Group B was one of the more interesting groups in the MLS is Back Tournament. Changes were made that saw eastern conference team Chicago Fire FC added to to the western conference group. After all of the shuffling, Seattle and San Jose had played a match, while Chicago and Vancouver had not. This meant that matches were unbalanced, but which teams would advance from Group B?
San Jose Earthquakes: 7 Points
San Jose opened their MLS is Back Tournament in the first match of Group B against the reigning MLS Champions, the Seattle Sounders. Neither team was able to find a goal, and both looked formidable; the Earthquakes then went on a run. San Jose pulled off a huge come-from-behind win over Vancouver in their second match, they were down 3-1 and won 4-3 thanks to a late Shea Salinas goal in stoppage time. The Quakes then blanked the Fire 2-0 to secure the top spot in the group.
Quakes coach Matías Almeyda has his team flying, quite literally. Their style of play is to push forward, shape and defensive organization be damned. They will be playing wildcard team Real Salt Lake in the Round of 16.
Seattle Sounders FC: 4 Points
Seattle was the other team in Group B that played a match before Vancouver or Chicago. Their 0-0 draw to open the tournament didn’t instill too much confidence. Their lethal attack couldn’t seem to get things together in the first match. In the Sounders’ second match, they face Chicago who was playing their first match. Seattle allowed a goal early in the second half, but canceled it out; unfortunately for them, their defense let in a late goal and lost the match. Going into their final match Seattle had to win to stay alive in the group. The Sounders won that match in a way that was true to their form. a 3-0 thrashing of Vancouver.
Seattle’s tournament form is similar to their regular-season form over the last few seasons, they seem to be peaking at the right time. They had to wait for the Vancouver v.s. Chicago match to finish before they knew where they would place, but once that match went final they knew they had second place secured!
Vancouver whitecaps: 3 Points
The Whitecaps group stage was whirlwind. It started with a postponement of their first match and ended with a huge win that defied odds. Vancouver played their first match against San Jose. This was the match that they were leading 3-1 and lost 4-3. The rollercoaster of emotions followed them to their second match, They were thumped hard by their rivals Seattle Sounders 3-0. Heading into their final game, they know they had to beat Chicago by two goals to have a shot at a wildcard spot. Against Chicago it looked like Vancouver would not find a goal; however, after a long delay in the action due to lightning in the area they were able to score two goals in the last 20 minutes.
This win clinched a spot in the knockout round as a wildcard that was improbable. Never the less, the Whitecaps are through, but will have to wait until the final matches of the tournament are complete to know who they will face.
Chicago Fire FC: 3 points
Chicago started off their Group B play on fire. In their first match, they were able to find a way to secure all three points against the reigning MLS Champs Seattle Sounders. The 2-1 win should have set the tone for Chicago, but unfortunately, it was not. A tough 2-0 loss against San Jose showed the fire had things they needed to work on, as their defensive marking was lacking. In a pivotal final match, Chicago knew they could clinch second place in the group with a win, or a wildcard spot with a draw or loss by one goal. As we saw, Vancouver came out of the weather delay and extinguished the Fire by winning 2-0.
Chicago are a side that can learn from this. As they leave the tournament, they can bring the lessons learned to correct their mistakes and train together to create more of a gelled team for when the MLS regular season starts.
On to the Knockout Rounds:
Three teams from Group B have qualified for the knockout rounds of the MLS is Back Tournament. San Jose won the group and will face off against Real Salt Lake in the Round of 16. As runners up Seattle will take on the second place from Group F which will be either Portland or LAFC. Vancouver had just a 4% chance to make it out of their group, but their win and goal differential see’s them advance as a wildcard team; they will take on either Sporting Kansas City or Toronto FC. The last two Group breakdowns are coming soon; stay tuned!
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Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports