- Opening Group B fixture between FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps has been postponed until July 15
- Whitecaps’ arrival in Orlando was delayed by inconclusive COVID-19 tests, that ultimately came back negative
- See the odds for Group B of the MLS is Back tournament along with the best best to qualify for knockout rounds below
MLS is Back tournament has yet to start, but already much of the scrutiny around the idea to even hold the tournament in the current pandemic climate has focused on Group B.
The opening fixture between FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps was due to be held on July 9, but that was postponed after Vancouver’s arrival in Orlando was held up by a pair of inconclusive COVID-19 tests – which ultimately came back negative –and means the team is not due to arrive in Florida until July 6.
MLS restart game between FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps has been postponed to a later date after six Dallas players tested positive for coronavirus and Vancouver arrived late after two inconclusive tests pic.twitter.com/DcFTs0Xkmq
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 4, 2020
But that pales in comparison with the the problems faced by Dallas. The team arrived in the Sunshine State on June 27, but six players tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after and all players and staff are currently under quarantine.
While the fear of contamination will likely linger over the tournament long after the opening kickoff, what’s currently going on in Group B hasn’t done much to affect the overall chances of one of the teams ultimately winning the whole thing. However, the lingering uncertainty has meant that many books have removed Group B from their betting lineup, so these opening odds to qualify from the group are all we have to go on.
MLS is Back Tournament Group B Odds
|Team||Odds to Win Group B||Odds to Qualify (From June 15)|
|San Jose Earthquakes||+350||-150|
Odds taken July 5th.
Sounders’ Group To Lose
With a clean bill of health so far, the Seattle Sounders are the betting favorites to win Group B, and one of the favorites to win the whole competition, and with good reason.
Having won two of the last four MLS Cups, as well as being beaten finalists in one other, Seattle is clearly the class of the quartet. The defending MLS champions had started the season well, too, opening with a home win over the Chicago Fire before coming from behind to earn a point in a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew.
NEWS | Sounders FC midfielder Harry Shipp retires after seven MLS seasons.
Congratulations on a successful pro career, Harry! Thank you for all you did at the club. ??
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) June 16, 2020
However, the team has undergone some change since it last took the field. Former rookie of the year finalist, midfielder Harry Shipp, announced his retirement after helping Seattle to the title last year. And there is uncertainty over the role of starter Jordan Morris. The midfielder is a Type 1 diabetic, and therefore considered a greater risk for COVID-19, but has decided to play.
Morris has shown himself an important contributor to the team, namely with his two goals in the home opener, so his presence will be invaluable. But it remains to be seen if any lingering doubts over the disease affect his play.
Seattle is also yet to see how its two off-season additions – Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo and Colombian defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade – have taken to a new environment. But the Sounders newcomers are surrounded by supporting talent and should have the required time to find their feet, even in a shortened tournament environment such as this.
Dallas Dealing With Bad Hand
All the practices in the world can’t teach a team to deal with the kind of curveball FC Dallas has been thrown. Six positive COVID-19 tests is a tough situation for any club in the world to deal with, so it’s hard to quantify exactly how much the new reality will affect the club’s tournament chances.
Before the revelation, Dallas was generally considered the second-best team in Group B. Like Seattle, the Toros had opened with a win and a draw before the lockdown commenced, which was a positive start for the youngest team in MLS.
The youth in the squad will have been well served with last year’s playoff appearance – where Dallas pushed Seattle all the way to extra time before going down 4-3. This tournament should mark the next phase in their development, particularly the likes of homegrown 17-year-old Ricardo Pepi, who helped the team come back for a 2-2 draw in their last game against Montreal.
Can Earthquakes Make Presence Felt?
It can be argued that the MLS shutdown happened at just the right time for San Jose. After battling back to earn a 2-2 tie with MLS Cup finalists Toronto in the team’s home opener, the Earthquakes were subsequently played off the park in a 5-2 home loss to Minnesota United.
Second-year head coach Matias Almeyda has a lot of work to do, so the time off could well have given him some more time to strategize, and particularly how best to deploy playmaker Cristian Espinoza. San Jose certainly showed its attacking style the last time it played Group B opponent Seattle in the penultimate regular-season game of 2019, firing 10 shots at goalkeeper Stefan Frei, but ultimately fell by a solitary Morris goal.
The Earthquakes will need a similarly nerveless display in Orlando if they are to advance.
While former Vancouver star Alphonso Davis has been busy setting the world alight in Germany, the Whitecaps have been left to try and climb out of the MLS Western Conference basement.
The Whitecaps didn’t show a whole lot in Week 1 of 2020, falling 3-1 to Sporting KC. But second-year head coach Marc Dos Santos showed that maybe things were moving in the right direction with a shock 1-0 win in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, but then the league shut down and any momentum that the team had gained was squandered.
Vancouver is always up against it in Group B, going toe-to-toe with some of the conference heavyweights, but continued bedding-in from former Liga MX star Lucas Cavallini would be a big help.
Picks: Seattle to win Group B (+110), FC Dallas to qualify (-200)
More MLS is Back Tournament Group Previews
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