The MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando is official and the draw for the group stage has been completed.
This week, we’ll take a look at FCD’s opponents in group B.
Seattle Sounders FC
It seems like matchups with the Sounders are virtually inevitable for FC Dallas. Going back to 2014, Seattle and Dallas have faced off in the playoffs on four separate occasions, with the Sounders getting the better of Dallas in 2014, 2016, and 2019. Regular season contests between the clubs have typically fallen into a split, with the home team almost always coming out ahead. The MLS Is Back Tournament will introduce a new venue for the Sounders and FCD to face-off, a neutral site with no fans. Even then, both sides will likely see each other as the toughest opponents in the group and Dallas should have some extra motivation after a heartbreaking loss in extra time in last season’s playoffs.
It seems a bit pointless to even mention the two regular-season games that were played what feels like an eternity ago, but Seattle started the season in the same way Dallas did, two games at home against Eastern Conference opposition, with a win in the opener against Chicago and a draw against Columbus to follow.
Personnel wise, Seattle is largely the same team that won MLS Cup in 2019, with Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris still leading from the front with stalwarts Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson in the mix in the midfield. Their biggest offseason acquisition, Brazilian DP midfielder João Paulo, will be one to watch in a matchup against the FCD midfield. As always, Seattle will be a tough test.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Another team from the Pacific Northwest, the Whitecaps finished on the opposite end of the table as the Sounders, having finished dead last in the Western Conference in 2019 with only Wooden Spoon winners FC Cincinnati finishing with fewer points. That being said, FCD did not pick up three points in either matchup against Vancouver in 2019, having lost away and drawn at home. Previous seasons have seen things go back and forth between the two teams, with form often times going out the window completely when these teams match up.
With such a poor season in 2019, the Whitecaps made a number of changes to their squad for 2020 with the biggest acquisition being Canadian national team forward Lucas Cavallini, brought in from Puebla in Liga MX. Vancouver started the 2020 season where they left off in 2019, losing 3-1 at home to Sporting KC, but picked up a surprising 1-0 victory away to the LA Galaxy before the COVID-19 shutdown.
With so few games played and a largely changed squad from 2019, Vancouver is very much an unknown going into the MLS Is Back Tournament. With previous matchups between Vancouver and Dallas in mind, anything could happen when these two match up in Orlando.
San Jose Earthquakes
The final group stage opponent for FCD, the San Jose Earthquakes, were one of the most interesting teams to watch in 2019. After an absolutely dismal 2018 season, San Jose hired Argentinean manager Matias Almeyda, who led a resurgence within the team with largely the same roster that had done so poorly in 2018. Almeyda instituted a man-marking defensive scheme, something highly uncommon in the soccer world in this day and age, and it was highly effective through most of the season, with San Jose in position to make the playoffs until a poor run of form near the end of the season saw them narrowly miss out to FC Dallas. In 2019, San Jose and Dallas played to two draws, a 0-0 in Frisco and a 2-2 in San Jose.
The Quakes started 2020 with a bit of a whimper, needing a brilliant free-kick goal from marquee offseason signing Oswaldo Alanis, to pull off a comeback draw against Toronto FC, before losing 5-2 at home to Minnesota United. Other than the addition of Alanis, the Quakes made few changes to their 2019 squad and seemed to be playing a very similar style in 2020. With the intensity of the man-marking scheme combined with the oppressive heat and humidity of the Orlando summer, it will be interesting to see if Almeyda sticks to his system or if he adapts to the conditions.
How do you feel about FCD’s chances to get out of their group in Orlando? Will they win the group, finish second or fail to move on the knockout rounds?
Which team will be the toughest challenge for FCD?
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