MLS is Back Tournament Preview

by Pub Sports Radio

MLS is Back Tournament Preview

By: Cody Gehlhausen (@SquidsPicks)

As sports across the country trickle in, soccer takes the main stage in the early part of July for what should be a thrilling month of soccer action. I’ll be giving you a quick preview, as well as a few picks on group winners, tournament champion, and tonight’s match.

Now, this tournament isn’t a meaningless filler for the MLS. The group stage matches have point implications for when the regular season resumes later this year. Also, the winner of this tournament receives an automatic bid for the CONCACAF Champions League in 2021. There is a whole lot to play for over this next month, so all 25 teams will be pushing to make a run.

Speaking of 25 teams, the MLS has 26. FC Dallas will not be participating as they withdrew due to the number of positive tests for COVID-19. Nashville SC are dangerously close to also having to withdraw from the tournament for the same reason. Their match against Chicago Fire has already been postponed due to five positive tests this week alone.

There are heaps of players who will not be participating in the tournament due withdrawment for health concerns, and players still recovering from injuries. Below is a list of every single player who will not be present in Orlando throughout the month of July. There are huge names on that list – Vela, dos Santos, Josef Martinez, Opara, Locadia, Onuoha, Montero – just to name a few. You must take these absences into account before wagering on any of these matches.

Josef Martinez

Atlanta United

ST

Injury

Confirmed

Jürgen Damm

Atlanta United

RW

MLS Rules

Confirmed

Johan Kappelhof

Chicago Fire

CB

Injury/Personal

Confirmed

Michael Azira

Chicago Fire

CDM

Injury

Confirmed

Jeremiah Gutjahr

Chicago Fire

LB

Injury

Confirmed

Keegan Rosenberry

Colorado Rapids

RB

COVID

Rumored

Jonathan Lewis

Colorado Rapids

LW

COVID

Rumored

Paul Arriola

D.C. United

RM

Injury

Confirmed

Darren Mattocks

FC Cincinnati

ST

No longer with team

Confirmed

Jürgen Locadia

FC Cincinnati

ST

Injury

May Return

Entire team

FC Dallas

N/A

COVID

Confirmed

David Norman, Jr.

Inter Miami CF

CM

Injury

Confirmed

Denso Ulysse

Inter Miami CF

RB

Injury

Confirmed

George Acosta

Inter Miami CF

CM

Injury

Confirmed

Robbie Robinson

Inter Miami CF

ST

Personal

Confirmed

Roman Torres

Inter Miami CF

CB

Suspension

Will Return

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez

Inter Miami CF

CB

MLS Rules

Confirmed

Jonathan Dos Santos

LA Galaxy

CM

Injury

Confirmed

Joe Corona

LA Galaxy

CM

Suspension

Will Return

Carlos Vela

Los Angeles FC

RW

Opt-out

Confirmed

Brent Kallman

Minnesota United

CB

Suspension

May Return

Ike Opara

Minnesota United

CB

Injury

May Return

Cory Burke

Philadelphia Union

ST

Permit Issues

Confirmed

Dairon Asprilla

Portland Timbers

RW

Injury

Confirmed

Andres Flores

Portland Timbers

CM

Personal

Confirmed

Felipe Mora

Portland Timbers

ST

Injury

Will Return

Nedum Onuoha

Real Salt Lake

CB

Opt-out

Confirmed

Marcos Lopez

San Jose Earthquakes

LB

Appendectomy

May Return

Will Bruin

Seattle Sounders

ST

Injury

May Return

Felipe Gutierrez

Sporting Kansas City

CM

Injury

Confirmed

Andreu Fontas

Sporting Kansas City

CB

Injury

Confirmed

Ifunanyachi Achara

Toronto FC

LW

Injury

Confirmed

Lucas Cavallini

Vancouver Whitecaps

ST

Opt-out

Confirmed

Georges Mukumbilwa

Vancouver Whitecaps

RB

Residency

Confirmed

Tosaint Ricketts

Vancouver Whitecaps

ST

Injury

Confirmed

Fredy Montero

Vancouver Whitecaps

ST

Opt-out

Confirmed

Andy Rose

Vancouver Whitecaps

ST

Opt-out

Confirmed

 

Group Winners:

Before I dive into who I like in each group, I will preface that I am not covering Group B as Dallas has dropped out, leaving just three teams in that group. To be honest, Seattle should have no issue cleaning that group up and moving into the round of sixteen.

Group A

This is a deep group muddied with teams who play on similar levels. The favorites in this group are NYFC at +250, and right behind them are a team I like in Philadelphia Union+350. Gun to my head Philly would be the team I would select to top the group. The Union has no issue scoring the football, hell their last match saw them draw with vaunted LAFC 3-3, and they scored 58 goals last season. Striker Kacper Przybylko and super-sub forward Illsinho should be trouble overall ninety minutes for any backline. Bedoya still sits in the heart of the midfield and should control each match this group has to offer. Their main issue lies in defense, where they allowed five goals over the first two matches this season and a total of 50 in their last campaign.

