The stage is set, as Los Angeles Football Club know who they will play in the group stage of the MLS is Back tournament, set to kick off July 8 in Orlando.
So how have those three teams started the season? Let’s dig in on their respective beginnings to the 2020 campaign.
The Galaxy have yet to win in the 2020 regular season, posting a 0W-1L-1D record to kick off their season.
They tied the Houston Dynamo on opening day in Houston, with Cristian Pavon’s sharp strike in the first half for the Galaxy canceled out by Mauro Manotas’ equalizer shortly after halftime. On balance, a draw was a fair result.
The second game left a much more sour taste, as the Galaxy’s home opener ended in a 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, the worst team in the Western Conference in 2019. The game overall lacked quality, with a smash-and-grab goal from Tosaint Ricketts late in the game standing up, a subsequent red card to Joe Corona making it worse and Vancouver failing to convert a penalty saving the Galaxy’s blushes.
That loss was pretty bad on a number of levels for the Galaxy but I’m not sure what having four months to chew it over will do to their state of mind. Through the first two weeks, the team was definitely a work-in-progress, the defense looking better if still shaky, the attack being basically toothless.
The Galaxy are down a player, too, as Aleksandar Katai left the team after his wife made racist social media posts last week. He just joined the team this year, but it may take some time for them to get a replacement in, we’ll see.
All-time record vs. Galaxy: 0W-2L-3D in the regular season for LAFC
Houston are also 0W-1L-1D to start the season, between the aforementioned 1-1 against the Galaxy to open the season, followed by a 4-0 shellacking by Sporting Kansas City in the second game.
I won’t add much to the recap of the opener I discussed above other than to say in Tab Ramos’ first game as head coach of the Dynamo, they looked like they were still trying to figure things out. Will such a long break have helped them? Who knows, really! We’re all flying blind here.
In the second game, Sporting, which came out of the blocks this season on fire, were hot again and the Dynamo just couldn’t keep up. Alan Pulido scored an early opener, before Roger Espinoza scored a rare goal off a set piece. KC laid the hurt on the Dynamo with second-half goals from Gadi Kinda and Khiry Shelton to complete the 4-0 rout.
The Dynamo look like the team LAFC have the best chance against, on paper, but this is MLS, no team is ever truly out of a game, and we don’t know how any of these teams will look in Orlando. Keep that in mind.
All-time record vs. Houston: 3W-0L-1D in the regular season
Ah, the Timbers. I think if you asked most LAFC fans who the black-and-gold’s biggest rival was after the Galaxy, it’s Portland. So this is a rival-filled group, basically.
Kevin Molino scored the first goal for Minnesota, followed by Diego Valeri tying it up a few minutes later for Portland from the penalty spot. But Luis Amarilla scored on his debut to win it for the Loons and Molino added an insurance tally.
But Portland’s fortunes improved in the second game, as Valeri scored the only goal of the game to beat expansion team Nashville at Providence Park.
The Timbers’ default style is to bunker deep and get their skill players to make enough goals to win. In a short tournament scenario like we’re about to see, that’s probably going to be a very smart strategy, if also possibly very boring to watch. LAFC will likely have a tough game here, they usually do against the Timbers.
All-time record vs. Portland: 2W-1L-1D in the regular season
So heading into it all, what do you think of LAFC’s chances in this group? Which game are you most interested in? Let’s chat in the comments below.