And so, we meet again.
The 25th season of Major League Soccer has resumed following Orlando City’s 2-1 win over league newcomers Inter Miami Wednesday night, the MLS IS BACK Tournament underway. NYCFC and Philadelphia play Thursday morning, with the Revolution and Montreal slated to get started at 8 p.m. — a mere 132 days after they played the season opener, with the Revs having drawn to Chicago a week later.
Now, 124 days later, New England is poised to have a better start than how March went, given the fact the club has a few servants — Matt Turner, Carles Gil, newcomer Alexander Büttner — back from injury and available for selection.
Of course, things are a little murkier than they were since we last conversed. While the tournament is considered league play, not all the teams in the league are playing. FC Dallas was withdrawn from the competition earlier this week following 11 positive tests for COVID-19, and there have been rumors floating that newcomers Nashville SC will be next to go, given its nine positive tests. ESPN.com reported Wednesday night that a decision on Nashville’s participation in the tourney is expected sometime Thursday morning; the Music City side have 20 healthy players at the moment, so it is possible it continues to play (UPDATE, 12:50 p.m.: Nashville has been withdrawn). Vancouver announced that its top strike corps won’t take part, and neither will LAFC’s Carlos Vela.
But enough with those thoughts. The tournament is here, and after four months of waiting, MLS is the first men’s sport to kick off in the United States, a tenday after NWSL started up for 2020.
While the first Revs-Montreal matchup occurred at The Big O and the cement-like turf played a big part in how the teams played, we think Montreal will utilize some of the same methods it used on Feb. 29.
L’Impact had been tinkering with a 3-4-3 formation out of the gate, its wingbacks sinking back at times to provide cover in the defending third. This works fine when teams are patient in their attack. Should Montreal look to sit back, New England will have to be patient in creation, and look for well-timed runs when Thierry Henry’s side are napping.
Offensively, Montreal can score: we all know the prowess of Maxi Urruti and Anthony Jackson-Hamel, a pair of Revs killers who have scored seven times against New England. Bojan Krkic, a rumored Revs target once upon a time, will float here and there out of the No. 9 role. And Romell Quioto, who scored the first goal of the season, should not be left unmarked.
Outside of that, Montreal is one of those classic play-it-out-of-the-back teams in MLS, switching the point of the attack from the back and moving the ball through the flanks. Bojan, of course, is critical in this; like we wrote above he will float, so we’re expecting many of the things L’Impact do to go through him.
And should the Revs start things out of the back, or when the ball is in the Revs’ defending third in their possession, expect Montreal to, you guessed it, press away. We saw quite a bit of that in film review, and have no doubts that’s what L’Impact will do during that two-hour span Thursday night.
In the Premier League
Three matches dot the calendar today, as Bournemouth host Spurs, Everton hosts Southampton (both at 1 p.m. ET), and Aston Villa hosts Manchester United.
Spurs can move as high as seventh with a win, getting themselves back in the European conversation; the Tottenham are currently two points and two spots behind eighth-place Arsenal. Manchester United cannot drop out of the Champions League slot (given Manchester City’s European ban). Bournemouth, should it beat Tottenham, cannot climb out of the relegation zone; neither could Villa should it beat the Red Devils.
That Everton-Southampton clash, though, is a tremendous mid-table six-pointer, with the Blues and Saints neck-in-neck in the English top flight table; Everton is 11th on 44 points, Southampton 12th (43).
Odds and Ends
Spurs will be without Erik Dier, who has received a four-match ban and a fine of $50,000 following an incident where he climbed into the stands following an FA Cup the earlier this year.
Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald reported Wednesday that NBC Sports Network is planning on moving all of July 15’s Premier League matches to the new Peacock streaming service, which launches that day. They will be free of charge.
Apparently if you have an X1 box, it’s integrated into the hardware.
CBS has reportedly picked up the Champions League rights ahead of schedule after Turner Sports relinquished them several weeks ago. CBS was to gain them in 2021.
Toronto FC’s USL League One team will not compete due to the restrictions in Canada.
When you look at the amounts involved in the Matt Polster transfer — $375,000, plus the potential of $200,000 in General Allocation Money going to Chicago for his MLS rights — we can surmise that he will be a starter for Bruce Arena. One BSSS reader noted that he didn’t recall Polster when he played with Chicago; I replied that is the sign of a good defender.
US men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter is reportedly in the bubble for the group stages.
Charlotte’s MLS side, which joins the league with Austin in 2021, has signed Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz. The 25-year-old recently played for Racing Santander in La Liga’s second division.