Welcome to Matchday 11. 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.
A week ago, we ended on a disappointing note. A stoppage-time Johnny Russell goal would have turned us a profit. Instead, the goal was disallowed due to offsides on a Sporting player in the keeper’s line of sight. There was zero chance the keeper was stopping the shot, the fizzing shot raced by the keeper before he was fully outstretched, but that is how it goes sometimes.
As a result, we finished – 1.85 units on the week. Overall, the loss dropped our season total down to -2.97 units.
On to this week’s picks…
Seattle Sounders v. Sporting Kansas City
For our first wager of the week, we are dipping back into the well on a selection that paid off a couple of weeks ago, a Sounders shutout victory.
Seattle has yet to concede at Lumen Field this season (five matches and five shutouts) and enters this match as the prohibitive favorite. Sounders sit on top of the Western Conference, while Sporting Kansas City has collected just three points on the season.
Last week, things went from bad to worse for Sporting as they failed to score at home against CF Montréal, the club with the worst defensive record in MLS.
Through ten games, SKC has only managed to score three goals. To be fair to Peter Vermes’ side, the underlying numbers (8.4 xG), as accumulated by American Soccer Analysis, suggest that they have been incredibly unlucky.
But the vibes are just plain bad right now.
If Sporting could not find the net at home against Montréal, I am certainly not banking on them breaking the spell away to Seattle.
Seattle to Win to Nil (+170) 1.0 unit
Toronto FC v. New England Revolution
Toronto is finally putting its pieces into place.
Lorenzo Insigne has returned from injury and made consecutive starts. Between him and star man Federico Bernardeschi, the club has added C.J. Sapong. While Sapong scored in his debut, the Reds will count on him more for his ability to play in and allow the aforementioned Italians to shine. Bringing out the best of that duo should help Toronto finally realize its potential.
That attacking trio should find plenty of opportunities to exploit New England this weekend.
The Revolution lost Dylan Borreo this week to a devastating knee injury. The young Columbian forward had taken a step forward this season as New England’s secondary chance creator alongside Carles Gil.
Without Borreo, New England will need others to shoulder the load, lest it all fall on Gil. I expect fullbacks DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye to partially fill that gap.
As Jones and Bye push forward in attack, it should play into Toronto’s hands by providing acres of space for Insigne and Bernardeschi to spark attacking sequences.
I see this as a 2-1 type of match. If you are of similar thinking, a Toronto Win + Both Teams to Score parlay could be of interest (+280). I, on the other hand, will keep it simple.
Toronto Win (+110) 1.0 unit
San Jose Earthquakes v. LAFC
While it does not carry the same weight as the Cali Clásico, this NorCal v. SoCal rivalry has seen some fiercely contested games. The series, on the whole, is five wins for San Jose and seven wins for LAFC. There have been no draws to date.
In recent meetings, the home team has dominated. The Earthquakes have defeated the Black and Gold in four-straight home matches. Despite LAFC’s quality, there is every reason to believe that the Quakes can make it five in a row.
Luchi Gonzalez has harnessed the club’s attacking talent as the Quakes are eighth in expected goals and stand fifth on the Western Conference table.
More so than anything, I get the sense that San Jose is coming into this match with a bit of extra edge. In the long slog of an MLS season, a team can find results with a little bit of extra “xDAWG”.
On the other side, LAFC will go down as one of the best teams in MLS history. They captured the domestic double last year and have now booked themselves a ticket to the Concacaf Champions League final. However, even the best teams lose games.
The Black and Gold amassed 67 points in a Supporters’ Shield winning season in 2022, yet they still lost 7 of their 17 away matches. Even in their record-setting 2019 campaign, LAFC suffered three losses and dropped points more often than not when on the road. This year, LAFC has managed only one road win, a 3-2 victory over their cross-town rivals where LAFC brought a massive road contingent.
Given MLS’s salary-cap structure, it is virtually impossible for any team to pull off an “Invincibles” type season. This is made all the more difficult when competing on multiple fronts.
LAFC played Tuesday night in CCL and will have another midweek match next week in the U.S. Open Cup. The games are coming hot and heavy. LAFC will only make it so long without slipping up.
This week, as much as any other, might be that week.
San Jose Win (+180) 1.0 unit
If you are forcing me to bet on Nashville…
The Chicago Fire is an easy team to overlook. They have not made the playoffs since 2017 and have been sputtering along as a club for the past decade.
However, the 2023 iteration of the Fire is a particularly prickly opponent. Through nine matches, Chicago has lost just twice while picking up five draws.
Like Gary Smith, Ezra Hendrickson stresses defensive solidity and making opponents break down an organized block. Hendrickson is more than happy to let the opponent control possession. However, it has not quite produced the same results as Chicago just fundamentally lacks the same defensive talent along its backline.
Instead, Chicago has been particularly adept this year in managing to find the scoresheet at least once. Opposing teams have shut out Chicago just twice this year. Even then, the Fire produced more expected goals than the opponent in those two matches.
The acquisition of hometown kid Chris Mueller provided a needed attacking punch, and the evergreen Kei Kamara continues to prove himself as a bonafide goalscorer.
Nashville will not make it easy on the visitors. As Ben Wright highlighted in his 10 Stats That Define Nashville SC’s First 10 Games, the Coyotes are currently on a record-setting pace for goals conceded in a season.
Despite Nashville’s dominant defense, I am not going to replicate our Seattle pick of a shutout victory. However, I do think the Coyotes secure a second-straight home win.
Nashville’s recent forrays into a high-pressing diamond give the team a means to goal-scoring opportunities beyond set pieces and counters, particularly against an opponent that will likely sit deeper than LAFC or Atlanta.
Furthermore, reinforcements are on their way.
Even if just making a cameo appearance off the bench, Randall Leal supplies a lift to the entire attack. That kind of creative spark can be invaluable if needing a late goal to find a winner.
Nashville to Win (-135) 1.0 unit
MLS Fantasy Tip of the Week
I try to steer away from chalk, but some weeks are just unavoidable. This is one of those weeks. Hany Mukhtar is an obvious high floor / high ceiling selection of the week to captain.
The last time Mukhtar faced the Fire at home, he broke an MLS record for the fastest hat trick. Now, you cannot expect him to replicate that feat. However, there are plenty of reasons to roster the German playmaker.
As my colleague, Ben Wright, pointed out early this week, Mukhtar is off to his best start through ten games in combined goals and assists.
With a home match against just a league-average defense, Mukhtar is an obvious pick as captain this week.
Please note that this article contains information related to sports betting wagers, which may not be legal or appropriate in all jurisdictions. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice.
Sports betting can be a fun and exciting form of entertainment, but it can also be addictive and lead to financial problems. If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction, help is available. In Tennessee, you can contact the Tennessee Red Line at 1-800-889-9789 for confidential and free support, resources, and referrals to professional services. The National Council on Problem Gambling operates a national gambling addiction helpline in the United States. The helpline can be reached at 1-800-522-4700, and it provides confidential help and support to individuals struggling with problem gambling.
We encourage our readers to bet responsibly and to only gamble with money that they can afford to lose. It is important to set limits on time and money spent on betting and to never chase losses. If you feel that your gambling is becoming a problem, seek help immediately.