From the moment Group B of the MLS is Back Tournament was drawn, the Seattle Sounders were seen as the clear favorite. What couldn’t have been expected was the shakeup that would soon hit the group.
FC Dallas has withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament, leaving MLS with a three-team group, and while there has been no adjustment in the group assignments as of Tuesday afternoon, we are left to consider what remains for the three teams still standing in Group B.
The Sounders enter as clear-cut favorites, not only because of their status as reigning MLS Cup champions, but because of the revamped squad they brought into the 2020 season.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Vancouver and the San Jose Earthquakes. Although neither team was expected to contend for silverware this season after missing out on the playoffs in 2019, both clubs will feel as if anything is possible should they reach the knockout rounds.
FC Dallas was regarded as the second best team in the group, but with its removal from the competition, both the Earthquakes and Whitecaps will see their chances for a run to the knockout rounds improve considerably.
Here is a closer look at Group B:
Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 9 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportrs)
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m (TUDN)
Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
Players to Watch: Jordan Morris, Raul Ruidiaz, Nicholas Lodeiro, Christian Roldan, Joao Paulo, Yeimar Gomez Andrade
Missing Players: None
Outlook: Seattle is potentially the strongest team in the tournament, especially with the news that Carlos Vela will not take the field for LAFC. Veteran goalkeeper Stefan Frei leads the backline. Attacking players like Lodeiro, Morris, Roldan, and Ruidiaz, could give nightmares to Group B defenses that are still lethargic from months off the pitch. New signings Paulo and Andrade will need to adjust quickly to their new teams to give Seattle the best chance at repeating as champions.
San Jose Earthquakes
Players to Watch: Jackson Yueill, Chris Wondolowski, Andy Rios, Nick Lima, Oswaldo Alanis
Missing Players: Marcos Lopez
Outlook: San Jose grabbed just one point in their first two games this season, but Matias Almeyda’s side is capable of making some noise. They’ll likely need to beat Vancouver in their head-to-head matchup, and results against Seattle or Dallas certainly wouldn’t hurt. Question marks are aplenty on both sides of the ball. San Jose will need to be organized to advance, and to avoid another 5-2 drubbing that Minnesota United handed them earlier this year.
Players to Watch: Inbeom Hwang, Yordy Reyna, Maxime Crepeau, Ali Adnan
Missing Players: Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, Tosaint Ricketts, Georges Mukumbilwa, Andy Rose
Outlook: Vancouver’s road to the knockout stages likely go through San Jose, as they too will be looking for a win in that contest. Should they accomplish that task, their path becomes a lot clearer. The Whitecaps have already shown they can surprise teams this year after beating the LA Galaxy on the road this season. Cavallini, the Canadian international with 11 goals in 17 appearances needs to be in top form for Vancouver to be successful.
SBI Predicted Order of Finish
1. Seattle Sounders: They’re the defending champions and group favorites for a reason.
2. San Jose Earthquakes: Look for the Quakes to surprise some doubters this tournament.
3. Vancouver: The Whitecaps just don’t have enough answers for the other teams in Group B to advance.
How do you see Group B shaking out?
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