USA MLS Preview

MLS Picks of Week 21

The MLS once again proved a near untamable beast as close matches and a couple of upsets made punting life difficult last weekend. The big news in America’s volatile league is the arrival of a smattering of household names to add some box office appeal to a couple of big spending franchises. Steven Gerrard has arrived for his so-called more relaxed lifestyle in California, however the likes of Rafa Marquez and Jermaine Defoe can attest to the pitfalls of taking it easy in the MLS. Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard have also arrived for training at New York City FC to add some class to a squad already containing the likes of David Villa and USA regular Mix Diskerud. It’s unclear whether this cluster of stars will feature this weekend, but it will no doubt be another engaging set of fixtures.

Saturday 11 June

San Jose Earthquakes 21/20 | Draw 23/10 | Houston Dynamo 24/10
The San Jose Earthquakes couldn’t continue a recent winning streak, failing to clear a free kick into their area deep into stoppage time and conceding late to leave Portland empty-handed. After beating LA Galaxy at home the week previous, they lost in the US Open Cup to their California rivals in midweek before failing to hold out at Portland. USA striker Chris Wondolowski has been at the heart of everything good at San Jose and having him missing with the national squad during Gold Cup action has significantly weakened their goal scoring prospects. The Houston Dynamo gave up a goal lead over Chicago to draw 1-1 at home last weekend. They’ve struggled to pick up points in the MLS, winless in three and lacking goals. I’m tipping the Under 2.5 goals market here at 15/20.  

Sunday 12 June

Philadelphia Union 14/10 | Draw 23/10 | Portland Timbers 18/10
The Union sat out league action last weekend after a confidence boosting 2-1 win over DC United in the US Open Cup. They salvaged a 2-2 draw with the Montreal Impact in their last MLS outing, Maurice Edu punching home a rebound in damp conditions. It’s been a tough season for the Union who have only picked up nineteen points in nineteen outings, a sure candidate for the bottom of the Eastern Conference when sides below them cash in their games in hand. By contrast, the Portland Timbers have surged up the Western Conference table. A 5-0 embarrassment at the hands of LA Galaxy is their only blemish in their past seven matches. However, five of those wins came at home and the Timbers have only beaten Colorado on the road in the past month. Philadelphia have proved difficult to beat at home in recent times so the 14/10 for the home win looks good value to me. 

New York Red Bulls 19/20 | Draw  5/2 | New England 26/10
Bradley Wright-Phillips created the New York Red Bulls’ opener against Columbus Crew on the weekend but their opponents responded with two to resign the Red Bulls to their third MLS defeat in five outings. The Red Bulls were decidedly flat in the second-half of the tie and looked every bit the mid-table side struggling for relevance in the Eastern Conference. The New England Revolution are only point above New York and are currently in the middle of an awful run of form that has seen them lose five in a row in all competitions. They were soundly beaten 3-0 by FC Dallas at the weekend a dramatic improvement will be needed for them to grab anything from this fixture. I don’t think there is any need to look further than the home win this weekend at 19/20. 

Orlando City 5/4 | Draw 22/10 | FC Dallas 2/1
Orlando City survived the second-half of their tie with Real Salt Lake without captain, talisman and top scorer Kaka. The Brazilian opened the scoring in the fifth minute before a highly questionable red card led to his dismissal just before the stroke of half-time. Real Salt Lake had already equalised by this point and Orlando were forced to grind out a brave draw away from home. It was Kaka’s first straight red of his career and with Orlando opting not to appeal the dismissal with the MLS, the Horses will be without his services along with five injured players and two on international duty. FC Dallas outclassed New England 3-0 in their last outing with goals from Diaz, Castillo and Barrios. It sees them on a two-game MLS winning streak coming either side of a horrendous 6-2 cup loss to Sporting Kansas City. Orlando have been strong at home but largely due to the exploits of their captain, who has scored in their last four matches in Florida. I’m tipping the FC Dallas away win at 2/1. 

