florida haven’t been the kindest in this tournament. However, against the Chicago Fire, the Earthquakes came out firing on all cylinders.

And, for San Jose, how can you not have a tournament without a Chris Wondolowski goal? San Jose didn’t even need to do much on the Wondolowski goal, as Francisco Calvo stood there, not bothering to mark his man.

San Jose is a force to be reckoned with in this tournament. The only critique for the Earthquakes from that Vancouver game could be in terms of consistency. Of course, you can never undermine your opponent — that’s what Chicago did today against Vancouver, and now they’re going home.

However, the Earthquakes need to find a way to break out of the match quick. The Earthquakes will take on Real Salt Lake in the Round of 16. With a crowded midfield for RSL, the Earthquakes will need to find rhythm quick.

Case File: Seattle Sounders FC 

A tale of three parts.

The Seattle Sounders usually start off slow in MLS seasons. Then, they start to pick it up. And, as last season showed, they won the whole thing. It’s something that head coach Brian Schmetzer has recognized and wants to change. However, it won’t change at the MLS is Back Tournament.

Seattle started off slow in Orlando. They were one of the last teams to land in the Sunshine State, too. Against the Earthquakes, Seattle looked slow and sluggish. Against the Chicago Fire, Seattle’s defense was shaky. Questionable plays from Xavier Arreaga led to plenty of defending from Schmetzer. And, in that match, Yeimar Gomez Andrade fell injured.

Against Vancouver, the Sounders were faced with a “win or go home” situation. And, in true Sounders fashion, they smashed the competition, beating Vancouver, 3-0.

Seattle has some injury problems right now. The defense is thin, with the injury to Yeimar Gomez, and now Arreaga is in concussion protocol, following being smacked in the face with the ball against Vancouver.

Shane O’Neill started for Yeimar against the Whitecaps. However, it looks like Gustav Svensson will have to slide back into the center-back role in the Round of 16. It’s a job he had to do last year, too.

Seattle won the whole MLS last year. This year, the competition is fierce and top-notch in Florida. Teams have surprised, and the usual contenders have fallen, too. Seattle needs to find consistency, and keep the injuries low, if they want to win the tournament.

Case File: Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Wow, what a surprise.

That wasn’t sarcastic whatsoever. After getting steamrolled by the Sounders and falling short against San Jose, the Whitecaps needed a win to move on. A draw wouldn’t be enough. Meanwhile, Chicago thought to be sitting pretty in second place.

Vancouver had other ideas, though.

After a 90-minute lightning delay, the Vancouver Whitecaps stunned Chicago with two quick goals from Yordy Reyna and Cristian Dájome. A chance from C.J. Sapong was called back after a handball was called by the referee and VAR. With that, Vancouver stunned the MLS, advancing as one of the best third-place teams.

Thursday’s victory over Chicago was a gritty performance from a really determined Vancouver team. Marc dos Santos is a good coach, and is trying to bring the Whitecaps back to life.

Vancouver has a tough task coming up against Sporting Kansas City, a team coached by Peter Vermes. Every year, Vermes is usually in the category for MLS (Sigi Schmid) Coach of the Year. However, the task isn’t impossible for a confident Vancouver team.

Case File: Chicago Fire

Oh, how the mighty fall.

Chicago was sitting comfortable in second place, filled with confidence, after defeating the Seattle Sounders. Then, they met up with the San Jose and Vancouver, picking up two separate 2-0 losses.

Chicago crumbled under the pressure. Early in the tournament, Chicago made the jump to Group B, after originally being slated in Group A. Departures of FC Dallas and Nashville SC due to positive COVID-19 tests forced the Fire to swap groups.

The Sounders win was certainly a shock. Back in March, the two sides met up and the Sounders ended up with the victory. However, this time, the Fire got their revenge. Seattle didn’t look fantastic, and the Fire were the better team of the day. However, the Fire could not carry any of that momentum into the Vancouver match.


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