LA Galaxy v Atlanta United
West meets East in what is being billed as a heavyweight clash between two teams who have genuine MLS Cup aspirations this season. Both sides are currently second in their respective conferences and in the case of LA Galaxy, they’ve recently been inspired by the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He helped them come from behind to beat local rivals LAFC 4-3, and then scored the only goal of the game vs Chicago last week. Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan is one of the better custodians in MLS, but he’ll have his hands full here. Zlatan likes to test the opposition from distance, often catching out unaware keepers.
Atlanta is definitely the real deal and won four straight games after their freak 4-0 horror show on the opening day at Houston. But it was interesting to see them (for once) pushed by New York City FC last week. It’s not very often that a team comes to Atlanta and competes really well, but NYC did exactly that. Everyone knows the great strengths that United have in attack with the likes of Almiron, Martinez etc, but at the back, they can be vulnerable if pressurized. As it happens, centre back LG Pirez had one of his better performances in an Atlanta shirt last week, but he can be dodgy and prone to the odd error. If the team loses its shape then all sorts of trouble can develop.
This is an interesting match because I can’t help but feel LA Galaxy is the most overrated team in MLS right now, mostly because of the Zlatan effect. But they do have a bunch of strong attacking options and this is their main strength. In some ways, Atlanta is also perhaps overrated though, and Galaxy as -0.25 Asian Handicap favorite is probably quite fair for this fixture. In terms of match outcome, nothing would surprise me too much and it’s a difficult market to bet in. I do like the overs though. Atlanta is usually an over machine and will only defend stoutly in unusual circumstances, like when they were down to ten men at Minnesota. There are simply too many good attacking players on show here for goals not to be scored. It could develop into a frantic affair in which two juggernauts try and outscore each other, so over 3 goals is definitely my preferred selection.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 3 goals at 2.030
Portland Timbers v New York City FC
For quite some time now, I have considered New York City FC as the best away side in MLS. Patrick Vieira has them perfectly set up for playing on the road and their results demonstrate this ability. Their 2-2 draw in Atlanta last week only went and reinforced such strong away credentials and it was the closest I have seen anyone push Atlanta in Georgia for quite some time, if not ever. NYC has great balance in their team but fundamentally, an ability to control the game is the key to their success. They have some great technical players on the ball who are excellent in possession and transition. Here they travel to another difficult location, but they always relish any road trip.
Portland could be vulnerable, despite picking up their first victory of the season against Minnesota last week. It would’ve been a relief for new manager Giovanni Savarese to notch up three points, but once again their deficiencies reared up an ugly head. From a defensive point of view, the Timbers are atrocious at times, regularly making key mistakes which are costing goals. Fortunately, they have the ability to rely on a strong attack if needed and they always have goals in them. But I am personally not convinced all is well within the camp. It’s fine beating someone bad like Minnesota United, but this is a completely different kettle of fish. Portland will be severely tested and I have to wonder if they’ll be able to survive such a strong assault.
It’s interesting to note that these teams have met just three times in MLS history, and on each occasion, the away team has won. This is unusual because away wins tend to have quite a lower % in America. However, perhaps it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Both have always been strong on the counter-attack and this should serve NYC well again this weekend. They are worth a nibble on a +0.25 Asian Handicap and quite simply they are the better team right now who should be able to avoid defeat. Another bet I like is over 3 goals. As aforementioned, the Timbers have a leaky defense, whilst on the road NYC has yet to keep a clean sheet, conceding 5 goals in 3 fixtures. This should be an entertaining sort of end-to-end clash in which the visitors could win something like 3-1 or 3-2.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: New York City FC 0.25 at 1.920
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 3 goals at 1.980