MLS is back, and in more ways than one. Not only will the play on the field resume July 8th, but MLS’s well known, shall we say unique, way of dealing with things like draws and such has already surfaced. With one matchup already determined prior to the draw (a little fishy, I’d say), and LAFC and the Galaxy somehow finding each other in the same group, the famed MLS leaker has a perfect opportunity to receive just one more angry memo from Don Garber. Despite all that, I’m very much looking forward to this tournament. But enough of all that. Let’s take a look at the three storylines that stand out most to me from the six groups.
Group F Promises Action - LAFC, LA Galaxy, Houston, Portland
So what if it’s rigged? I’m all here for Group F. Rightly so, the main spotlight of this one is El Trafico. This will be the first PZ (Post-Zlatan) match of this rivalry, but instead we’ll see Chicharito vs Carlos Vela. The Mexican attackers squaring off could lead to as many goals as previous years if the Galaxy can fix the service issues which plagued it in March.
But this group is much deeper than just one game. The Timbers have had some tense encounters against LAFC, including knocking the Black and Gold out of last year’s Open Cup on its home soil. Meanwhile, Portland vs the Galaxy is a history filled matchup that hints at fireworks. On the other hand, Houston has quite the attack, led by Darwin Quintero, Mauro Manatos, and Alberth Elis, a trio that also could contribute a lot in the goals category. In conclusion, every game in Group F is one worth watching and with so few matches, the race for advancement is more open than you might think.
Group B an Absolute Toss Up - RSL, Minnesota, SKC, Colorado
This group may not get the eyes that Group F will, but in my opinion it’s almost as interesting and could be just as high scoring (these teams combined for 20 goals in 4 games).
With the exception of RSL, every side won both of its matches in the small portion of the season that was played. SKC toppled Vancouver and Houston, Colorado beat DC and Orlando, while Minnesota was victorious at San Jose and Portland. From that sample size, we learned that all three are good sides, can score bunches of goals, but not much more. That makes Group B even more riveting, though, as there’s no real favorite in my eyes. Even RSL could pull out a few results and be a major player in this grouping, as well. I’m eagerly anticipating watching how this group shakes out in the end.
The Teams With Something to Prove - TFC, DC, Montreal, New England
Like Group B, there promises to be highly competitive games in Group C, with the added bonus of a Canadian Classique between Toronto and Montreal. Everyone here would have had its sights set on the playoffs had the season continued in normal fashion. Instead, they’ll be looking to advance into the Round of 16 in this tournament. Toronto is definitely the top pick for finishing 1st, but beyond that it’s anyone’s guess. New England, having added striker Adam Buksa in the offseason to bring even more firepower to an attack featuring Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil look like a playoff caliber squad. It did, however, struggle out of the gate with a draw and a loss and will need results to back up the talent on display. That loss came to the Thierry Henry led Montreal Impact, a side that was quite decent in MLS play, somewhat surprisingly. Whether that was due to new coach bounce or something more long lasting will be determined soon, though. Finally, DC made multiple major offensive moves but like the Revolution, didn’t play to its full potential, or at least DC would hope that. It would be a disappointment to each team if it didn’t advance, and I expect some tight, even matches from this group. If that’s your things, this is the group to watch.
We have until July 8th to prepare, but I would advise you to get your seat belts ready ahead of time, because I sense some distinct MLS gonna MLS vibes on the horizon. Here we go!