The MLS is Back Tournament kicks off this week and Group F offers up one of the most fun rivalries the league has to offer.
The second matchday in this group gives fans an El Trafico to check out as LAFC and the LA Galaxy square off in what could be a group defining match. Both sides will be missing a top player as Carlos Vela for LAFC and Jonathan dos Santos for the Galaxy have opted to sit out the tournament in Orlando.
Joining those two rivals in the group are the Portland Timbers and the Houston Dynamo. Portland looked sloppy back in March, but the addition of Jaroslaw Niezgoda and some time off to refresh themselves could do them wonders. Their opening match against the Galaxy could also determine who automatically moves along from this group.
The Dynamo will need a little bit of help to move on as they face a trio of teams that are more talented than they are on paper. Their talented attack and somewhat suspect defense could lead to plenty of goals in this group, however.
Here’s a closer look at Group F:
LAFC vs. Houston Dynamo, 8 p.m. (FS1 & TUDN)
LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers (FS1 & TUDN)
Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
LAFC vs. LA Galaxy, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes
LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo, 8 p.m. (FS1 & TUDN)
LAFC vs. Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)
Los Angeles FC
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Eduard Atuesta, Diego Rossi, Mark Anthony-Kaye, Adama Diomande, Eddie Segura.
PLAYERS MISSING: Carlos Vela
OUTLOOK: LAFC will be without Carlos Vela, but they have so many attacking weapons ready to step in and take his place that it will not matter. Diego Rossi is the obvious first example thanks to his goal scoring and passing ability. The Uruguayan winger scored 17 goals a year ago and had one during the brief start to the MLS regular season already. They have what it takes to come out on top of this group even without the reigning MLS MVP and record goal scorer.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Cristian Pavon, Sebastian Lletget
PLAYERS MISSING: Jonathan dos Santos
OUTLOOK: The Galaxy did not look great during the original start to the MLS season and they didn’t receive much good news during lockdown. One of their prized offseason additions, Aleksandar Katai, left the team after his wife made racist comments and Jonathan dos Santos will miss the next six weeks or so after hernia surgery. They still have Chicharito, which gives the Galaxy a solid chance at getting some good results and could propel them to second in the group. The Galaxy’s group opener against the Timbers will be one to watch and could ultimately determine their fate.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, Jaroslaw Niezgoda
PLAYERS MISSING: None.
OUTLOOK: The Timbers got off to a slow start back in March and a lot of that had to do with weak play going forward. They lacked a finishing punch in their attack and they have one in Jaroslaw Niezgoda, the Polish striker Portland signed in the offseason who missed the first couple games as he recovered from a torn meniscus. Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, and Portland’s array of forward thinking midfielders now have a place to send their dangerous passes and that should help them out. Their defense is still a but leaky, which puts the Timbers in a tough spot and could lead them to drop behind the Galaxy in Group F.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Darwin Quintero, Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis
PLAYERS MISSING: None.
OUTLOOK: The Dynamo are the weakest of the four teams in this group but they have enough veteran talent around to at least remain competitive. Darwin Quintero joined an attacking corps that included Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis, and his former Minnesota United teammate Christian Ramirez, so they can score a few goals. Houston’s weakness on defense will make games against the likes of LAFC and Portland difficult, meaning they will need to get hot up front while getting a spark of inspiration on defense if they want to avoid the cellar in Group F.
SBI Group Prediction
1. LAFC- Even without Carlos Vela LAFC is the most talented team in the group and should get through without much problem.
2. Portland- Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco have been known to step it up in tournament play and the addition of Jaroslaw Niezgoda will boost them into the knockout rounds.
3. LA Galaxy- Sloppy play and the lack of Jonathan dos Santos will come back to bite them.
4. Houston- Tab Ramos inherited a work in progress on the field and this difficult draw will not do this in development team any favors.
Who do you see winning Group F? Which matchup are you most looking forward to watching?
Share your thoughts below.