MLS Picks for Saturday, April 15th
We have eight games on the MLS schedule slated for Saturday, with several tasty matchups to watch for. The most intriguing game of the night is likely the last one on the schedule with the Portland Timbers hosting Sporting Kansas City.
Portland is likely the toughest environment on opponents, but KC bring a gritty, defensive-minded style into this one to try and thwart the Timbers’ high-octane attack. We’ve also got several intraconference showdowns that should be fun to watch along the way.
Here’s how Saturday’s MLS games will play out.
Moneyline: Atlanta +230, Montreal +150, Draw +255
The Impact are finally back in Montreal following a three-game road trip, but they’ll be up against it here. They may be without star man Ignacio Piatti for a third match running, and they’ll have to go up against one of the highest-scoring outfits in the league with Atlanta United coming to town.
Even with Piatti healthy, it’s not like the Impact were creating a deluge of goals. They have amassed just 3.47 expected goals through five games, which is the second-worst total in MLS to this point. They’ve taken just three points from their first five games, and they haven’t at all looked like the team that nearly made it all the way to the MLS Cup Final a season ago.
To be fair, just one of their previous five matches has come at home. They secured a 2-2 draw against Seattle in their lone home fixture, so perhaps some home cookin’ is all they need to turn things around. Piatti is officially listed as questionable with his hip/groin problem.
The goals haven’t come as easily over the last two games for Atlanta, but they still managed to fight out a couple of draws on the road against tough opponents in Seattle and Toronto. Josef Martinez, who has scored five goals in three games and taken a whopping 15 shots, has been sidelined in both draws and will be out again this week with a quad issue.
Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba have certainly picked up the slack with Martinez ailing. Villalba scored both ATL goals last week in Seattle, while Almiron has netted a pair and added three assists for the expansion side. They’re as formidable in front of goal as any team in the league already, and their 13 goals ranks second in the league behind only Portland.
Atlanta United present a unique challenge, but Montreal will be desperate to make some headway in light of their sluggish start. If Piatti is able to play, we like the Impact to eke out a draw in this spot. If he’s sidelined once again, give us Atlanta.
Moneyline: LA +205, Orlando +130, Draw +240
Here we have an inconsistent LA Galaxy side traveling to the opposite coast to take on an Orlando City club enjoying an excellent run of form at home. City is still unbeaten in three matches so far at their brand new park, and they’ve only played one road game thus far. The Galaxy, meanwhile, will be looking to build off an impressive win last week over the Impact.
Jermaine Jones opened his Galaxy account last week against Montreal, but Giovani Dos Santos is missing his goalscoring boots. The Mexican international hasn’t scored a goal since his penalty strike in the first game of the season against FC Dallas. He’s picked up just eight shots all year, three of which were on goal. LA underwent a series of changes during the offseason, so perhaps it’s a matter of his teammates getting acclimated to playing alongside him. The goals will come at some point.
The Lions keep chugging along without Kaka available. The Brazilian legend went down with a hamstring in the season opener. While he’s on the path to recovery, he hasn’t been seen on the pitch since. Cyle Larin has really come on strong as one of the game’s more exciting young talents, and he’s become the focal point of the Lions’ attack in the meantime.
The Galaxy finally seem to be rounding into form, but they’ll have a tough time finding their way through a City defense that has surrendered just three goals all season. Tough sledding for LA in this spot.
Moneyline: New England +260, Chicago EVEN, Draw +260
Two in-form Eastern Conference outfits will lock horns on Saturday evening at Toyota Park when the Chicago Fire host the New England Revolution. The Revs are coming off an impressive clean sheet victory over the high-flying Houston Dynamo, while the Fire held off the current East leaders Columbus Crew by a 1-0 margin last Saturday.
Chicago have suffered just one defeat at the hands of New England over the last 16 meetings. They’ve been enjoying success thanks to excellent play from the midfield trio of Dax McCarty, Juninho and Bastian Schweinsteiger. It took them some time to hit their stride, but the Fire are unbeaten in the last three games overall and look much improved from last season. Chicago are also unbeaten in six straight home matches.
