March 23, 2018

MLS Asian Handicap Previews – Saturday 24th March

New York Red Bulls v Minnesota United

The Red Bulls suffered their first defeat of the season last week when they went down 0-1 at RSL. Perhaps this was a culmination of a hectic schedule and finally their player rotation policy caught up with them. It’s understandable why Jesse Marsch has been trying to keep his players fresh, especially after all of their NACL matches. However, if you consistently field second string XIs in MLS, then it will eventually bite you in the ass. The big positive for the Red Bulls have been their performances though. Despite fielding under-strength sides in both of their MLS games so far this season, I would say it’s fair comment that they were the always the better team on the field. They demolished Portland 4-0 and were perhaps unlucky last week to run into a hot goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

If you had said preseason that after three games Minnesota would be second in the Western Conference, most people would’ve laughed in your face. All the talk heading into the campaign was one of doom and gloom for the ‘Loons’ but they have surprisingly won back to back matches against Orlando and Chicago, and will now look to make it a hat-trick of victories facing Eastern Conference opposition. This will be their biggest test so far, but right now Adrian Heath’s men are in good form and clearly playing with some confidence. All this despite having to deal with a bunch of injuries, unregistered players and general issues which in theory should’ve hindered them badly. There is no pressure on this team though because everyone expects them to do so badly. I sense that everything is able to express themselves and play with freedom, which is helping their cause.

Both teams have a couple of international absences to worry about. The most notable for the Red Bulls is left back Kemar Lawrence, although he has yet to play a single minute in MLS this season anyway. The defensive duo for Minnesota, Boxall, and Calvo will both be missing meaning that some rookies might have to start at the back for The Loons. It’s no surprise to see NYRB -1.5 Asian Handicap favorites – and deservedly so. They are easily the better side and should have far too much for Minnesota. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they absolutely thumped Adrian Heath’s boys here. I can’t resist taking the Red Bulls in some form, although I will be conservative and back them on a -1.25 Asian Handicap instead. I’m also going to take over 3 goals. Minnesota has nothing to lose and is incapable of defending anyway. They have been offering some reasonable threat going forward this season and might be good enough to bag a goal at some stage. I’m expecting them to concede plenty at the other end as well though!

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: New York Red Bulls -1.25 at 1.775
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 3 goals at 1.820

Vancouver Whitecaps v LA Galaxy

Vancouver was perhaps lucky to win both of their opening fixtures, but then came flying back down to earth last weekend. They got battered 4-1 by Atlanta and they could’ve easily conceded more goals on another day. It’s true that the Caps went down to ten men relatively early, but it was a reminder how potentially fragile this team is. The general perception of the Whitecaps by statistical experts in the last 18 months is generally one of a fortuitous team. They rarely have much possession, and things like expected goals scored and conceded are regularly unbalanced when they are involved. Basically, they often overachieve compared to what is expected, and a number of analysts do not believe this is sustainable in the long run. My personal opinion of Carl Robinson’s men is that they have an ability to defend strongly on occasion, whilst maintaining decent counter-attacking threat. They probably deserve a bit more respect, but I also agree a number of things do seem to go their way compared to some other sides.

LA Galaxy had a ‘bye’ in round three. This probably isn’t ideal at this early stage of the season when you want to be playing plenty of matches in order to grow into the new season. They have a win on the board after beating Portland in round one. However, a defeat to New York City FC exposed defensive weaknesses which were also there in the opener. I don’t like the makeup of this Galaxy backline. Ashley Cole is nearly finished at 37. He’s decent enough but now lacks pace and explosion, it might actually be an advantage he is suspended here. In the middle of defense, Michael Ciani is another slow coach who lacks technique, whilst new signing Jorgen Skjelvik isn’t a natural centre-back in my opinion. It’s a backline that contains far too many question marks and I expect it to be an Achilles heel all season.

Initially, when I saw that Vancouver were -0.75 Asian Handicap favorites I was very confused here. In terms of raw power rankings and strength, I’d say both sides can be ranked fairly evenly. Something like an even money price straight up would seem fairer on the hosts. But delving deeper then it’s clear that the Caps are once again fortunate in that they are facing LA Galaxy at a nice time. The visitors are missing a lot of players to either injury, suspension or international duty. It’s particularly concerning how weakened they are in attacking areas with the likes of Giovanni, Alessandrini, Kamara all set to miss out. Vancouver is missing its best defender Kendall Waston, but on this occasion, they should manage just fine. Key striker Kei Kamara is still doubtful with the injury, but should at least feature on the bench. I don’t particularly rate LA Galaxy very much anyway right now. But under the circumstances of the visitors missing so many players, backing the Whitecaps -0.75 seems like an obvious pick here.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Vancouver Whitecaps -0.75 at 1.800

By @Meatmansoccer

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