- Tournament’s round-robin stage is starting to take shape with teams playing their second games
- Atlanta vs Cincinnati, Montreal vs Toronto and Columbus vs NY Red Bulls take place Thursday
- Get the odds, preview, and best bet for these three fixtures below
With the opening round of games now firmly in the rear-view mirror, crucial fixtures are coming into sight. For the likes of Atlanta, Cincinnati and Montreal, who all lost their first games in the MLS is Back tournament, getting a result at the second time of asking will be crucial to their hopes of progressing.
Conversely, after opening-round wins, Thursday’s meeting between the Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls will almost certainly decide the winner of Group E. Meanwhile, Toronto FC, the defending Eastern Conference champion and one of the tournament favorites, will be looking to regain its mojo after surrendering a two-goal in the last 10 minutes of its 2-2 opening draw with DC United.
MLS is Back July 16 Odds
|Atlanta United||-1.0 (-110)||-205||O 2.5, 3 (-115)|
|FC Cincinnati||+1.0 (-110)||+500||O 2.5, 3 (-110)|
|Montreal Impact||+0.5 (-125)||+235||O 2.5, 3 (-115)|
|Toronto FC||-0.5 (-105)||EVEN||O 2.5, 3 (-110)|
|Columbus Crew||0, -0.5 (EVEN)||+130||O 2.5, 3 (-110)|
|New York Red Bulls||0, +0.5 (-125)||+185||O 2.5, 3 (-115)|
All odds taken July 15
Atlanta United vs FC Cincinnati
After opening losses, both of these teams will be desperate to get something out of their 9 am EST contest to stay alive in the quest for a top-two spot in Group E.
Given that four of the best third-placed teams also qualify, neither will be eliminated from the tournament from the loss, but both would then require a result against their third fixtures.
Both teams should be fairly familiar with each other, having met just before the season was brought to an unceremonious halt back in March. Atlanta prevailed 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium back then, registering a second straight win to begin its season, before its momentum was halted first by the pandemic and then by its 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Cincinnati is in an altogether different place. With new head coach Jaap Stam set to take charge of his second game at the helm of the second-year club, the team has lost three straight games to open its 2020 campaign, conceding nine goals in the process.
135 – @Jomens25 completed 135 passes for @ColumbusCrewSC vs @fccincinnati (140 attempted), the second-most in an @MLS match since Opta began collecting passing data in the competition in 2010 (Oriol Rosell – 158 for SKC vs MTL in 2014). Conductor.#MLSisBack pic.twitter.com/SV26pBQtyY
— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) July 12, 2020
While its defensive frailties are obviously a cause for concern, of equal consternation is the continued absence of forward Jurgen Locadia, currently on the shelf with a thigh injury. Cincinnati has scored just three goals all season – with Locadia getting one of them – but with his absence, it’s hard to see where the goals will come from.
Pick: Atlanta -1.0 (-110)
Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC
This all-Canadian clash promises to be one of the most hotly contested games of the group stage, as games between these rivals rarely disappoint, highlighted by their 2016 meeting in the Eastern Conference finals.
Both clubs experienced disappointing starts to the tournament, with Montreal being edged 1-0 by New England and Toronto coughing up a two-goal lead and wasting what had looked to be a very confident performance in a 2-2 draw with DC United. It was the second time in three games this season that Toronto has failed to hold a two-goal lead.
While Toronto were boosted by the return of Michael Bradley after a lengthy layoff following ankle surgery, it looks like the Reds will still be without the attacking talents of Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio, who are both still working their way back to full fitness. However, the club will have been pleased with the play of Alejandro Pozuelo and Pablo Piatti, as well as youngster Ayo Akinola, who scored both goals. But it will need to tighten up at the back.
Going into the weekend like @VictorWanyama?#FridayFeeling pic.twitter.com/6QPwSGI7Y2
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 9, 2018
Montreal coach Thierry Henry will have not been happy at his team’s performance going forward against the Revolution. The Impact only managed seven shots, only two of which were on target. While midfielder Victor Wanyama looked comfortable, former Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic did little in the game, and more will be expected from him, as well as from Max Urruti, who has scored three goals so far this season.
Pick: Toronto (EVEN)
Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls
With both clubs sitting pretty with three points apiece, avoiding defeat will likely be the name of this game. Under normal tournament circumstances, a draw would give each four points and all but guarantee a berth in the knockout rounds.
But with this fixture also counting for points in the regular season (if it ever resumes), there is added incentive for both to play for the victory.
After a resounding 4-0 win in their opening game – albeit at the expense of the hapless FC Cincinnati – the Columbus Crew are riding high and firing on all cylinders. Gyasi Zardes and Lucas Zelarayan, with three and two goals respectively, have scored five of the Crew’s six goals this year and will have to held in check if New York wants something out of the game.
For the Red Bulls, who have just one win over Columbus in their last seven meetings, a 1-0 win in their opener flattered them slightly, particularly given the 14-6 shot differential in Atlanta’s favor, as well as the almost 70% possession that United enjoyed.
New York just took its chances, while Atlanta didn’t. The Red Bulls will likely need to be equally unerring in their accuracy against Columbus too.
Pick: Draw (+255)