MLS fan Ben Levene (@BenLevene96) is excited for the start of the new season and here he offers his ante-post pick!
2018 MLS Season | 2018 | Sky Sports
Hudson A Key To Success?
Back in November 2017, New Zealand narrowly missed out on a World Cup spot after losing the second leg of their play-off against Peru 2-0 following a 0-0 draw in Wellington.
Shortly after, manager Anthony Hudson announced his resignation. New Zealand Football’s chief executive Andy Martin described Hudson as one of the best coaches New Zealand has had, and stated he’d brought a professionalism the national had never seen before.
This was a view shared by his players too. After a group stage elimination at the 2017 Confederations Cup, Winston Reid and Ryan Thomas praised the constant improvements made by the squad under Hudson.
At the age of 36, Hudson has already gained a wealth of managerial experience that shouldn’t be underestimated. After a disappointing spell in charge of Newport, the Englishman took charge of Bahrain’s U23 side in 2012.
He spent time studying the likes of Jose Mourinho and Marcelo Bielsa in Spain, and later spent time learning from the All Blacks’ Rugby side. By 2013 he was managing the Bahrain senior side, and his success saw him take charge of New Zealand in 2014.
Now in charge of Colorado Rapids, Hudson has the opportunity to continue his work in the MLS.
Last season I backed Atlanta United at 100/1 ante-post after being impressed with the appointment of ex-Barcelona boss Tato Martina, and the calibre of player they were brining in. Atlanta were ultimately eliminated on penalties in the knockout rounds to Columbus Crew. Although they didn’t win, Atlanta outperformed their odds and I feel we can apply similar logic here.
Colorado have built on their existing core, and shrewdly added talent at the peak of their powers. Hudson has turned to England and brought in the likes of Danny Wilson, Tommy Smith, Jack Price and most recently Joe Mason, all of whom could easily still ply their trade in the Football League.
They’ve also added Kip Colvey and Deklan Wynne, two defenders he gave debuts to during his time at New Zealand. Colorado lost 2-0 on aggregate last week to MLS holders Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League. They drew 0-0 in the recent away leg and Hudson was more than pleased with the progress that has been made in the small time his squad have had together.
Last season Colorado finished second from bottom in the Western Conference, a fair 33-points behind Toronto who topped the overall table by 12 points. A clean sheet against the champions represents great progress for a side who kept just six clean sheets in 38 games in all competitions last season. The won 2-0 away at Phoenix Rising in the Desert Diamond Cup last month, a side who have found the net against Sporting Kansas and beaten New York Red Bulls.
Road To The Final
Six-teams progress from each conference to the knockout phase, and from there it’s a series of tricky two-legged affairs.
Crucially, an Eastern Conference side cannot meet a Western Conference side in the play-offs until the final. This is especially significant when you consider Toronto and Atlanta are the two-favourites in the betting, yet both compete in the Eastern Conference.
Moreover, with the USA missing out on the World Cup, the MLS takes just a nine-day break, meaning players involved will likely miss league games. With a big South American presence, the likes of Portland Timbers in the Western Conference could be greatly affected
At 66/1 the Rapids represent value. Hudson has the pedigree and tools at his disposal to succeed, and they seem overpriced. Over the course of a 34-game group phase which runs from March until October, there is scope for things to click.
MLS Winners 2018 – Colorado Rapids each-way 66/1 (Bet 365)