Welcome to Matchday 14. This weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) article previews the weekend’s MLS action through a betting and fantasy lens. Before we get into this weekend’s picks, let’s recap our Wednesday results.
With a full slate of midweek games, we went 2 for 4 on our picks. A garbage-time goal from Inter Miami sank our Nashville SC shutout selection. I am not sure who was more steamed about the late goal, me or Gary Smith.
As a result, we finished in the red with – 0.59 units, mainly due to the 1.5-unit bet on Philadelphia. Overall, we keep floating just under the break-even line at – 2.12 units.
On to this weekend’s picks…
D.C. United v. LA Galaxy
The MLS schedule makers did the Galaxy no favors in setting their schedule. While everyone is struggling through fixture congestion, Greg Vanney’s crew was handed an especially difficult run of matches. A Sunday game to start the week has been followed by a cross-country trip immediately to Columbus and now the nation’s capital. Saturday at Audi Field will be Los Angeles’ third game in six days with over 2,000 miles of travel.
It is a difficult stretch for a club that has had a difficult start to the 2023 season. Away from home, the Galaxy have managed just two draws in six matches, with no wins.
On the other hand, D.C. United appears to have turned a corner. After a three-match winning streak, United largely stood toe-to-toe with three of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. A one-goal loss at Cincinnati, a home draw with Nashville, and a draw on the road at Philadelphia on Wednesday. Part of D.C.’s success in stopping the Union was limiting the impact that Daniel Gazdag could exert on the match.
A similar focus on Ricky Puig should shut down the Galaxy’s attack.
While there have been no wins in D.C.’s last three matches, the play against higher-tier opponents does provide an indication that D.C. should be expected to win at home against the Western Conference bottom dwellers.
Moreover, plus money odds at home is a betting line that continues to overvalue the Galaxy and undersell an improved D.C. United side.
D.C. United Win (+105) 1.0 unit
St. Louis CITY v. Sporting Kansas City
After a blistering start to their MLS life, St. Louis CITY SC has crashed back to earth. CITY has managed just one win in their last five matches. It is a humbling return to the struggles that often constitute life as an expansion club.
Part of CITY’s struggles has been dealing with teams adapting to their energy-drink brand of soccer. As opponents have adjusted by sitting deeper to force St. Louis to beat them with the ball, Bradley Carnell’s squad has failed to find the incisive attacking patterns necessary to carve up chances. That makes sense. Attacking chemistry is usually the last thing to develop between a squad of entirely new players.
This week, St. Louis may have help on the way. DP striker Klauss appears set to return, even if only in limited action.
More importantly, CITY comes into the match with a significant rest advantage. Unlike most teams, St. Louis did not play a match on Wednesday.
Sporting Kansas City, on the other hand, is coming off emotional results away to both Seattle and LAFC sandwiching an emphatic 3-0 home win against hapless Minnesota United. The trio of results has certainly turned down the temperature on Peter Vermes’ hot seat. It helps that he has finally had his full array of attacking talent at his disposal. It shows and SKC finally looks like the team from the second half of 2022 that made Sporting a trendy pick for a top 4 finish in 2023.
During the long slog of an MLS season, adequate rest and the all-important xDAWG can make all the difference. We know St. Louis CITY has the rest advantage, but they also seem to be bringing the emotional energy with them to Saturday night.
St. Louis CITY Win (+100) 1.0 unit
Valair Shabilla is back for another pick this weekend. Take it away Valair!
Valair: We are in business, baby! After the success of my debut pick, I considered retirement at 100% winning rate, but finally decided to come back because Chris asked nicely. Anyway, I am taking Austin FC v. Toronto FC.
This is shaping up to be one of the worst games this weekend, both teams have had disappointing starts to their season, to say the least. For Toronto, despite having the highest salary bill, they are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference. They’ve failed to score in their last three MLS matches and have lost the last four in all competitions, including two losses to their biggest rivals, CF Montréal. Injuries and lack of depth in defensive positions have forced the Reds to play the likes of Mark-Anthony Kaye and Richie Laryea out of position. Being a top-heavy team hasn’t helped either. With only two wins in 13 MLS matches and zero wins on the road, it’s hard to see this Toronto team getting a result against Austin.
Speaking of Austin, they’ve been terrible as well. Every passing week, MLS fans are reminded that 2022 Austin might’ve been just a fluke. Similar to Toronto, injuries and lack of depth at the back have affected their season tremendously. They are averaging 1.08 points per game, which is not good. However, thanks to the new playoffs format, they are only one point below the line. There you go Austin fans, here’s your glass half full.
Despite all their shortcomings, Austin were able to flip things around midweek and win a massive away game at Seattle. A few weeks ago we saw Sporting KC use their win at Seattle as a catalyst to right the ship. I would not be surprised if Austin did the same on Saturday. Playing at home against one of the worst teams in the league is the perfect way to build on a good result. Also, Gyasi Zardes getting what ended up being the winner in Seattle should be a great boost for the Verde and Black.
Austin Win (-105) 1.0 unit
If you are forcing me to bet on Nashville…
Last year, these two clubs met in Charlotte and the Crown laid a whooping on the Boys in Gold.
Charlotte took an early lead via Christian Fuchs and then added a second goal after the break. Hany Mukhtar clawed one back for Nashville from the penalty spot. As Nashville stretched for an equalizer, Charlotte added goals in the 89th and 90th+1 minutes to send the Queen City into delirium.
I remember it well having attended the match with several Charlotte friends celebrating around me.
Despite that match being seared into my memory, I would not expect a similar outcome – at least as it pertains to the late insurance goals. However, it would not surprise me at all to see another 2-1 type of scoreline play out.
While Nashville matches receive a bad rap as low-scoring affairs, that has not always been the case in recent weeks. Four of Nashville’s last six league matches have finished above the over/under of 2.5 goals.
For Charlotte, only three of their thirteen MLS matches this season have paid out an under 2.5 goals bet. With a shaky defense and a more than capable attack, the fireworks shoot off whenever this team takes the field – good or bad.
Over 2.5 goals (-120) 1.0 unit
MLS Fantasy Tip of the Week
No tips on the weekend as lineups are already set. My squad is off to a hot start, I hope you are feeling the same.
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