Now, the teams they will face in this group have real issues going forward bar NYFC. Nashville and Miami are the other two group matches for Philly, and these two teams are truly awful going forward. Miami scored just one goal over their first two matches and will be without first-year player in Robbie Robinson from Clemson, who starts at Striker. Nashville is crippled by the virus and can hardly field a team, so that is a free pass to three points. Honestly, the winner of this group will come down to whoever wins on 07/09 @ 09:00 AM EST between Philadelphia v NYFC, and I give the edge to Philly. Do keep an eye out for Orlando City. This team on paper has enough firepower offensively between Nani and Pereyra to sneak a few wins and possibly top this group on goal differential. A punt on them at +400 isn’t a bad shout.

Lean: Philadelphia Union to win Group A +350

 

Group C

My goodness is this one top-heavy group. Montreal has their issues, especially on the defensive side of the ball, DC United have trouble scoring, granted they do play good defense, and New England follows suit with Montreal boasting a weak defense. In step Toronto FC. Sure they are not the same squad they had during the Giovinco days, but they are a complete team who will make a push to win this tournament. The talent they are putting on the pitch is unparalleled to the rest of this group. Altidore is the best goal scorer in the group, and behind them, they have Pozuelo as a number ten, on the wing is Piattiwho can cross as well as anyone, and their backline is one of the more experienced in the MLS. I foresee Toronto picking up all nine points, and at worst, seven points. They will top this group, and at a plus price, you should be betting it.

Play: Toronto FC to win Group C +125

 

Group D

This will be a fun group, my friends. Everything in my heart makes me want to take a shot on Colorado as their attack is something to behold. They get forward with a purpose and can pile on the goals if you have any sort of lapse in concentration. They won their opening two matches of this campaign and hoped to keep that momentum rolling. Defensively they are still a relative unknown, and without Keegan Rosenberry, I cannot back them as he is their only experienced center half. Even if he does make it to Orlando, I won’t be backing the Rapids. The sole reason I cannot back Colorado to win this group is due to Sporting KC. KC went 2-0 in March, scoring seven goals and allowing just one. They are the deepest and most talented team in this group with Pulido, Fernandes, Russell, and Besler they should be able to handle this group without issue. If they can secure a point in their match versus Colorado, they will take this group. A lot of people may ask why I am not giving Minnesota much thought. With no Opara, there is no chance I can sit here and back that team. Opara may be the most valuable player to a team in the entire MLS. Minnesota relies on him very slowly, and I do not think they will even advance to the knockout as I see them finishing third.

Lean: Sporting KC to win Group D +175

 

Group E

Oh, boy, do I love this group. In my opinion, this is the trickiest group in the tournament, as you have three teams who can come out on top. Atlanta is the obvious favorite at +150, but with the absence of Josef Martinez, they need to replace a heck of a lot of goals. Adam Jahn is a target man, whereas Josef gets in behind and linked up well with Pity Martinez, Hyndman, and Barco. I do not think they have had enough time to gel, and you will see it on the pitch. Columbus Crew is a team that I love. The Crew has a complete team throughout their entire starting eleven led by my favorite player to watch in the league, Lucas Zelarayan. Give him a watch as he is creative and silky on the ball. He is paired with Nagbe in midfield with Zardes up top. Their only question is if center back Vito Wormgoor is fit enough after coming back from injury.

Play: Columbus Crew to win Group E +250

 

Group F

It is a shame that we will not witness the brilliance that is Carlos Vela this summer, but LAFC still comes into this tournament as strong favorites, especially to top their group. Diego Rossi should have no issue picking up the slack for LAFC, so look to him to fill the void. Defensive, they have been a bit of a mess over their only two matches due to the loss of Walker Zimmerman, who left them over the offseason. I am not convinced with LA Galaxy, especially with Chicharito, who came over from Sevilla. No dos Santos is a death blow, and I do not see them advancing to the knockout stage. They are an abomination defensively. Portland will most likely be the one to finish second place and move on to the round of sixteen. The Timbers have that core three of Valeri, Blanco, and Chara that few teams can match in the middle of the park. Still, they have too many issues on offense to win Group F

Play: LAFC to win Group F -110

 

So, who will lift the cup when it is all said and done? Let’s look at the odds for some of the favorites:

LAFC +600

Atlanta United +800

Seattle Sounders +750

Toronto +750

Ok, looking at the favorites, most would pull the trigger on LAFC due to their points record last year, but this is not the same team. I am not going to re-hash what I have already said about LAFC, but I just don’t see them winning this tournament. For me, this is all about squad depth and tournament experience, and the one team that checks both those boxes the most is Seattle. Sure, they were the champions last year, but I do not see any sort of championship hangover. This is an experienced side who have always done well in cups. Defensively they have done a bit of re-tooling bringing in Andrade and Paulo, but Jordan Morris is an elite player on the wing surrounded by Lodeiro and Rudiaz. They are capable of scoring goals as well. In the middle of the park is Cristian Roldan that works as an engine running all ninety minutes of a match.

Columbus is another team I will be taking a stab on as well. As stated, they are tremendously deep and boast a starting eleven that can compete with any team. If the Crew backline holds, I see them making a deep run.

Picks to win the MLS is Back: Seattle Sounders +750 & Columbus Crew +2000

 

Tonights Match: Orlando City v Inter Miami

Orlando City is going to be a dangerous team for the reasons I mentioned above. I am completely fading Inter Miami as they are without six players, the most in the tournament. This turns an average Miami side into a side that has no chance to advance to the knockout rounds. I do not see how they are going to score goals.

Play: Orlando City PK +108

I will be giving out picks pretty much daily as this tournament carries on, so make sure you give me a follow @squidspicks on twitter. Best of luck!

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