New York Red Bulls v Portland Timbers

The New York Red Bulls make their MLS season debut at the weekend in what looks set to be an exciting clash against the Portland Timbers. The Red Bulls shouldn’t be lacking for any match sharpness though because they have already played three competitive NACL fixtures in 2018. In that competition, things are going very well for the club. They won on Tuesday night away against Mexican club Tijuana 2-0 and that really sets them up nicely for the second leg which comes just a few days after this clash. I would say right now they will be prioritizing the NACL, although shouldn’t be ditching any effort in this MLS seasonal home opener. There are some people who would say there’s a chance these two teams could match up together in the MLS Cup final at the end of the campaign.

For that to happen though, the Timbers are going to have to defend a hell of a lot better than they did against LA Galaxy last week. Portland conceded far too many big chances and their fullbacks Farfan and Powell were especially poor. First choice defender on the left-hand side Vytas has been injured and is once again doubtful here. They need him to return quickly. In an ideal world key lynchpin in the middle of the park, Diego Chara would also return to action sharpish as well, they really missed him. This match might come one week too early for both though. Despite poor defensive efforts last week, I don’t expect the tactics or attitude of Portland to change. Their new coach Giovanni Savarese is a renowned attack-minded manager and anyway, it would be foolish to go away from the strength of the team which is in the final third of the field.

What really caught my eye in the NACL is how ‘frantic’ the Red Bulls have been. They managed to keep a clean sheet in midweek, but only thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Luis Robles who was easily man of the match. Robles has actually looked generally sharp in 2018 so far, but I have seen it before where a goalkeeper struggles to repeat a heroic performance and ends up conceding in forthcoming games. Maybe that could happen here and he will definitely be tested by a Timbers attack force that contains the likes of Adi, Valeri, Blanco, and Armenteros. The Red Bulls are -0.25 Asian Handicap favorites here, which doesn’t look a bad price in fairness. But if they are affected by the NACL matches then it could be dangerous to back them. I just think the obvious bet is over 2.75 goals. Neither team is particularly disciplined and formation wise both can be all over the place at times. I see this being a very open game of football, full of chances and hopefully at very least three goals will be scored.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.75 goals at 2.080

Atlanta United v DC United

There were a number of shocks last week in MLS but perhaps the biggest was Atlanta getting absolutely thumped 4-0 by Houston. The most concerning thing for fans was that if 9 or 10 goals were conceded, they couldn’t have had any complaints. Despite costing them one goal with a mistake, goalkeeper Brad Guzan was probably their best player. That is how bad Atlanta was; they totally stunk up the place in all areas of the park. Obviously, this was embarrassing stuff for a team priced up as pre-season favorites to win the MLS Cup. One swallow doesn’t make a summer though, and neither does one bad performance mean a terrible season is upcoming. Atlanta is loaded with quality and will be aiming to bounce back as quickly as possible, starting against their ‘bogey’ team DC United this weekend.

The visitors endured a terrible 2017, racking up a measly 32 points. Yet somewhat astonishingly, they actually beat Atlanta three times! How on earth was this possible you might ask?! It simply didn’t make sense how they managed to achieve such a feat, but Ben Olson’s men will have the same opportunity again this year as the two teams will be meeting three times once more. If you look at things in more detail though, there was no real secret. They were just incredibly lucky to win 3-1 in Atlanta, whilst the DC United pitch never suited the Georgia outfit in the other two affairs. On paper, Gerardo Martino’s men are much the better outfit and I would expect them to assert their authority on this game, putting to bed the nightmare of last weekend. DC United for their part didn’t look too bad against Orlando in their season opener (1-1), but played poorly against ten men in the second half, ultimately slipping to a draw by conceding late.

Atlanta United are -1 Asian Handicap favorites here and I wouldn’t want to put anyone off taking the hosts. I think they will claim a comfortable win. However, last week was a worrying performance defensively so I could see why some people might be dubious about backing them. This is an entirely different fixture and last week they were playing one of the very best home teams in the whole of MLS. The Atlanta attack of Almiron, Martinez, Villalba, and Gressel all lacked clinicality last week, but I would expect them to be much sharper here. DC United should carry some sort of a threat, but Atlanta usually boss possession at home so much, their strikers could be feeding off scraps. I think the best bet is over 2.75 goals. In my mind, the goal line here should be at least 3, or even higher. Atlanta is very capable of covering this line all by themselves but there’s every chance DCU might chip in with a goal somewhere. It should be a very open fixture full of chances and goals.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.75 goals at 1.90

By @Meatmansoccer

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