MLS Picks for Saturday, April 1st

by Taylor Smith
on April 1, 2017

Saturday brings us a sizable seven-game MLS slate, though World Cup qualifiers may hamper some clubs this week. Several of the league’s big names were busy playing for their respective national teams over the last two weeks and may not re-join their MLS clubs until it’s too late to play this week.

Still, it looks like we have a fun day of soccer ahead, so let’s get it going. Here’s how Saturday’s MLS action will shake out.

NYCFC (-0.5)
VS
San Jose Earthquakes (+0.5)
Total: 2.5

Following a scintillating 2-0 start, the Earthquakes suffered their first setback of the new campaign two weeks ago at Kansas City. This will be the third all-time meeting between these clubs, and the Quakes are still looking to beat NYCFC for the first time.

New additions have been a huge part of San Jose’s promising start. Florian Jungwirth scored his first goal with the club against KC, while Danny Hoesen notched his first assist. The week prior, new signees Nick Lima and Jahmir Hyka added a goal and assist, respectively against Vancouver.

NYC will be playing its third consecutive home game after beginning the season on the road at Orlando. They walloped DC United 4-0 in the home opener before being held to a 1-1 draw by Montreal two weeks ago. Defending league MVP David Villa has found the back of the net twice on the season, as has new signing Rodney Wallace.

Wallace has been a revelation in attack on the wing for his new club, and his width and pace have added a fresh wrinkle to what was one of the most potent offenses in MLS last season.

As we say all the time, coming up with wins on the road in this league is extremely tough. NYCFC has one of the league’s best home field advantages, as the narrower pitch sometimes throws opponents out of whack.

The Quakes will make them work for it, but we like NYCFC to keep the train rolling this week.

Pick

NYCFC
3
San Jose
1
Chicago Fire (-0.5)
VS
Montreal Impact (+0.5)
Total: 2.5

The Fire formally introduced midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger during the week. The decorated German is expected to play a key role with Chicago going forward, and he will be available to play in this one. It’s doubtful he’ll start, but the midfield trio of he alongside Dax McCarty and Juninho gives the Fire plenty of experience in the middle of the pitch whenever all three are ready to roll at full strength.

Montreal, meanwhile, suffered a major blow when they learned that talisman Ignacio Piatti will miss the next few weeks after sustaining a groin/hip injury. That will be a big loss, especially given Montreal’s penchant for doing damage on the counter attack.

The Fire are coming off a whipping at the hands of Atlanta United that wasn’t helped by Johan Kappelhof being sent off early with a red card. Jonathan Campbell will fill in for the suspended Kappelhof along the back line following a promising rookie campaign.

Following a solid playoff run that nearly resulted in a berth in the MLS Cup, the Impact are still trying to find their footing this season. The loss of Piatti is huge, as there’s no clear replacement that can replicate the presence on the counter that the Italian provides.

There isn’t much by way of viable depth on this squad, which means we could see the first career start for 17-year-old Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla. Piatti’s absence could mean a formation change for Mauro Biello, though we’ll just have to wait and see.

Toyota Park should be packed with fans eager to see Schweinsteiger make his MLS debut this week, and the Fire just seem to be in better overall shape than the Impact do at this point. They should be able to pick up a win in this spot.

Pick

Chicago
2
Montreal
0
Columbus Crew (-0.5)
VS
Orlando City (+0.5)
Total: 3

Despite missing Brazilian star man Kaká, Orlando City have made it two wins out of two thus far. Canadian international Cyle Larin has really picked up the slack in Kaká’s absence, as he’s scored three times already and has put six shots on goal through the first two games.

Larin’s stellar play has sparked rumors that he could be headed for Europe sometime in the near future. Head coach Jason Kreis downplayed that talk, but the 21-year-old could be a hot commodity on the transfer market before too long.

On the other side, Columbus are coming off of a solid 2-0 victory over DC United two weeks ago and an impressive 3-2 triumph over Portland last week. Despite being held to just one goal in their lone loss of the season at Houston, the Crew look to have one of the most potent attacks in the league in the early stages.

Per MLSSoccer.com, the Crew are one of just two teams in MLS so far this season averaging more than two expected goals per game. Justin Meram has been right in the thick of things for Columbus, as he leads the league in expected goals per game at 1.87. While he’s scored just one actual goal this season, that number shows some positive regression should be coming his way.

Given these teams’ respective forms, it’s safe to say we’re going to get some goals in this one. In the end, though, they’ll share the spoils.

Pick

Columbus
2
Orlando City
2
DC United (-0.5)
VS
Philadelphia Union (+0.5)
Total: 2.5

It’s safe to say DC United haven’t gotten off to the kind of start they’d have hoped. DC has lost two of its first three games of the season and drew the other, and they’re still waiting to score their first goal of 2017. They’ve conceded six, with only Minnesota United posting a worse goal differential to this point.

