WITH the play-offs on the horizon, Will Dyer (@w2Dyer) takes a look at this midweek’s MLS games.
Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls | Thursday 00:00 | Sky Sports 2
Despite being top of the tree in the Eastern Conference there are some niggling doubts looming around NYRB. For starters they were hammered 5-2 at the Red Bull Arena by new franchise Orlando City. Indeed Orlando have a few star players and they are in form but I can’t recall a result as embarrassing as that for the Red Bulls in New Jersey.
Then there’s the last game in which I tweeted my hankering for the Montreal away win. I believe that would have come in if Impact hadn’t been playing with 10 men for 75 minutes. NYRB didn’t take their chances and Montreal found a way back into the game. A team with a more resolute style and better game management would never have let that happen.
Now NYRB travel to BMO Field. Toronto have rattled in 32 goals in 15 games there this season and more importantly they’ve won all of their last three home games scoring three goals in every one of them. They started the season with seven straight away games and now they’ve got the reverse.
Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore miss out due to international duty but Michael Bradley has been given the all clear to return by USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. However, NYRB have their own problems losing Lloyd Sam and Karl Ouimette to internationals, Anatole Abang and Chris Duvall to injury and Matt Miazga to a suspension.
New York have pretty much won the Conference being six points clear and holding a game in hand over DC, New England and Columbus Crew, their closest challengers. Indeed if Toronto win their last three and New York lose their last three the Canadians would win the East by one point; but that’s highly unlikely to happen with Red Bulls playing Union and Fire (the bottom two) in their last two games.
For that reason I’m expecting a lacklustre game from Jesse March’s men whilst the hosts still have it all to play for in terms of seeding and aren’t guaranteed a play-off spot just yet. NYRB are the best away side in the Conference but they’ve shown signs of weakness lately so I’m surprised to see Toronto available at 7/5. 6/4 was available earlier in the week but that’s long gone.
It will be tough with 33 of their 55 goals this season missing in Altidore and Giovinco but veteran Hercules Gomez will be desperate to shine and I’m happy to back teams chasing play-off spots at this stage of the season.
FC Dallas v Vancouver Whitecaps | Thursday 02:00
It’s tight at the top of the Western Conference. Dallas come into this as league leaders but LA are level with them on 51 and their opposition for the second time in a week, the Whitecaps, are just one point behind.
The reverse of this fixture ended 0-0 at BC Place last weekend in a match devoid of quality. Just the six shots on target in the whole match and I think that represents just how cagey the race for the Supporter’s Shield is.
Both teams play a 4-2-3-1 formation which evidently cancels one another out. Defensive cover is a priority for both managers so I have reason to believe this match up will go Under 2.5 goals for the third time this season.
Vancouver have the joint best defensive record in MLS. 10 of the Whitecaps 16 away games this season have seen fewer than three goals and they have the best away record in the West so I feel they won’t get trounced for the seventh consecutive time in Dallas.
Vancouver are likely to be without Pedro Morales, Mauro Rosales and Cristian Techera; a good chunk of their creative players. Whilst Fabian Castillo is on duty with Colombia; he’s the Texans top scorer this season.
MLS has been so high scoring in recent months that opposing goals has become a potentially lucrative strategy and that’s what I’m doing here. Under 2.5 is Even money with BetVictor, in any other division it would be 4/5 under these circumstances.
Real Salt Lake v Portland Timbers | Thursday 02:30 | Sky Sports 2
Real are a handy team at home in Salt Lake City but they’ve won less than half of their home games this season in a year of compounding struggles for Jeff Cassar’s team which could see RSL miss out on a post-season for the first time in eight years. They sit ninth at present and do have three games remaining but they are against Seattle, Dallas and Portland, not easy.
RSL have not beaten Portland in any of the last four league meetings. They’ve struggled since losing Alvaro Saborio and have the second worst defensive record in the league. Portland won 1-0 in Utah back in August and with play-off concerns of their own they’ll certainly be on the ball here. The CONCACAF Champions League games are another distraction for Salt Lake at this time of year.
RSL have played six games in the last 29 days compared to Portland’s four in 34 days. Timbers lost last time out to Sporting Kansas City but they deserved at least a point from the game.
Fanendo Adi had a brace in his last road game and Portland are W12 D3 L9 in games directly following a defeat, five of those wins coming this season.
I think the Oregon side avoid defeat here and put a dampener on Real’s play-off hopes and Kyle Beckerman’s joint-record 378th MLS appearance. They look a nice price to me at 3/4 Bet365 in the double chance market.
Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls – Toronto FC to win (7/5 Bet365)
FC Dallas v Vancouver Whitecaps – Under 2.5 Goals (Evens BetVictor)
Real Salt Lake v Portland Timbers – Portland Timbers Double Chance (3/4 Bet365)
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