Welcome to Matchday 3. This weekly article provides a preview of the weekend’s MLS action through a betting and fantasy lens. Before we get into this week’s picks, let’s recap last week.
Last week’s review
The wagers didn’t fall our way on Matchday 3. It was the first down week of the year.
We leaned heavily faded those teams in the midst of Concacaf Champions League ties. In most years, it is a sound decision. As Matthew Doyle with MLSsoccer.com noted this week, “MLS teams went 0W-4L-0D with no goals scored and -7 goal differential in their league games after the first round of CCL play last year. This year’s group went 3W-0L-2D with a +6 goal differential.”
Sometimes, expecting the expected is too much to ask from a league that thrives on chaos and unpredictability.
In total, we finished -2.14 units for the week. It brings our season total down to +0.68 units.
On to this week’s picks.
The Union hit the road
CF Montréal spent more time being shaken up than a snow globe this winter. The Impact’s departures, both among the coaching staff and players, have been well documented this offseason.
As many predicted, it has led to a slow start. The squad lacks an attacking bite and is leaky in the back. Montréal continues to play a ball-possessing style but runs out of clear ideas in the final third. According to American Soccer Analysis, they have also yielded the fourth-worst expected goals against (xGA). It is not a recipe for winning soccer.
In fairness, Montréal has played its first three matches on the road. They finally host their first match of the season this week. However, the schedule makers were not kind in setting the home opener. Montréal meets up with Philadelphia.
While the Union did play on Tuesday, a comfortable lead allowed for an early round of substitutions for Jim Curtin’s core cast of characters. Given the short night, I am not too concerned about fatigue.
Last season, the Union won 7 of their 17 road matches, and I think they’re well-positioned to get their first road win of the season against a less-than-threatening Montréal squad. It might not be the most thrilling match of the season, but it’ll be a chance for the Union to get their first away win of 2023.
Philadelphia Union Win (+170) 1.0 unit
Dallas gets the home dub
On Saturday, F.C. Dallas hosts Sporting Kansas City, a club still in search of its first goal of the year.
The lack of scoring is understandable; Peter Vermes still cannot call upon Johnny Russell or Gadi Kinda. Also missing has been Alan Pulido, as he returns from a devastating knee injury. This week may mark Pulido’s return, however, nothing more than a brief cameo should be expected.
The good news is that Sporting has yet to concede to start the year. That likely changes this week on the road against Dallas.
Los Torros went 10-4-3 at Toyota Stadium in 2022. While they did drop an opening-season clunker in Week 1 against Minnesota, they followed it up with an impressive 3-1 victory against the Galaxy. With a full complement of players, I expect Dallas to take care of business at home.
F.C. Dallas Win (-110) 1.0 Unit
Josef gets his first
Josef Martínez has yet to score for Inter Miami. Don’t expect that drought to last long. Martínez is the focal point of the Herons’ attack and will remain so this week, especially with Leo Campana missing.
Last week, Martínez nearly wrote his name on the scoresheet twice. He put the ball into the back of the net once, but the goal was disallowed due to an offside call. Martínez made a darting run in behind NYCFC’s backline, however, his timing was just off. Later, the Venezuelan fired off a shot inside the box from near the penalty spot. He is getting quality looks, it is now time to bury a chance.
On the other side, Toronto has conceded at least one goal in each of its first three matches. If there’s a goal in this game for Miami, I will take my chances that Josef is the one to find it to open his Inter Miami account.
Josef Martínez Anytime Goalscorer (+230) 1.0 unit
If I have to bet on Nashville…
Nashville travels to Foxborough, Massachusetts this weekend to take on the New England Revolution.
In the four meetings between the clubs, three have ended in draws. Beyond the history of cagey affairs between Gary Smith and Bruce Arena’s teams, the upcoming match is angling toward an even affair.
The Revolution will likely be without Carles Gil.
As Arena said himself, there really is no replacing the MLS MVP from two seasons ago. With their main creative force missing, I expect New England’s attack to rely more heavily on Brandon Bye and Dejuan Jones bombing up the flanks. I’m just not convinced that wide play from fullbacks is the key that unlocks Nashville’s defense.
Each team may find a goal, but I expect a low-scoring match. The “Under” does not provide the juice I am after. Therefore, I am betting on another draw between these two clubs.
Draw (+225) 1.0 unit
MLS Fantasy Tip of the Week
Last week required a bit of late scrambling. Portland’s Evander was carrying a previously undisclosed injury and did not start the match. We’ll have to wait a little while longer to see if he breaks out for the Timbers.
Our other pick, Luis Barraza, paid off handsomely. NYCFC’s goalkeeper kept a clean sheet and gained another $500,000 in value. At $5.6 million, Barraza remains undervalued as the first-choice starter for one of the better defensive squads in the league.
This week against D.C. United, the Pigeons have favorable odds of keeping another clean sheet. Given the value and opponent, Barraza will make another appearance on my roster this week.
Up top, I’m targeting Federico Bernadeschi (F / TOR / $10.1m). The Italian has been a goal machine since arriving in MLS. He has scored in 11 of his 16 matches, an absolutely unreal rate that makes him a safe fantasy play most weeks.
In Round 4, Bernadeschi and Toronto FC take on Inter Miami. The Herons have been solid defensively but lost defensive midfielder Gregore for a considerable length of time.
Gregore’s absence will be felt across Miami’s midfield and defensive structure.
A home match against a Gregore-less Miami provides Bernadeschi with favorable odds of a double-digit Week 4.
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