EDITORIAL – The MLS is Back group stage is over. Finishing last but certainly not least, was the MiB Group F. Portland Timbers and Los Angeles FC advanced as the top two teams in the group. LA Galaxy crashed out with one point and a loss to their El Trafico rival. Houston Dynamo started off well but weren’t able to finish the job on Thursday.
MiB Group F Review: Portland Smash-and-Grab, Galaxy Crash
Many pegged this group as the Group of Death. With both big money LA teams, the talented Timbers, and a Houston team that can attack on the counter, anything was possible.
Portland Timbers – Advanced as Group Winner
The Timbers won their first two games with clinical finishing against Houston and LAG. Their expected goals numbers weren’t great, but they took advantage of their chances. Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco were their expected selves. Jeremy Ebobisse showed up as a starting striker.
With two wins in their first two games, all they needed was a draw against LAFC to win the group outright. They took advantage of a slow start by LAFC to take the lead. After going down 2-1, Ebobisse scored on a set piece to get a result.
Giovanni Savarese’s side are their pragmatic counterattacking selves. As long as their attackers stay in form, they will be a tough out. I’d have then as a dark horse to win MLS is Back. They will have to smash-and-grab two teams that are better than them on paper to win this thing.
Los Angeles FC – Advances as Group Runner up
LAFC are not completely reliant on Carlos Vela and they proved it in this tournament. The Supporters Shield holders scored 11 goals in their three group stage games. Diego Rossi and Bradley Wright-Phillips have balled out. This team absolutely has their attack figured.
They have however started out slow. Bob Bradley’s side has given up the first goal in each other three group stage games. LAFC are a team that need to get hit first before they hit back. This is a weakness that will need to be resolved for the knockout stage.
LAFC do have a problem as they will face Seattle Sounders FC in the Round of 16. Seattle knocked LAFC out in the playoffs last year. This team will need to start strong and have a ruthless killer instinct to overcome their demons of yore.
Houston Dynamo – Eliminated in Group Stage
The Dynamo had a chance to make the knockout rounds and they blew it. Tab Ramos had his team up 3-1 on LAFC at halftime of their first game. The defense could not hold that lead.
They had moments against Portland but couldn’t finish their opportunities, some of which were better than Portland’s. A red card to Alberth Elis ended their chances in that game. It set them up poorly for the last game.
Houston were clearly the better team in that game, but a late PK saw them draw 1-1. It was chaos in second half stoppage time but they couldn’t score to quality as a best third team.
LA Galaxy – Eliminated in Group Stage
The Galaxy crashed out of this tournament. This is nothing but a failure and a disappointment. Chicharito Hernandez missed a penalty to go up 1-0 on Portland and he missed it. Poor defensive mistakes saw them lose 2-0.
They were too easy to pass through. The defense was suspect and vulnerable with Jonathan dos Santos in front of them. They were exposed against Portland and taken apart by LAFC. Offensively, they were largely reliant on Cristian Pavon, which made them easy to defend.
This team deserved to go home after the group stage. It’s not clear where they go from here given the problems they have.