Major League Soccer became the first professional sport to make a comeback in North America following the lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst it has been unable to guarantee the travel freedoms needed to host a full-on regular season, every side, bar Nashville and Dallas, have set up a distancing bubble in Orlando for a special World Cup-styled tournament called the ‘MLS Is Back Tournament’
From July 8 to August 11, teams will compete across various groups and then over a knockout stage which will finish with a final, with all games going on at the Orlando Sports Resort and behind closed doors.
Both California’s sides, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) and LA Galaxy, arrived in Orlando as strong favourites in soccer betting markets around North America, but how have they gotten on so far?
Bob Bradley’s Black and Gold LAFC smashed seemingly every Major League Soccer record during last year’s regular season, winning 21 of their 34 games, scoring a whopping 85 goals and setting a record with their points tally with 72 at the close of the campaign.
They finished the season eight points clear of their nearest rival, NYCFC, but fell short of their ultimate goal of an MLS Cup by losing to Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference postseason final.
They arrived in Orlando as outright favourites with odds of +450, but were immediately stunted by a resilient Houston Dynamo side in their opening fixture. They ended the first half of their game against Dynamo 1-3 down, but rallied impressively and managed to scrape together an admirable 3-3 draw.
Whilst LA Galaxy didn’t quite have the same sort of season as their El Trafico rivals last year, they still scraped together enough points to break the postseason again, but were beaten out by LAFC in the semi finals.
Legendary striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the club in the summer, and was replaced by former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, who scored his first goal for the Galaxy at the MLS Is Back Tournament against the Portland Timbers.
That Chicharito goal wasn’t enough to get a good result for Galaxy however, and they fell to a pretty damaging 1-2 loss. Sharing a group with LAFC, Galaxy knew they needed to get something from their next game against their rivals to stand any chance of making it into the next round.
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The two LA sides clashed on July 18, and the end result was an absolute hammering in favour of LAFC. Despite Galaxy actually taking the lead in just the fifth minute, this was an absolute stomping from the 2019 Supporter’s Shield winners.
LAFC ended up racking up 19 shots, with 16 of those on target, roughly double the amount of passes with 407 and just under 60% of the ball. Even though talisman Carlos Vela wasn’t on the pitch, Bob Bradley’s side was able to find the net a mammoth six times in total, with forward Diego Rossi hitting four of those.
For Galaxy, their hopes of qualifying for the next round look shot to bits and they can only finish in the third place play off brackets at best at this point. For LAFC, their first win against their rivals could well be the spark that ignites their entire MLS is Back campaign.