New York Red Bulls v Vancouver Whitecaps
If, back at the start of the season someone had told me that Vancouver Whitecaps would be top of the Western Conference at the start of the season, I’d have presumed someone was having a joke with me! But the reality is with just three games left of the regular season they are the favorites to finish at the summit of the standings. I still personally have major doubts how far they can go in the playoffs. Vancouver is a real hit and miss team, capable of anything on the day and never seem to have a settled team. Coach Carl Robinson is a real tinkerer with selection, making him difficult to second guess. But with doubts surrounding his job heading into the season, he deserves some credit for turning things around. In many ways, this is a bonus game because whatever happens they would still be four points clear of the likes of Portland and Seattle who have played a game less.
The Red Bulls also look like being in the playoffs again, but this time they don’t appear to be entering them with much momentum. Jesse Marsch’s men are winless in eight games and have really limped over the line. They need one more win to secure the sixth spot, but they know they’ll face a difficult one leg away match somewhere like Atlanta United or even NYCFC. It’s difficult to see them going particularly deep in the postseason, but you have to be ‘in it to win it’ and the Red Bulls could still yet turn their season around. Winning this match would certainly help their cause because the pressure would be off their shoulders heading into the final two game stretch.
Both teams are affected by international absences heading into the fixture. It’s Vancouver who is probably affected more seriously, but they have a deep squad and have been used to plenty of rotation this season. It’s clear that most of the bookies still rate the Red Bulls highly because they are -1 Asian Handicap favorites in this fixture. Quite how trustable they remain to be seen because recent home draws with DC United and Philly don’t represent a great return. However, I do rate them at this stadium and both of those results can be explained to a degree. Vancouver has played a lot of home matches recently and this will be a tough trip to the Eastern Seaboard. They were somehow fortuitous winners at SKC last week but if New York takes their chances, I’ve got to side with the hosts. It feels like the match means more to them. So although it’s a slightly risky play I’ll take the hosts in this one.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: New York Red Bulls -1 at 2.070
Minnesota United v Sporting Kansas City
After a horrible start to life in MLS, Minnesota have become somewhat a respectable side of late. They will most than likely finish 9th in the Western Conference which is a good return considering the state they were in at the beginning of the year. The ‘Loons’ have shown a willingness to keep going right until the end of the season and have won 3 of their last 4 games, all of whom have been against teams you wouldn’t expect. The victory against Atlanta on the road midweek was especially impressive, everyone expected they’d easily get beaten. Manager Adrian Heath deserves plenty of credit for keeping everyone in such a positive mood and it really feels like they can carry some momentum into the start of next year. Local fans have taken to the team in MLS and home crowds are fairly passionate. They’ll probably come out in their numbers here.
It’s a big upcoming week for Sporting Kansas City. They first need to secure a playoff spot, but with two games in hand on the likes of Portland and Seattle, they’ll also be eying top spot in the West or a second-placed bye. In many ways, the pressure is already off the club this season because they’ve already won the US Open Cup. Whether or not this will affect them negatively going forward remains to be seen, No team has won the US Open Cup/MLS Cup double since 2005 and it always feels like champions of the former competition are too relaxed heading into the postseason. One bigger problem for SKC heading into this fixture is the huge loss of key international absences. Feilhaber, Besler, Zusi, Mustivar and Saad are all ruled out here.
I personally think Minnesota United is underrated here. Of course, they themselves have some international absences and played midweek in Atlanta which is a negative factor. But they are at home and because this is a ‘rivalry’ fixture shouldn’t lack for motivation. The core of the SKC team is ruled out and I could see them struggling here. I’m still not even sure how good SKC actually is, to be honest. Quite why they traded striker Dom Dwyer to Orlando mid-season I’m not sure. The big problem for Peter Vermes’ men continues to be converting chances and it severely affected them last week during the loss to Vancouver. I’m sure this will be their downfall in the playoffs, and it may well be their downfall in this fixture too. I’m backing Minnesota to avoid defeat. Taking them on a +0.5 Asian Handicap feels like the best way to go. All the pressure is on SKC and if offered a draw right now, they would probably accept it in all truth.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Minnesota United +0.5 at 1.940