As we countdown the days to the start of the MLS is Back Tournament, Philly Sports Network will preview each of the six groups. Here is a preview of Group B.
Each team will play the other three to see who makes it out of Group C to the knockout rounds. The top two teams with the most points form the three matches will automatically make it to the knockout rounds. The team that finishes in third-place has a shot to make it as well if they are one of the top three third-place teams in the whole field of the tournament. Now let’s look at the four teams in Group B.
FC Dallas will not compete in the Tournament due to positive COVID-19 tests
On Monday, July, 6th MLS removed FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament. FC Dallas agreed that this was the correct choice as the team had 10 players and one member of their staff test positive for COVID-19.
For more on this, check out our in-depth story on MLS’s decision to withdraw FC Dallas:
As of now, there is no news on how the other teams in Group B will proceed with a team missing from the format. More details will follow from MLS, be sure to follow MLS Communications on Twitter for the latest updates
San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose takes on Seattle first and Vancouver second. The Earthquakes barely made a tremor in 2019 as they missed the playoffs by four points. They scored just about as many goals as they conceded and they slid off the radar. To start the 2020 season, San Jose did not impress, taking only one point from two matches. As they head to the MLS is Back Tournament they will need to find something that sets them apart from the field.
Three Things to Watch
- Can an all-time great carry the team?
Chris Wondolowski is the MLS all-time leading goalscorer. He sits on 159 regular-season goals. He is also 37-years-old. To start the 2020 season, he actually did not start for the first time in years. Will he be able to start in this tournament and put the team on his back, or will he be reduced to a supersub role for his team?
- Will Jackson Yueill be able to develop into a star?
San Jose has a young American midfielder who is looking to make strides in MLS to raise his stock. Jackson Yueill is a promising holding midfielder who can boss the midfield. If he has a great tournament, then he could help San Jose move out of the group, and also become a star that raises his status as well.
- Can this team sure up their defense?
The main issue with the earthquakes is their shaky defense. This is a task for head coach Matías Almeyda to try to figure out. San Jose has decent outside backs Nick Lima and Tommy Thompson, but when it comes to centerbacks they don’t have a show stopper as of yet. If Almeyda can find the right pairing then they may be able to move on from this group.
Seattle Sounders FC
Seattle takes on San Jose first and then Vancouver Whitecaps. The Sounders finished in 2nd place in the west in 2019, and made a run in the playoffs and ended up winning MLS Cup. Their success is a testament to their players, coaching, and system. This is their second MLS Cup in four years. Will the champs be able to make another run to a cup?
Three Things to Watch
- Could the Frei be the best goalkeeper?
A part of both MLS Cup-winning teams, Stefan Frei came up big for his team. When he’s on he is one of the best keepers in all of MLS. The question is, can Seattle rely on him to be their rock in a tournament setting after a long layoff? If he plays how he did in both MLS Cup-winning teams then he may just help Seattle to another cup!
- Will this team wheater the storm like they have in the past?
In the past, we have seen Seattle overcome teams stronger than them to get to glory. This team is currently the favorite in their group and would face a third-place team in the first round of knockouts, but in the second match in the knockout rounds could be against an LAFC or Atlanta United. Will they be able to get past one of those teams that may be better than them on the day? We’ll see!
- Will Jordan Morris be their clutch performer
Jordan Morris has a knack for scoring big goals in big matches, yet he is not labeled as a clutch player. This could be because he is injury prone. Regardless, he can be clutch in big moments. In this tournament, where all eyes could be on him in a defining moment, will he be able to use his speed to break the defense or curl a perfect shot past an outstretched keeper?
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Vancouver takes on San Jose first and then Seattle Sounders. The Whitecaps finished in dead last place in the west. They took 34 points from 34 matches, letting in 59 goals which is a dreadful defensive record. They will need to sure that up, and also find ways to control matches to try to squeak through the other teams to make it out of the group.
Three Things to Watch
- Can Marc Dos Santos get this team out of the group?
Vancouver boss Marc Dos Santos had a lot of hype surrounding him when he came to MLS. After a year he showed he is in for a challenge getting the most off of the Whitecaps. After an offseason, he was able to get some players he wanted in the team. Now he has had a long layoff to manage. His team will need his instruction to make it out of the group and progress further in the tournament.
- Can Cavallini and Reyna
One of the bright spots of Vancouver’s team is their strikeforce. TAM player Yordi Reyna and Designated Player Lucas Cavallini are the goal scorers, and they will need to come out firing for Vancouver to stand a chance in their group. If the two do so, they will likely be able to pull off the unexpected, if not then the Whitecaps may be in for a short tournament.
- As Crépeau excels, so to do the Whitecaps
Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau was one of the only bright spots for Vancouver in 2019. He showed that he could stand on his head and bail out his defense. If he can do this in the MLS is Back Tournament, then his side has a shot to excel. A few good stops will inspire confidence in the squad; if then the squad can rally and keep momentum then they will have the chance to win in this tournament.
Group B may only have three teams at the moment, but that means that competition will raised to the next level. The first match in this group kick off on July 10th!
To learn more about the MLS is Back Tournament, check out our in-depth article on the tournament:
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Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports