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MLS Picks of Week 23

America’s pre-eminent football league experiences more peaks and troughs than the Midlands Meander. From dominating opponents with their dual strike force and taking an overall MLS lead, the Seattle Sounders seemingly cannot buy a point and have plummeted down the standings. LA Galaxy, notorious slow starters but nevertheless looking to lack cohesion this season, have surged into third-place from nowhere and look good value to take the entire championship yet again. Sebastian Giovinco is thriving in MLS debut season, Chicago Fire are reportedly in talks with Didier Drogba and the MLS All-Star team will take on Tottenham next Wednesday - controversially including Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. DC United share the MLS lead with FC Dallas, LA Galaxy a point behind. FC Dallas are in the driving seat however, having two games in hand.

Saturday 25 July

Real Salt Lake 19/10 | Draw 9/4 | Sporting Kansas City  27/20
Real Salt Lake were missing two key players and their coach, but nevertheless picked up three points at home against Houston Dynamo thanks to temporary captain Javier Morales. The veteran playmaker struck with a half-volley from long distance to seal the deal for Real Salt Lake. RSL have struggled of late and the piece of Morales magic helped end a four-match streak without a win. Sporting Kansas City recorded a franchise record eighth consecutive home win in all competitions with a 2-1 victory over Montreal Impact. They’ve won four of their last five in the MLS including an away win over Vancouver Whitecaps. However, as is customary in this league, their travels have generally proved fruitless. I’m siding with Real Salt Lake at 19/10, who haven’t lost to Sporting in their last four meetings. 

Sunday 26 July

Columbus Crew 19/20 | Draw  24/10 Toronto FC 26/10
Kei Kamara was once again influential as Columbus Crew pulled the double over Chicago Fire last week. The two sides met last Thursday with Chicago at home and Kamara rifled home just before halftime to give Crew the lead. The match would end 1-0. Columbus Crew then hosted Chicago on Sunday and ran out 3-1 winners, Kamara nabbing the equaliser. The man from Sierra Leone now has fourteen MLS goals for the season and leads the race for America’s Golden Boot. Sebastian Giovinco, only two goals behind Kamara this season, grabbed a goal and assist in his last outing with Toronto. The Canadians beat Philadelphia Union 2-1 at the weekend. The former Juventus playmaker will need to be at his best for Toronto to get a result here but they will be buoyed by beating Columbus twice at their ground last year. This is a tough one to call so I’m opting for Over 2.5 goals at 8/10 due to the attacking prowess present in both lineups. 

Montreal Impact 19/20 Draw 23/10 Seattle Sounders 28/10
Montreal were sent packing by an organised Sporting Kansas City last weekend but they’ll be pleased to be back at Stade Saputo where they have won five of their past six home matches. Montreal have battled to find their feet on the road, gaining only one point from their last four games. They’ll feel confident of keeping their strong home record intact with the visit of struggling Seattle Sounders. The Sounders have lost five of their last six matches and without star strikers Clint Dempsey (Gold Cup) and Obafemi Martins (injury), are battling to put the ball in the back of the net. Indeed, three 1-0 losses in the past five matches indicates that Seattle simply need to score to be competitive. However, Seattle have only scored once in their last four travels and Montreal Impact are tipped to get up for the win.

Chicago Fire 13/10 Draw 9/4 New England Revolution 19/10
A David Accam free kick levelled matters in the ninth minute of Chicago’s clash with Columbus Crew but ill discipline conspired to resign the Fire to a 3-1 loss. Jason Johnson was given a red card for diving in the early moments of the second-half and down to ten men, Chicago folded. The loss was preceded by a 1-0 beating at the hands of the same opposition a mere three days prior. Chicago have won only one of their last five MLS fixtures which includes two home losses, a cardinal sin in this league. New England Revolution finally broke a five-match MLS losing streak with a 1-0 win at home against New York City. Following a players meeting, the Revolution took the team-first mentality to heart and combined beautifully to set up a goal for Lee Nguyen. This looks to be another close affair and I’d advise taking Under 2.5 goals at 17/20.

