MLS is Back Group A Review: Stunning results on the table

MLS is Back Group A

Editorial — Two clubs removed, upsets, constant headlines. Throughout the MLS is Back Tournament, Group A became the catalyst for entertainment and drama that had the MLS world on its heels.

Now with the match days played, it’s time to take a deep breath and break down the performances from the four teams that remained.

Among the drama, it was the hosts that shined the brightest light.

The hosts play Cinderella

  • Orlando defeated Inter Miami 2-1 on Match Week 1
  • Orlando defeated NYCFC 3-1 on Match Week 2
  • Orlando drew the Philadelphia Union 1-1 on Match Week 3

Coming into the tournament, Orlando City SC had little to no success in MLS. Ever since the club’s inception, the Lions struggled mightily in the league, failing to make the playoffs in their first four seasons. Even one of the most exciting fan bases in the league couldn’t make up the difference.

However, Orlando and new manager Oscar Pareja made sure of it that season five would be different. Three matches into the MLS is Back Tournament and they already have accomplished that.

At the forefront of this run was the attack. We all knew Nani and MLS veteran Dom Dwyer would play a big part in the attack. However, I didn’t see Chris Mueller have this much of an impact early on.

 

In fact, it was Mueller’s finishing as an inverted winger that was the catalyst for success. The USMNT hopeful netted three goals in the group stage and was vital for both of Orlando’s wins.

We don’t know how deep of a run Orlando can make in the knockout stage. However, one thing is for certain, even making it can be seen as a victory.

Miami refuses to gain a result

  • Inter lost to Orlando 2-1 on Match Week 1
  • Inter lost to Philadelphia 2-1 on Match Week 2
  • Inter lost to NYCFC 1-0 on Match Week 3

In the three matches that we saw Inter Miami play in this tournament, we saw three completely different Inter Miami teams.

  • A back five, play out the back mentality vs. Orlando
  • A beautiful possession-based system vs. Philadelphia

Just hoof it to Pizarro or Agudelo vs. NYCFC.

It was clear early on that Inter would struggle, as would any expansion team in a tournament-style system that favors experience and a level head. However, I feel like it is unfair to really criticize a club with 180 minutes played prior to this tournament.

That said, there were some things to build off of. I still maintain that the match vs. Philadelphia was premier league quality, and they also had Orlando on the ropes for most of their match.

There is a base to work off of, and in the end, that may have been this club’s main goal from this tournament

The Union flourish

  • Philadelphia defeated NYCFC 1-0 on Match Week 1
  • Philadelphia defeated Inter Miami 2-1 on Match Week 2
  • Philadelphia drew Orlando City 1-1 on Match Week 3

With the exception of Columbus, no team had a better group stage than the Philadelphia Union. This may come off as a hot take considering they technically came in second due to goal difference, but in my opinion, a statement was made from Philadelphia.

There are very few MLS teams this season where you can find quality on all areas of the pitch, and Philadelphia is one of those teams.

  • A USMNT quality goalkeeper between the sticks.
  • A young, but efficient backline.
  • A veteran MLS presence in the engine room.
  • A dynamic attack led by a youth international as the number 10.

I could genuinely talk about this team for hours. The ceiling that this club has for years to come may be higher than any other MLS clubs. Keeping them there would be the biggest issue.

They were a dark horse heading into the tournament, now they are a contender. Don’t sleep on them.

The Pigeons disappoint

  • NYCFC lost to the Philadelphia Union 1-0 on Match Week 1
  • NYCFC lost to Orlando City 3-1 on Match Week 2
  • NYCFC defeated Inter Miami 1-0 on Match Week 3

On the other side of the totem pole is NYCFC, who had all of the expectations with very little end product.

While City isn’t technically out of the knockout stage just yet, their performances in the group stage proved that they more than don’t deserve it. How could this be with a squad this talented? Unfortunately, when a talented squad refuses to produce results, the faults fall to the manager.

New NYCFC manager Ronny Delia — who’s coming off of being run out of Norway — is being criticized for similar faults as a manager in MLS.

As the NYCFC reporter for LWOS, and an avid NYCFC fan who has been there from the very beginning, I am incredibly worried. This disappointing group stage marks the many disappointments that have plagued this club since its founding.

There is a reason why I haven’t signaled out a poor player performance or match in criticizing this club, it is because the issues for NYCFC grow much larger then what’s on the pitch. Until that changes, the product on the pitch will be the least of City’s concerns.


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