It’s rather shocking considering this club finished the 2016 campaign as one of the league’s strongest attacks. They averaged over 2.5 goals per game over the final 13 games of last season and many figured the goals would keep coming this season. So far, the opposite has been the case.

They’ll look to finally find the back of the net against a team that hasn’t enjoyed much more success. The Union are also winless thus far, though they have two draws to just one defeat. They have had the look of a team interested in earning a draw rather than chasing all three points for much of the season.

On the road this week, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Philly take that same cautious approach. DC United have been rather impotent thus far, but they did get Luciano Acosta back from injury two weeks ago. Unfortunately, once Acosta came back, striker Patrick Mullins went down with an injury of his own.

This is the week United finally, mercifully get on the score sheet. Unfortunately for both clubs, they’ll have to wait at least one more week before earning that elusive first victory.

Pick

DC United
1
Philadelphia Union
1
Minnesota United (PICK +110)
VS
Real Salt Lake (PICK -135)
Total: 3

While Atlanta United have thrived as a goal-scoring machine, the opposite can be said for fellow expansion side Minnesota United. This team is on pace to shatter the league record for goals allowed. Most expected MNUFC to struggle in year one, but few could’ve expected it would be this ugly.

With a draw and three losses in their first four MLS games, Minnesota have scored six goals, which is fairly solid. Unfortunately, they’ve allowed a whopping 18 shots to find the back of the net, as well. They’ve already shifted formations several times, but nothing has been able to cure their defensive woes.

The midfield hasn’t been particularly helpful in defense, either. Coughing the ball up in unfortunate areas effectively leaves the defense and keeper hanging, and that has happened far too often.

Things haven’t been great on the other side of this game, either. RSL fired head coach Jeff Cassar back on March 20th after the club picked up just one point through its first three games of the season. They earned a scoreless draw last week under interim coach Daryl Shore, but RSL have still scored just once on the young season.

A date with Minnesota could be just what the doctor ordered for this goal-starved side. Minnesota has to win at some point (we think), but it isn’t happening this week.

Pick

Real Salt Lake
3
Minnesota United
1
Houston Dynamo (PICK -130)
VS
New York Red Bulls (PICK +105)
Total: 3

The Dynamo finally tasted defeat for the first time this season at the hands of Portland two weeks ago, but they remain much improved over last year’s impotent outfit. Unfortunately, they suffered a blow during the international break when Honduran Romell Quioto was injured in the team’s 6-0 defeat to the USA. He is questionable to play in this one with a shoulder injury. If he’s unable to play, Andrew Wenger may be in line to start.

It’s certainly a blow considering Quioto has scored in each of his first three games with his new club to this point.

Gonzalo Veron will miss this game for New York as he continues to heal from a hamstring problem, but the rest of the Red Bulls appear to be ready to roll. While they’ve still picked up at least a point in three of their four games thus far, it’s been a slow goal scoring start for New York.

They’ve found the back of the net just four times through the first four games, and two of those were own goals against Atlanta and Colorado. Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored just once, though he does have 13 shots, including five on goal.

This should be one of the more fun matchups of the weekend, especially if Quioto is able to rally and get into the game. New York will prove to be a tough test, but the Dynamo earn their third win in four here.

Pick

Houston
3
New York
2
Vancouver Whitecaps (PICK -150)
VS
LA Galaxy (PICK +125)
Total: 2.5

The nightcap gives us a pair of teams on the west coast. The Galaxy got into the win column for the first time this season two weeks ago by toppling Real Salt Lake, while the Whitecaps are winless with a pair of losses through three games.

The Galaxy were another team that suffered a loss during the break, as influtential midfielder Sebastian Lletget was lost with a foot injury. He is having to undergo surgery and will miss between four and six months. Lletget scored his first USA goal before being injured, and has started all three games for LA to this point this season.

They will get a boost, though, as former England international left back Ashley Cole is set to make his season debut in this one. He’s missed the first few games this season with a calf injury.

The Whitecaps have had problems with red cards. Goalkeeper David Ousted saw red in the team’s eventual 3-2 loss at San Jose three weeks ago, while defender Brek Shea did the same in the midst of the team’s 2-0 defeat against Toronto in the last game.

The ‘Caps were leading 2-0 at the time Ousted was ousted, while the game was scoreless in the second half at the time of Shea’s dismissal. They’ll have to keep their heads cool if they have any hopes of earning that first W of the season here.

Vancouver isn’t an easy place to play, but that team is seriously lacking form at the moment. The Galaxy go on the road for the second straight week and earn a point.

Pick

Vancouver
1
LA Galaxy
1
MONEYLINE
DECIMAL
FRACTIONAL
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