MLS Picks for Friday April 14
We’ll start the weekend with a nice three-game slate of MLS action on Friday night. A couple of bottom-feeders in Philadelphia and Vancouver will try to turn things in the right direction against clubs (NYCFC, Seattle) with legitimate championship aspirations.
The nightcap will feature a pair of clubs that look like real contenders in the Western Conference with defending Supporters Shield champions FC Dallas heading to Avaya Stadium to take on a revamped San Jose side.
Here’s how we think the Friday night MLS schedule will play out.
The night kicks off with NYCFC traveling to Philly to take on a struggling Union side. You can catch this one on ESPN, if you so choose.
Philadelphia is one of two clubs still in search of their first victory in 2017. Their 0-3-2 mark is the very worst of all 22 teams in the league, and they blew an early 1-0 lead against Portland last week and eventually fell, 3-1. Head coach Jim Curtin has taken the brunt of the blame from the fanbase for the lackluster start, but plenty of this falls on the shoulders of the players, as well.
The Union have scored just five goals through five games and have conceded nine times, which is tied for the second-worst goal differential in MLS to this point.
Talent-laden NYCFC haven’t played poorly this season, but they haven’t consistently reached the heights many foresaw for them prior to the season. They certainly boast plenty of firepower, but it hasn’t been regularly translating into positive results. Just a few weeks removed from a 4-0 thrashing of DC United, the Blues were beaten last weekend by the same United side, 2-1.
Patrick Vieira tinkered with the formation against DC, opting for the 3-5-2 instead of the customary four at the back. Considering his club looked shaky with the new tactic, it wouldn’t be particularly surprising if he reverted back to the four-man back line for this one.
The Union will get into the win column at some point, and NYCFC has been rather lackluster away from Yankee Stadium. They’ve lost six of their last nine road matches in regular season play, and three straight. There’s certainly some logic to taking Philly in this spot, but the draw might be the most realistic outcome. Goals should be scored here, so hitting the over is likely the play.
Here we have our first Cascadia Cup match of the 2017 season between Seattle and Vancouver. The Whitecaps will be desperate to get their season on track, especially now that they’ve bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions League. Following their defeat at the hands of Liga MX side Tigers last week, the ‘Caps were crushed in a blizzardy Salt Lake City against RSL over the weekend, 3-0.
Vancouver didn’t run its usual 11 out there against RSL in light of the CCL match during the midweek, which certainly played a hand in the embarrassing loss. Six changes were made, and that lineup was never able to find any sort of rhythm. Vancouver should be putting a more competitive lineup out there in this one. Their 1-3-1 mark is now tied with Colorado and Minnesota for the worst record in the west, though they’ll have a chance to right the ship in this spot at home.
While they’ve had some injuries along the back line, the most concerning aspect of Seattle’s so-so start to 2017 has been the lack of firepower. With Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro in attack, there’s no reason this team can’t be among the league leaders in goals scored this season. However, they’ve found the back of the net just seven times through the first five matches.
Lodeiro struck against San Jose (the Sounders’ only goal in their last two matches), but Seattle were denied all three points when Chris Wondolowski equalized in stoppage time.
Despite playing on the road, we think the Sounders will control most of the possession and should dictate the tempo in this one. Lodeiro should be feeling good after scoring last weekend, and he’ll make it goals in back-to-back outings here in a narrow Seattle victory to give his side the early edge in Cascadia Cup play.
FCD is another side that have had to deal with CONCACAF Champions League obligations early in the season, but that hasn’t negatively affected their MLS form. Last season’s Supporters Shield winners are an unbeaten 3-0-1 so far and they’re coming off a relatively easy win over Minnesota United last weekend.
Dallas thrives in attack and has enough talent to overwhelm opponents in waves. Newcomer Cristian Colman has yet to score in MLS so far, but he’s looked right at home in the midst of FCD’s offensive arsenal. Homegrown youngster Kellyn Acosta appears primed for a breakout season. He’s already scored three times through four games and has also picked up an assist thus far.
The defense has really stood out, as well. Minnesota United put a whopping 13 shots up last week, but FCD earned a clean sheet on the shoulders of a standout individual performance from backup keeper Jesse Gonzalez. If he keeps performing at such a high level, it’s tough to imagine Gonzalez losing the No. 1 job. FCD have conceded just two goals so far this season, both of which came from the penalty spot.
On the flip side we have the Earthquakes, who look to be one of the league’s most improved sides. After scoring a league-worst 32 goals all of last season, San Jose has already bagged seven this season. They attempt a whopping 14 shots per game and average 53 percent of possession so far, so the goals should keep coming.
They’ve been particularly tough on their home ground, as they boast a 3-0-1 record this season at Avaya Stadium. With a tough schedule on the horizon (at New England, at Houston, at Minnesota, vs. Portland, at Colorado), the ‘Quakes need to make the most of their opportunities to defend the home turf.
This head-to-head series has been dominated by FCD in recent years. Dallas is an unbeaten 4-0-3 over the last seven meetings and has outscored the Quakes 11-3. FCD is the clear favorite in this spot, but the Earthquakes’ strong run of form at home has us thinking the teams will share the spoils.