Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City
The Timbers went on an excellent nine game unbeaten run not so long ago, but have come back down to earth due to back to back defeats. An improved defence was one of the main reasons they managed to go nine without a loss, but it’s fragilities were exposed by LA Galaxy (1-2), and then last week the offense misfired against SKC (0-1). They have an immediate chance for revenge such is the quirky nature of MLS fixtures. I think it’s fair to say Portland deserved at least a draw last weekend in what was generally a close, tight game played in hot temperatures. They did at least win in midweek, although only thanks to a late goal in the NACL, a game in which they were strong favourites for. A local news source has claimed they are in a ‘scoring slump’ where chances simply aren’t being converted well enough. I think that’s a fair point for the last couple of weeks, but in general Portland have been one of the better offensive teams in MLS.
Due to a lot of player absences, perhaps it was a surprise that SKC managed to win last week. In general their home form has been excellent, winning their last five games at Sporting Park, most of them fairly comfortably. It seems they enjoy taking on teams in hot conditions, often getting into an early lead and not letting go. It’s been a different story on the road though where they’ve failed to win any of their last nine games, many of which have resulted in defeats. Sporting haven’t been helped by a lot of injuries this season and in recent times key players like Matt Besler (CB), Graham Zusi (AM), plus a few others have all been missing. The fitness levels of most of these guys are once again questionable. Of course, at least they’re used to life without them now but at some stage the coach would dearly love to be able to field his strongest XI.
Portland aren’t without injury concerns either – especially in defence. Old legend Nat Borchers is out for the rest of the season, whilst fullback Zarek Valentin is out with a bone bruise. Key man at the back Liam Ridgewell is rated doubtful here, whilst in defensive midfield Ben Zemanski is a confirmed absentee. Both teams missed a hatful of defensive players last week too, so I was surprised it only finished 1-0. The hot conditions in Kansas City didn’t help matters though, whilst Portland missed good chances to equalise. Usually, Timbers games are a hotbed for overs and both teams scoring. Unless they keep missing chances then I see no reason why this match won’t either. The strength of each side is going to be in attack due to defensive absences. I think we’ll see an end to end game, full of opportunities. Over 2.5 is an obvious pick @ a very generous price. I also think Portland are worth backing on a -0.25 handicap. SKC have such a poor away record they’ll probably find a way of losing this one as well.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendations: Portland Timbers -0.25 at 1.91 & Over 2.5 goals at 1.92
LA Galaxy v New York Red Bulls
The Galaxy managed to claim a 1-1 draw away at Seattle last week, perhaps in fortuitous circumstances. It’s fair to say they were second best for a lot of that contest and if the Sounders had taken their chances, could’ve been out of sight. LA are now seven games unbeaten, which includes four victories and they’re starting to get their season back on track following a difficult mid season slump. As per usual, Bruce Arena’s side have been very strong at home, yet to suffer defeat and winning 6/10 matches. The squad is in pretty good condition, although winger Gyasi Zardes is rated doubtful with injury. This wouldn’t be the biggest loss in the world though because Zardes hasn’t enjoyed the greatest of campaigns so far. Galaxy have a string of other quality players like Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane, all of whom can win a match on their own.
The Red Bulls are unbeaten in five games heading into this contest and managed to rescue a late draw at Chicago in their previous fixture thanks to a Bradley Wright Phillips goal. However, the worst news for New York was confirmed after the match when it was revealed key midfielder Dax McCarty is out for at least 6 weeks due to a fracture in his leg. Dax is one of the most underrated players in the whole league and is totally what makes the Red Bulls tick and purr in the middle of the park. His importance can’t be understated and this is a man capable of dominating any midfield. I’m sure his absence will be badly felt. The Red Bulls also have their usual string of defenders ruled out. It seems they can’t keep a settled backline for any prolonged period this season. New York are a good home team but pretty poor away. They’ve only won 1 out of 12 contests on the road this season, losing a whopping seven times! This will be a struggle for them on the West coast at a late hour.
LA Galaxy look a really big price here @ 2.05. They are one of the strongest home teams in the league and are facing one of the poorest road outfits. I think the only reason LA are such juicy odds is because of the visitors’ reputation. It’s a shame these two teams only meet once a year these days because it’s a heavyweight contest. But I truly believe Galaxy to be in a different class, especially here at the StubHub centre. New York are really going to miss McCarty and I could see the hosts physically imposing themselves on the game. Bruce Arena’s men haven’t been the most free scoring of late but this could be a game when they run riot a bit. The Red Bulls have a tendency to leave gaps at the back and could really struggle with circadian rhythms too. By the time this match finishes it’ll feel like well past midnight NYC time, so fatigue and mental tiredness could kick in. I like backing the Galaxy on the nose and also taking over 2.75 goals. This has the feel of a really open game but I’d say LA will ultimately come out on top fairly easily.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendations: LA Galaxy -0.5 at 2.05 & Over 2.75 goals at 2.01
Prices correct at time of writing.
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