By: Matt Watkins
MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group C Analysis
Who’s In Group C (Alphabetical): D.C. United, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, Toronto FC
Ok, finally a group that has some intrigue as to who may or may not move on! Three of the four teams in the group made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season with the fourth team missing by just four points. Toronto made a surprise run to the finals, taking out top-seeded NYCFC and second-seeded Atlanta along the way.
(Note: All times listed are EST)
MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: D.C. United
Synopsis: David Beckham notwithstanding, Wayne Rooney may have been the biggest name to ever grace an MLS pitch and he made his impact felt for D.C. United the last two seasons, scoring 33 goals in 38 matches. Rooney has departed, but the success looks to continue as the team started 1-1-0 in 2020.
Reason for Optimism: Defense. For as much as Rooney grabbed headlines, and rightfully so tallying 32.3 percent of the squad’s goals the last two years, it was the back line and keepers that kept the club in contention. Bill Hamid has been one of the top goalies in MLS throughout his career, posting a 1.23 goals against average through 233 matches. He had a 1.12 mark last season and a 0.86 mark in 14 contests in 2018. He will keep D.C. in any match, regardless of his team’s offense.
Cause for Concern: Scoring. Rooney is gone and while players like Paul Arriola and Yamil Asad have the ability to step up, both are still relatively young and may or may not be ready to take the mantle of being the go-to guy.
Critical Group Stage Match: July 10 vs. Toronto, 8:00 p.m. – It’s a tough call for all the teams in this group to say who the critical match is as no game is a virtual guarantee of three points. As we noted earlier, D.C. relies on its defense and keeping. As such, they held a potent Toronto offense to just one goal in two matches during the 2019 regular season. United also plays well on the road, going 6-6-5 outside the nation’s capital. D.C. needs to get at least one point from this matchup and if things break their way, they could get three. I’d be willing to take a flyer on United here as that +275 line is a tempting number for a team that can win the match outright.
Prediction: Advances to knockout, but write it in pencil as it will in likely be as a wild card.
MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: Montreal Impact
Synopsis: Montreal has been the close, but not quite team in MLS since its appearance in the 2016 Eastern final. The club missed the postseason by four points each of the last two years, but got off to a good start this year with a 1-0-1 record with a win against New England and impressive draw at Dallas.
Reason for Optimism: Playing well against good teams. Granted it’s only two games, but Montreal performed well in its first two matches of 2020. Contrast that to 2019 when it tended to beat lesser teams and lose to better ones. An advanced level of competition versus better opponents is generally a sign a team is ready to step forward.
Cause for Concern: Play away from home. In its thee-year playoff drought, the Impact has gone 10-32-8 on the road. With three neutral site games, they will have to find a way to compete away from the Quebec faithful.
Critical Group Stage Match: July 9 vs. New England, 8:00 p.m. – I promise, not all of these teams will have their first group match be the most important, but in such an even group, the initial opportunity in the standings is crucial. With Montreal already having a win against New England this season, the task gets tougher a second time around as the Revs will be out for revenge.
Prediction: Do not advance past group stage.
MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: New England Revolution
Synopsis: The Revolution had to fight hard at the end of the season to make it into the playoffs before giving Atlanta all it could handle in a cheeky 1-0 setback where they made Josef Martinez a non-factor. The late surge broke a playoff drought for New England who started 2020 year 0-1-1 with a loss to Montreal and a draw against Chicago.
Reason for Optimism: Hot starts in matches. That’s how the first two games of the season went for New England this year, scoring in the 13th minute against Montreal only to give up two goals later in the match. The Revolution opened the scoring in the 28th minute against Chicago only to see the Fire level the match with 20 minutes remaining. They can open well, but playing the full 90 minutes will be a big factor in a short tournament.
Cause for Concern: Quality competition. If you look at the MLS standings through two games, it seemed abundantly clear that the Western Conference was better. Mostly crossover games were taking place in order to take advantage of warmer weather in the south and the west. But New England played two games against their own conference, mustering just a single point. That would not bode well as the season wore on with fewer games against theoretically easier competition. Just something to keep an eye on in Orlando.
Critical Group Stage Match: July 16 vs. D.C. United, 8:00 p.m. – Ok, I promised that not every game would be the first one in the group, so this I where I deviate. Despite the season opening result, I can see New England getting one, if not three against Montreal in the first group game, which leaves its knockout stage hopes firmly lodged in its second contest. A good start may be enough against D.C., which is not known for its scoring punch, so an early lead may do it for the Revs.
Prediction: Advance to knockout.
MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: Toronto FC
Synopsis: Offense led Toronto into the postseason last year and then carried it to the finals, scoring nine goals in its run through the Eastern Conference. A shortened tournament where each game is crucial is built for a club like Toronto, who is battle tested after winning the MLS Cup in 2017 and reaching the finals in 2016 and 2019. They were off to a 1-0-1 start in 2020 with a west coast road draw at San Jose before a 1-0 win against NYCFC.
Reason for Optimism: Experience. This is a club that knows how to win in crunch time as its playoff experience shows. Given a chance to only need to win a handful of matches, but with all matches essentially win or go home, Toronto FC will have a chance to shine.
Cause for Concern: Defense. Make no mistake, Toronto will score. Even in 2018 when it missed the postseason, it posted 59 goals and has averaged 60.3 goals per regular season in its run of making three of the last four MLS Cup finals. But it has also conceded its share of tallies, 116 in the last two seasons, in fact. They’ve only posted eight clean sheets total in 2018 and 2019. Quentin Westberg has, at least temporarily, supplanted Alex Bono as the top keeper. Will that be enough to hold down the opposition should the offense have an off day?
Critical Group Stage Match: July 21 vs. New England, 9:00 a.m. – This match could be as much for seeding as anything else. Toronto should earn some points against D.C. United and Montreal. Winning this group has major implications because it means you will face a wild card team in the knockout stage, either the third place team from Group, B, D, or F, or the fourth place squad from Group A. If results play as they should in Toronto’s first two matches, a win against the Revs should secure the top spot.
Prediction: Advance to knockout, slight edge to be group winner.