Welcome to Matchday 9. This weekly article previews 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, we finished Matchday 8 essentially even (-0.05 unit). While we dropped a couple of bets, our larger play on the San Jose Earthquakes wiped away the losses elsewhere on our board.
This week, all the picks are for an even 1.0 unit. However, three of the four bets feature odds longer than +200. It has the potential to be a very profitable week across MLS.
On to the picks…
Sounders home dominance
Beginning in the Pacific Northwest, I really like Seattle’s matchup this week against Minnesota.
Yes, the Sounders conceded four goals to Portland last weekend. But after suffering from a devastating defeat to their arch rivals, you can expect Brian Schmetzer to use the loss to dial his team back in. It is not like the Sounders even played all that poorly. Seattle controlled the match until Dairon Asprilla’s bicycle kick goal.
At home, Seattle has dominated opponents a quarter of the way into the 2023 season. They have yet to concede a goal at Lumen Field, pitching four straight shutouts.
As for Minnesota, they deserve loads of praise for not allowing Emanuel Reynoso’s absence to sink their season. On the road, they have been able to sit deep, absorb pressure, and find attacking opportunities on the break.
However, that game model only works well when not chasing a lead. If they concede an early goal, Seattle can make life incredibly difficult for Minnesota.
This is a bit of a unique bet. It is basically a wager that Seattle will win via a shutout. Although, we add juice by eliminating any 4+ goal victories. A +165 line turns into a +210 line.
Multiple Correct Score 1:0, 2:0, or 3-0 (+210) 1.0 Unit
New York City clicking into gear
After a rough couple of weeks to start the season, New York City is finally clicking into gear. The band is back together with several key pieces having rejoined the squad since Week 1, and it shows.
The Pigeons carved Nashville apart on multiple occasions last week. Even if it did not always result in a goal, the movement and ball progression came via repeatable patterns of play that would make life difficult for any opponent.
New York City’s opponent is no pushover. FC Dallas is a respectable side with a proven ability to steal points on the road. However, the early-season schedule has flattered Los Toros.
Dallas’ only points against teams above the playoff line have come via a pair of draws to Vancouver and Portland. The Whitecaps and Timbers occupy 8th and 9th places, respectively – above the line only by virtue of this year’s playoff expansion.
With NYCFC playing better soccer and a unique home-pitch advantage, essentially even money odds are hard to pass up.
NYCFC Win (-105) 1.0 unit
St. Louis CITY keeps rolling
All lingering doubt about St. Louis CITY surely has now been erased. The 5-1 thumping of previously unbeaten FC Cincinnati opened eyes, mine included, once again.
Sure, there were extenuating circumstances such as the two-hour weather delay and missing attacking pieces for the visitors. Yet, those excuses still do not add up to a four-goal rout.
This St. Louis team is simply well-built and extremely well-coached. It shows each week.
While Colorado has played better since the return of Diego Rubio, St. Louis remains undervalued based on the continued on-field results.
Betting markets continue to punish St. Louis CITY as an expansion team. The implied probability of a 48.8% chance of a Colorado home win means that the betting markets see these two clubs as relatively even on a neutral field.
Based on actual play through a quarter of the season, there is no evidence to suggest that Colorado is anywhere close to St. Louis’ quality. Until the books catch up, St. Louis will continue to be an attractive play.
St. Louis CITY Win (+230) 1.0 unit
If you are forcing me to bet on Nashville…
It’s no secret that Nashville has its work cut out for it against LAFC. Despite competing on multiple fronts, LAFC continues to prove that they are top of the class in MLS.
The last time these two clubs met, Nashville captured a 1-0 win in Los Angeles. It took a heroic performance from Joe Willis to keep a clean sheet. He made 13 saves from a barrage of shots that generated 3.6 Post-Shot Expected Goals.
While it’s doubtful that LAFC will dominate to such a degree once again, they unquestionably have the firepower to test Nashville’s defense.
Ultimately, the Boys in Gold may have the schedule makers to thank. The match comes sandwiched between an emotional El Tráfico and a Concacaf Champions League semifinal against Philadelphia. A distracted LAFC screams a draw in a match where both sides will look to manage the affair.
Draw (+230) 1.0 unit
MLS Fantasy Tip of the Week
It is a rough fantasy board this week. Rather than highlighting a specific player, my tip of the week is a stat to watch for.
When looking for defenders, I am, of course, keeping an eye on clean sheet probabilities. However, there is one more category that I always check for – shot attempts.
While this does not seem like an important category for a defender, a goal scored by a defender is worth a whopping six points. Even if no clean sheet bonus is obtained, a goal scored often leads to a double-digit outing.
This strategy paid off for me last week as Maxime Chanot wrote his name on the scoresheet. Even though NYCFC did not manage a clean sheet, Chanot, the target and scorer of a set-piece goal, finished with 13 fantasy points.
To find goal-scoring potential, you need to either target marauding wingbacks or center backs that serve as the primary set-piece target. I’ll focus on the latter.
Shot attempts are an excellent place to start. These are the shot leaders among center backs in 2023.
With a home match creating higher clean sheet probabilities, Jakob Glesnes ($7.6m – PHI), Jack Elliott ($8.0m – PHI), Walker Zimmerman ($10.2m – NSH), Juan José Purata ($7.5m), and Yeimar Gómez ($8.3m – SEA) are selections worth considering.
Outside the top 15, you can also target other center backs with home matches who also serve as set-piece target men such as Matt Miazga ($9.6m – CIN), Maxime Chanot ($7.2m – NYC), Robin Jansson ($6.1m – ORL), Ethan Bartlow ($7.1m – HOU), and Justen Glad ($6.8m – RSL).
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