Group C is among the most unpredictable groups going into the MLS is Back tournament, pitting fierce rivals Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact against one another. D.C. United and the New England Revolution round up the group and will be looking to make their mark when play resumes on July 9.
Toronto FC goes into the tournament as favorites having reached the MLS Cup final last season and will be looking to exact revenge over the Montreal Impact. Last time the two sides met, the Impact emerged victorious, lifting the Canadian Championship in September.
D.C. United and the New England Revolution, on the other hand, will be hoping to get their respective seasons back on track after indifferent starts to the new year. Both sides will be eager to impress in Orlando as crucial points are up for grabs against familiar Eastern Conference foes.
Here’s a closer look at Group C:
Montreal Impact vs. New England Revolution, 8 p.m. (TUDN)
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United, 9 a.m. (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)
Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC, 8 p.m. (TUDN)
D.C. United vs. New England Revolution, 8 p.m. (FS1 & TUDN)
Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution, 9 a.m. (ESPN/ESPN Deportes)
Montreal Impact vs. D.C United, 10:30 p.m. (TUDN)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Alejandro Pozuelo, Pablo Piatti, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley.
PLAYERS MISSING: Ifunanyachi Achara.
OUTLOOK: TFC goes into the tournament boasting a plethora of experience and will be looking to top Group C. Alejandro Pozuelo is expected to lead the charge in the final third alongside Jozy Altidore and summer signing Pablo Piatti. With Michael Bradley just returning from injury, Jonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado will need to step up in the middle of the park.
New England Revolution
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Adam Buksa, Gustavo Bou, Carles Gil, Henry Kessler, Cristian Penilla.
PLAYERS MISSING: Luis Caicedo.
OUTLOOK: The New England Revolution may not have started the season as they would have liked, but they will be raring to go against Montreal in their tournament opener on Thursday. The Revs will be boosted by Carles Gil’s recent return to the fold and will be hoping he connects with their summer signing, Adam Buksa. Given their blend of experience and youth, Bruce Arena’s men may just emerge as the tournament’s surprise package.
PLAYERS TO WATCh: Romell Quioto, Victor Wanyama, Bojan Krkic, Luis Binks, Saphir Taider.
PLAYERS MISSING: Steeven Saba.
OUTLOOK: Thierry Henry’s men started the season positively, besting fellow Group C side New England Revolution and drawing against FC Dallas. The Impact has typically done well in tournament play over the years, most recently progressing to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Going into the tournament, all eyes will be on their newest Designated Player, Victor Wanyama. The Impact will be hoping to spring a surprise with the former Tottenham Hotspur man in the middle of the park.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ola Kamara, Yamil Asad, Julian Gressel, Federico Higuain, Edison Flores.
PLAYERS MISSING: Paul Arriola, Donovan Pines.
OUTLOOK: Having lost Luciano Acosta and most recently, Chris Durkin, D.C. United enter the tournament weakened compared to last season. Ben Olsen’s men will be hoping their summer signings will be enough to make up for their notable departures and prevail from Group C. With Arriola sidelined for the foreseeable future, D.C. United will turn to Julian Gressel and Federico Higuain to pick up the offensive mantle in the final third and propel them into the next round.
SBI Group Prediction
1. Toronto FC. Vanney’s men possess both the most experienced and the deepest team in the group and should emerge as group leaders and tournament favorites.
2. New England Revolution. The Revs have an interesting mix of youth and experience and will be hoping Bruce Arena can tie it all together for a deep tournament run.
3. Montreal Impact. The Impact remains one of the league’s wildcards going into Orlando and will be hoping to translate their CONCACAF Champions League form into the tournament.
4. D.C. United. D.C. United has struggled in the past against TFC and with Arriola missing through injury among other notable summer departures, Ben Olsen’s men face a tough challenge ahead in Orlando.
Who do you see winning Group C? Which matchup are you most looking forward to watching? Share your thoughts below.