Sporting Kansas City, Minnesota United and the Colorado Rapids may have been riding on a good form before Major League Soccer took a sudden pause back in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But with the MLS is Back Tournament scheduled to kick off in the coming days, the focus and task may fall on seeing if they could pick up where they last left off.
Sporting KC pulled off back-to-back victories before the campaign came to a halt two weeks into the 2020 regular season. For Minnesota, who also won its first two games, are going to be without starting defender Ike Opara.
The 2019 MLS Defender of the Year will be out and thus leaves a big hole in the Minnesota United backline, giving SKC perhaps the opportunity to clinch the top spot over the Loons in Group D.
The Colorado Rapids are another side that managed to start the season winning their first two games. Whether the above the three teams can re-capture that form remains unanswered after almost four months without competing.
Real Salt Lake under Freddy Juarez may also be looking at this competition as a way to find some momentum since these games will apply to the regular season.
Let’s took a look at Group D:
Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
Sporting KC vs. Colorado Rapids, 8 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
Sporting Kansas City
Players to watch: Alan Pulido, Gianluca Busio, Tim Melia, Matt Besler, Gerso Fernandez
Players missing: None
Outlook: Despite missing out on the playoffs last season, Sporting KC flipped the script to kick off their 2020 campaign by re-tooling their squad. Back-to-back wins this year ensured 2019 was nothing but a forgetful season and with the addition of marquee signing Alan Pulido, who started the season on good form, the focus will fall on whether he could help SKC grasp the top spot in the group.
Players to watch: Tyler Miller, Ozzie Alonso, Luis Amarilla, Romain Metanire
Players missing: Ike Opara
Outlook: Adrian Heath finally led Minnesota to their first playoff appearance last year, and the Loons didn’t really take their foot off the pedal to start the season. Key additions in veteran goalkeeper Tyler Miller fortified the team’s defense and additions like Luis Amarilla only helped bolster Heath’s system of playing attacking-style soccer. If the Loons can manage to regain that lost momentum from four months, going the distance in this tournament is well possible.
Real Salt Lake
Players to watch: Zac MacMath, Albert Rusnak, Corey Baird, Justen Glad
Players missing: Nedum Onuoha
Outlook: RSL didn’t start the 2020 regular season on a good note, but Freddy Juarez was able to turn around a tumultuous 2019 season when took charge last August, leading Real Salt Lake back into the playoffs. Perhaps this tournament may come as a fresh start to recapture that noise from last year.
Players to watch: Younes Namli, Kei Kamar, Clint Irwin Drew Moor
Players missing: None
Outlook: A question that lingered at the start of the season was whether if the Rapids can officially find their winning ways this season. And for the most part, they pulled through with an answer, winning their first two games of the season. Robin Fraser may have taken control of the squad late last season, and his track record so far with Colorado has been impressing with a 7-2-0 record in his first 9 games in charge. The Rapids aren’t picked to make it out of the group but if Fraser can manage to lead his squad with that same momentum they had before the season paused, Colorado could be in for some surprises when, or if, MLS continues with a regular season.
SBI PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Sporting Kansas City: Peter Vermes is a mastermind when it comes to selecting the right team in this world cup style tournament. So it’s without a doubt, he can pick the right team to take the top spot.
2. Minnesota United: Missing Ike Opara keeps the Loons from being a favorite, but Adrian Heath’s team still has enough quality to make a good run.
3. Real Salt Lake: Goals win you games and RSL doesn’t seem to have the tools yet to one-up SKC and the Loons.
4. Colorado Rapids: The Rapids aren’t there yet to compete against the likes of Kanas City, Minnesota and RSL.
How do you see Group D finishing?
Share your thoughts below.