EDITOR'S NOTE: As part of Audi’s Goals Drive Progress and their commitment to the growth of soccer and building future MLS stars, at the end of the tournament, Audi will award the MLS is Back Tournament Golden Boot winner an additional $10,000 for his Academy Club.
When the MLS Is Back Tournament Golden Boot presented by Audi race kicks off, Carlos Vela will be tending to his pregnant wife, Josef Martinez will still traveling on his injury recovery road and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be on the other side of the globe.
That's a cutesy way of suggesting the battle for this tournament's scoring crown is shaping up to be a wide open free-for-all. Any of a number of players could snatch it, but which snipers stand out from the crowd of candidates? That's the shot we're here to take today.
Many elements go into claiming a Golden Boot. Obviously, it helps a great deal when a hot hand's team reaches the pointy end of the knockouts. You also need set-up men, confidence and, of course, the skills to pile up goals on short order. All of the guys listed below tick multiple boxes.
Before we get to my prime candidates to run wildest in Orlando, let's give an honorable salute to others well worth watching if they warm up fast: Jozy Altidore, Alan Pulido, Diego Rossi and Gyasi Zardes.
Minnesota's Luis Amarilla goal vs San Jose | Enhanced Highlight
Even without Ike Opara (and that's a huge loss), Minnesota United are a sizable threat to run deep. They'll still hit you on the counter for fun, and they'll still send plenty of tempting crosses from the right. Amarilla, who scored in each of his first two MLS games, gets fat on both of those courses. He also has solid back-ups, which means the Loons can keep his legs a little fresher in the Florida heat.
GOAL: Heber scores with an impressive backheel
New York City FC have a relatively easy group path and, after dropping their first two games of 2020, urgency. It's a good combo for a team that needs to find its ‘on’ switch. It could be worth it for new boss Ronny Deila to set aside some custom alterations to temporarily focus on unleashing the team's top scorer. The Brazilian can take them far if gets on a roll.
Colorado Rapids' Kei Kamara goal vs D.C. United | Enhanced Highlight
Teams that dominate on set pieces can fare well in a short tournament, let alone one played after four months of inaction. Colorado typically does that as well as anyone, and Kamara is their feature restart act. The 35-year-old still gets up the ladder like a youngster, and you know a guy with 51 career headed goals can nod it where he wants it to go.
GOAL: Ola Kamara’s stunning equalizer puts D.C. level
Is it just me, or are a lot of observers sort of looking past D.C. United in Group C? The same could be said about our second Kamara, with so much attention on the strike situations of the other three teams. That probably suits the Black-and-Red forward, who prefers to quietly go about the business of being money in MLS games. It won't be long before he takes up on the industry of Edison Flores and Julian Gressel's set-ups.
GOAL: Raul Ruidiaz seals MLS Cup for the Sounders
In life, there are many things that a sane person never wants to see. Thanos following you into an alley. Coconut shavings on your dessert. Ruidiaz in a tournament setting. I think we're all safe from the first one and the second one is just a matter of vigilance, people. However, there are definitely teams that will soon need to deal with that third monstrosity. He has 17 career goals from 25 club tournament matches, and has stepped up that pace dramatically since moving to Seattle.