Houston Dynamo 2/1 Draw 23/10 LA Galaxy 5/4
The Houston Dynamo fought hard after going a man down against Real Salt Lake but could not develop anything of substance and went down 2-0 away from home. After picking up a win against San Jose Earthquakes on the road and holding Chicago Fire to a draw at home, Houston would’ve hoped for a more complete performance in their last outing. They meet a menacing LA Galaxy on the march but one must always be mindful of the Californian side’s atrocious form away from Stubhub Centre. The last time they picked up three points away from home was in September last year, meaning they haven’t managed even one away win this entire season in MLS action. Steven Gerrard made a dream MLS debut last time out with a goal and assist, fueling yet another Robbie Keane hat-trick in a 5-2 drubbing of San Jose. Despite the Galaxy’s form, taking the Houston win/draw Double Chance at 11/20 is the only way to play this. 

FC Dallas 17/20 Draw 24/10 Portland Timbers 31/10
Dallas found an injury time winner in last weekend’s meeting with opposite Conference leaders and fellow top of the table team, DC United. Fabian Castillo netted to make the score 2-1 and send the Dallas faithful into a frenzy in Frisco. That’s eight goals this season for the Colombian and Dallas will need him at his best at Toyota Stadium this week. The Portland Timbers settled for a point in the visit of the Whitecaps last weekend and would’ve hoped to have capitalised on their chance at home. They beat Dallas in their meeting at this ground at the end of the season last year but have struggled to pick up away wins in the current term. Dallas have won four of their last five and are unbeaten at home since April. Back the league leaders at 17/20. 

New York City FC 5/4 Draw 23/10 Orlando City FC 2/1
New York City couldn’t reply to New England’s twelfth minute strike and their ninth loss has left them wallowing ninth in the Eastern Conference. Their problems have only been compounded by the calf strain of Frank Lampard and the lack of match fitness of Andrea Pirlo. Contrary to most in the MLS, New York battle for results at their home ground. Admittedly, Yankee Stadium in the home of the city’s baseball team and perhaps provides some explanation for their erratic form. Kaka returned to the fold following his suspension but couldn’t prevent Orlando City losing 2-0 at home to New York Red Bulls. Orlando have been inconsistent since losing their talisman but I’m tipping them to capitalise on the City’s fragile form in New York. The away win pays handsomely at 2/1, get on. 

DC United 19/20 Draw 24/10 Philadelphia Union 26/10
DC United have experienced a rough patch of late and have been unable to extend their lead atop the MLS standings. As a result, they’ve played two more matches for the same points haul as FC Dallas and will be intent on leaving the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium with three points. Three losses in a row, including one away to the Union in cup action, will surely have dented United’s confidence. In the same breath, that cup match may have done Philadelphia the world of good. It certainly seemed evident against the Portland Timbers in a 3-0 win but was bereft last time out against Toronto. In all fairness, the Union have won only one match away from home all season. Back DC United to come out on top at 19/20. 

Monday 27 July

Vancouver Whitecaps 17/20 Draw 24/10 San Jose Earthquakes 3/1
Vancouver pulled back an equaliser in the 58th minute of their travel to Portland but could not muster a final surge to take the three points. Defender Jordan Harvey was contentiously sent off in stoppage time, tempers frayed and the sides ended the contest with a shoving match. Despite losing both of their previous matches, victory would’ve pulled the Whitecaps level on points with FC Dallas at the top of the Western Conference table. As a result they remain two points adrift and will seek nothing less than than three points against San Jose to keep the pressure on Dallas and LA Galaxy. The Earthquakes have been abysmal recently. Since somehow stringing together a three match winning streak, they have gone on to lose five on the trot in all competitions. One has to feel that they will struggle away from home against a Whitecaps side looking to get their season back on track. Back Vancouver to pick up the win at 17/20.

Written by Rick John Henry for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!