By: Matt Watkins
MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group B Analysis
Who’s In Group B (Alphabetical): FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps
Of all the groups in the MLS Is Back Tournament, defending MLS Cup champion Seattle may be the seeded team that has the easiest path to the knockout phase. With the talent level of the other three teams, any one of them could make it out of the group phase as well. I wouldn’t expect to see a wild card come out of here though as by beating each other up in group play, no one might have enough points to advance beyond the top two.
(Note: All times listed are EST)
The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: FC Dallas
Synopsis: FC Dallas was the last team into the MLS postseason in 2019, but nearly pulled off the upset of the First Round, falling behind 2-0 against Seattle before knotting the match at 3-3 in the 82nd minute, finally conceding with seven minutes left in extra time. Dallas dominated at home last season, gaining a result in all but one game, but was woeful on the road at just 3-11-3. They started this season well with a home win against Philadelphia and a draw versus Montreal.
Reason for Optimism: Scoring and a decent amount of it. FC Dallas was fourth in a stacked Western Conference in scoring in 2019 and registered four goals in its first two matches in 2020. Putting the ball away is not a problem.
Cause for Concern: Positive COVID tests. It had to come up sometime and Dallas is the unfortunate ones to bear the brunt of it. Three players tested positive before getting on the plane and six more players, plus the coach have tested positive since arriving in Orlando. Since arriving, there have been two more positive tests, including at least one more player. Names have not been released of who has tested positive, nor should they be, but when 10 out of a potential 28 players that are either on the MLS roster or supplemental rosters are going to be out, it won’t be hard to figure out who, nor will it be easy to overcome on the pitch.
Critical Group Stage Match: Vs. Vancouver, TBA – Originally, this match was scheduled for July 9, but has been pushed back at least a week due to positive tests on Dallas (which now has only 18 potential players available) and inconclusive tests, delaying Vancouver’s trip to Orlando. It still stands that given Seattle’s status as one of the best teams in the league and San Jose is always a playoff contender in the West, this is a MUST win game for Dallas against the weakest team in the group. Anything short of three points would be intensely difficult to overcome. Dallas is favored in this matchup at a -134, but that line could shift depending on what we hear as to who is available.
Prediction: Do not advance past group stage. This may be different depending on who is actually on the field, but it’s hard to see FC Dallas advancing with the level of uncertainty around the team.
The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: San Jose Earthquakes
Synopsis: The first team outside the 2019 playoff bubble, San Jose started 2020 well with a draw against MLS Cup runner up Toronto before a 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Minnesota FC. One thing you’ll almost always get with a San Jose contest is scoring – both teams will do it in bunches.
Reason for Optimism: San Jose has the aforementioned scoring punch. The Earthquakes put up four goals in two matches this season and netted 52 a season ago. Even at 37, Chris Wolondowski is still a capable striker, as evidenced by 15 goals last year.
Cause for Concern: Conceding goals. San Jose needs to secure its back line, badly. While it’s easy to blame seven goals in two games on the keeper, Daniel Vega has had to face 14 shots on goal in those two contests. He’s had to face 177 in 36 games with the Quakes. Yes, he needs to do better, but that many shots is too many.
Critical Group Stage Match: July 20 vs. FC Dallas, 8:00 p.m. – If you assume each has a loss to Seattle and a win against Vancouver, San Jose vs. Dallas on the final night of Group B play determines who advances with the final guaranteed spot from the group.
Prediction: Advance to knockout.
The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: Seattle Sounders
Synopsis: After LAFC ran away with the community shield in 2019, Seattle was the best of the pack in the pack in a tight Western Conference. The Sounders won’t wow you with scoring, nor lock down completely on defense, but they’ll play a good, tactical, intelligent match on a nightly basis and are one of the toughest outs in the entire league. They rode that strategy to the MLS Cup last season and were up to their old tricks, downing Chicago and drawing against Columbus to start 2020.
Reason for Optimism: A relatively weak group. By winning the cup last year, Seattle was one of the seeded teams in the tournament, which means they couldn’t have been placed in a group with either LAFC or Real Salt Lake. The draw gave them the teams that finished 2019 seventh, eighth, and last in the Western Conference a year ago.
Cause for Concern: Scoring. Ok, this is really nitpicking, but it’s the only thing I could really come up with. The Sounders don’t have that true number nine who will take the ball at any time and make it happen (though you could argue that Jordan Morris is that guy), but they have two players who notched 10+ goals last season and Nicolás Lodeiro (didn’t play in either of the first two matches of year) is one of the finest distributors in the game. I’m sure Seattle will be fine, but if there is a problem, this is it.
Critical Group Stage Match: July 10 vs. San Jose, 10:30 p.m. – The Sounders toughest game is their first one out of the gate. Even a draw probably locks Seattle into the top seed, but if San Jose can rise up and steal three, Seattle’s road gets bumpier. Seattle is heavily favored in this one at -106 compared to San Jose being +280.
Prediction: Advance to knockout, likely group winner.
The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: Vancouver Whitecaps
Synopsis: Our “thanks for showing up to round out the pool” award goes to Vancouver. The Whitecaps mustered just 34 points in 2019, registering last in the West and the fewest in the league last year for a non-expansion team. Vancouver was equally as bad at home (5-7-5) as they were on the road (3-9-5). The Whitecaps are just three years removed from a third place finish in the conference and were off to a 1-1-0 start this year, following up a season opening loss to Sporting KC with a win at the LA Galaxy.
Reason for Optimism: Back line. Vancouver has allowed just five attempts on target in two games this year.
Cause for Concern: Take your pick: Offense or goalkeeping. Even with a win, the Whitecaps have nine shots on goal in two games. Of the five shots Vancouver has allowed, Maxime Crepeau has seen three go past him. Neither one translates into a long stay in the Sunshine State. At least the players have a beautiful city to look out the window at for two weeks in isolation when they get back home (can vouch for it, took our honeymoon there. If you get the chance, go!)
Critical Group Stage Match: July 9 vs. FC Dallas, 10:30 p.m. – If the Whitecaps have a shot in any game, it’s this one. With the uncertainty facing Dallas, there’s a chance for Vancouver to sneak one, if not three points and add a little intrigue to what is, on paper, quite frankly, a dull group.
Prediction: Do not advance past group stage.