MLS is Back Tournament: A tale of six clubs for Group A

Nashville SC

Editorial — MLS is Back this week. The tournament is set to kick off this Wednesday, as teams are either in or making their way down to Orlando. However, the tournament is drawing plenty of controversy.

MLS is hearing cries and pleas on social media from fans, and players too, to cancel the tournament. Multiple players in the league have tested positive for the coronavirus. In fact, just today, FC Dallas pulled out of the tournament. But that’s Group B, and this is a preview for Group A.

Group A is the black sheep of the MLS is Back Tournament. While other groups have four teams, Group A is the lone group with six clubs. Those teams are Orlando, Miami, New York City FC, Philadelphia, Chicago and Nashville. In this preview, we look over each club briefly and their chances in the MLS is Back Tournament.

Nashville SC: The real black sheep team

Group A is already unique with having six teams. But, while the other groups have teams in the same conference, that’s where Group A differs, too. Nashville SC began its campaign in MLS back in March, featuring in the Western Conference. Due to the lopsided number of West and East teams, Nashville was forced into a group with five other Eastern Conference teams.

Nashville did not start their MLS campaign off with a spark. Instead, the Tennessee club began with two consecutive losses. Captain Dax McCarthy will try to lead Nashville to a better showing in MLS.

Orlando City SC: Dwyer needs to shine

Home field advantage? Not so much. Orlando players might have it easy when it comes to travel, but the competition is being held at Disney and its complex, not at the Lions stadium. However, Orlando has a chance to fight for the knockout round place. There are three teams that will advance from Group A, but a chance for a fourth is possible. Orlando needs Dom Dwyer to step up this season, after a dismal 2019.

Orlando also brought in midfielder Júnior Urso to help steady things in the middle of the pitch. And Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese could be the first choice in between the sticks for the Lions.

Inter Miami: Is there pressure for Inter? 

There was a lot of hype for Inter Miami heading into their debut season. Nashville usually strays away from the headlines, glitz and glamor of the league, while Inter has the the star-studded appeal of David Beckham and a robust city.

Inter didn’t kick off their MLS journey like they wanted. Just like Nashville, Inter Miami compiled two straight losses in their first taste of MLS. With an aging team — Luis Robles, Román Torres, Lee Nguyen and A.J. DeLaGarza are all above 30 — Inter is looking to surprise people.

Chicago Fire: Will a new-look Chicago impress? 

Roster turnover isn’t uncommon in MLS. However, Chicago had a ton of it, essentially tossing out their 2019 team and replacing it. Long gone are Alexander Katai, Dax McCarthy and Raheem Edwards. Chicago sat in eighth place at the end of last season, missing out on the playoffs. With a new crest and design, Chicago will heavily rely on Francisco Calvo on defense and C. J. Sapong in the attack.

New York City FC: Is NYCFC the clear-cut winner?

Maybe not of the entire tournament, but New York City FC might be the clear-cut winner of Group A. NYCFC topped the Eastern Conference last year, but bowed out in the playoffs in the conference semifinals.

A new manager is in charge for NYCFC. Ronny Deila joined the club after spending time in Norway managing Vålerenga. After a successful season last year, NYCFC opened up this year’s campaign with losses against Columbus and Toronto. Deila has some work to do if he wants to bring NYCFC back to last year’s glory.

Philadelphia Union: Can the Union keep momentum?

Momentum is huge in professional soccer. To start this year, the Union had a shaky slew of matches. One draw and one loss is what the Union are working with, heading into the tournament. Philadelphia didn’t have too much roster movement this offseason. However, the club did bring in Cape Verde midfielder Jamiro Monteiro, hoping to partner him with Alejandro Bedoya. However, after only one year in Philadelphia, Marco Fabián is out and not with the Union for a sophomore season.


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