Montreal Impact 14/10 | Draw 23/10 | Columbus Crew 18/10
Montreal’s poor run of form continued as they went down 2-1 to a David Villa inspired New York City FC outfit. Montreal were on course to salvage a point after Ignacio Piatti scored from the penalty spot in the 77th minute but capitulated to their third loss in five matches with one draw. What makes the loss even more frustrating is that the Impact controlled much of the game and had five times as many attempts on goal, 25 to New York City’s five. However, attempts don’t equal goals, a lesson Montreal learnt the hard way in Quebec. Columbus Crew recorded their second straight win at home with a 2-1 victory over the Red York Red Bulls as a result of the exploits of lethal strike combination Ethan Finlay and Kei Kamara. The pair now have a combined record of seventeen goals and fifteen assists for the season. However, Columbus haven’t picked up a win on the road in nine matches. Taking the Impact to win or draw on the Double Chance at 4/10 seems the shrewd bet here. 

Chicago Fire 5/4 | Draw 9/4 | Seattle Sounders 2/1
The Chicago Fire remain rooted to the bottom of the overall standings and are without a win in five straight MLS matches. They managed to force a draw in their last outing with the Houston Dynamo by virtue of Patrick Nyarko’s first goal in more than a year. It snapped a four-game losing streak but unfortunately represented too little in Chicago’s grand scheme. Seattle, on the other hand, arrested their own four-match losing streak with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over DC United. It took Seattle 88 minutes to break down a ten-man DC outfit but nevertheless, the Sounders left with the three points. The win elevated the Sounders to joint leaders of the Western Conference and they will be hoping to build on that here. Seattle will miss Clint Dempsey on Gold Cup duty but should still have enough to get up for the away win at 2/1. 

Colorado Rapids 11/10 | Draw  9/4 | Real Salt Lake  5/2
The Colorado Rapids managed to upset Western Conference foes Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 last weekend in a clash that seems to suit the Rocky Mountain side. Their last opening goal in regular play as well as their last league win came against the high-flying Canadians. Despite the hard-fought victory, the Rapids remain bottom of their conference and almost two months between wins does not bode well. Real Salt Lake are also battling to pick up three points with regularity. Only one win in five matches won’t satisfy the Salt Lake faithful but they’ve managed to secure three draws in the process. They probably should have capitalised on the dismissal of Kaka in their last match with Orlando City and it is missed chances like that that see them struggling in the nether regions of the Western Conference. Real Salt Lake have lost four on the trot away from home, however I don’t see Colorado fully turning the corner. The draw is where the value is at 9/4.  

New York City 11/10 | Draw 23/10  | Toronto FC 22/10
Just four months into their debut season and New York City FC likely have the most expensively assembled squad in MLS history. Andrea Pirlo arrives as the highest paid player in the league and at a time when New York has just begun to string together some favourable results. The expansion franchise only picked up three points once in their first thirteen matches, but now have secured victory in four of their last five contests which has pushed them off the bottom of the Eastern Conference. If Pirlo, new addition Frank Lampard and Spanish legend David Villa can strike up an understanding, it may be enough to see New York climb another three spots into a playoff position. Toronto were on the receiving end of a Robbie Keane masterclass as the Irish striker completed his second hat-trick in two weeks to help LA Galaxy to a 4-0 win. Toronto have been inconsistent recently, picking up two wins in their last five matches without in scoring in their last two. New York are riding the crest of a wave. Back the home side at 11/10. 

Monday 13 June

Vancouver Whitecaps 11/10 | Draw 22/10 | Sporting Kansas City 23/10
Joint Western Conference leaders the Vancouver Whitecaps could not continue their three-match winning streak, going down 2-1 at the weekend to lowly Colorado. Vancouver conceded very early but didn’t waste too much time in bouncing back, Kekuta Manneh equalising in the twentieth minute. Upon conceding again in the second-half, Vancouver did little to test the Rapids and went flat away from home. They’ll be pleased to be back at BC Place Stadium but their form at the ground leaves much to be desired. Sporting Kansas City had a bye last weekend after thrashing FC Dallas 6-2 in US Open Cup action, Dom Dwyer scoring four in the rout. No other Sporting Kansas City player has ever scored as many in a single game in any competition. Kansas City are undefeated at their home ground this season but have seriously battled away from Sporting Park, recording only one win on the road. Vancouver are a strong, determined side in decent form and I can’t think of a reason not to back them at a valuable 11/10.  

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