For new Houston Dynamo coach Tab Ramos, being drawn into a group with defending Supporters' Shield winner Los Angeles FC at the MLS is Back Tournament offers a good chance to evaluate his own club against one of the league's best.
But considering LAFC is without reigning MVP Carlos Vela, it's hard to imagine the test will be as stiff as it could be.
In Ramos' first two games in charge before the coronavirus pandemic halted the MLS season in early March, the Dynamo (0-1-1, 1 point) drew the LA Galaxy and then were blown out by Sporting Kansas City, 4-0.
With LAFC (1-0-1, 4 points) next, followed by the Portland Timbers and then the Galaxy, Ramos isn't being done any favors with his Group F schedule as he tries to rebuild a club that has reached the postseason only once in its last six seasons. All three opponents reached the postseason in 2019.
"I think this is a good scenario for us," Ramos told reporters of the three games, which will count toward regular-season standings when the 2020 season resumes later this year. "I think this is just what we need. For me as a new coach, it's important to see what the best teams are doing and how they play, and where we are and how far we need to go, if it's that far at all."
As for LAFC, they still have plenty of talent without Vela, who opted out of the tournament to remain with his wife, who is expecting the couple's second child.
It's impossible to imagine any one player could replace all of the contributions of Vela, who set an MLS record with 34 goals last season while also contributing 15 assists.
Head coach Bob Bradley is confident his teammate can do it by committee, leaning particularly on a pair of young Uruguayans on the wings in Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez.
"Diego has really been in good form -- really working hard and had a very good mentality," Bradley said. "And Brian is a talented guy and he is someone that we're just trying to help. I think sometimes he puts pressure on himself and we're just trying to take that pressure away and get him to play as free as he can and show everybody what he can do."
--Field Level Media