New England has been feast-or-famine when it comes to home/road splits lately. The Revs have won just one of their last 13 matches away from Gillette Stadium, and they’re 0-2-1 this season on the road. Their nine goals through five games is a solid tally, but just two of those goals have come away from home.
We like the Fire to keep the hot streak going here at the expense of the Revolution.
Moneyline: DC +450, New York -170, Draw +305
DC United earned some sweet revenge at the hands of NYCFC last weekend, winning 2-1 after being thrashed 4-0 by the Blues just a few weeks prior. They’ll now turn their attention to the other New York area club and take on a Red Bulls side really struggling with their form. RBNY came into the season with realistic title hopes, yet they’ve gone just 2-3-1 over their first six games.
After netting 61 goals (second in the league) on their way to the No. 1 seed in the East last year, New York has only mustered five tallies so far this season, and two of those were own goals. They’ve been inconsistent with their formation, though they have fared better in a 4-3-2-1 look. One would imagine that’s what we’ll be seeing in this game.
They’ve been missing the boss presence in the midfield that Dax McCarty has long provided. Nobody has stepped up to fill the former captain’s shoes as of yet, which has certainly been instrumental in the team’s early struggles. Bradley Wright-Phillips isn’t getting much help in front of goal, which leaves the team as a whole rather punchless in attack.
On the other side we have a DC United side that look to be rounding into form. They were goalless through the first three games of the year, but they’ve now scored four over the last two matches. Their uptick in attack has corresponded with Luciano Acosta’s return from injury. He was instrumental in their win over NYCFC last week, and was properly rewarded with his first goal of the season.
Until we actually see that New York is capable of scoring goals in bunches again, it’s hard to pick them to start running wild. This should be a hotly contested affair that could really go either way. We’ll go with a draw here.
Moneyline: Toronto +215, Columbus +120, Draw +245
After securing just one point from their first two games of the season, the Crew have emerged as one of the stronger teams in the league. They subsequently reeled off three straight wins before a tough 1-0 defeat at Chicago last weekend, but they’ll look to bounce back this week at home against Toronto.
2017 has gotten off to a frustrating start for TFC, but they’re still unbeaten after five games. They’ve drawn four of them sandwiched around a 2-0 win over the Whitecaps back in mid-March. Sebastian Giovinco finally got onto the score sheet for the first time this season when he netted one last week in the 2-2 draw against Atlanta United.
Federico Higuain missed the Crew’s loss in Chicago, but he’s expected to be back on the pitch for this tilt with TFC. His absence last week forced a formation change for the first half last week for Columbus, but his re-insertion into the lineup means we should see their customary 3-5-2 look today.
Toronto is obviously a solid unit, but they won’t go unbeaten forever. The Crew will put them into the loss column for the first time in 2017.
Moneyline: Minnesota +400, Houston -170, Draw +335
MNUFC picked up a tough loss last week in Dallas despite playing fairly well. They stymied a potent FCD attack for most of the game and certainly had their chances on the other end. They were ultimately thwarted by an outstanding performance in goal from FCD’s Jesse Gonzalez, but the Loons look dangerous in attack for an expansion club.
The defense remains a work-in-progress, but there are signs of a turnaround. United have still conceded a league-worst 22 goals, but giving up four goals over the last two games combined actually marks improvement for them. They’ve already given up five or more goals in a game three times this season, and they’ll have their work cut out for them tonight against one of the league’s premier attacks.
Houston were held goalless for the first time all year last week in New England, but now they’re back home at BBVA Compass Stadium, where they’re a perfect 3-0-0 on the young campaign. Injured winger Romell Quioto is likely to return after missing the last several games, and his presence should help open things up for striker Erick Torres.
Torres has been in excellent form all season, as he’s bagged six goals through the first five contests. Vegas thinks there will be scoring in this one, and it’s hard to disagree. Hitting the over and taking the Dynamo is the clear play here.
Moneyline: Salt Lake +330, Colorado -115, Draw +240
On the heels of a chaotic start to the season, Real Salt Lake earned a much-needed victory when they thrashed Vancouver 3-0 in blizzard conditions last Saturday evening. They’re no longer dead-last in the league standings, but they still have much work to do if they hope to surge toward playoff contention. They’ll be facing a Colorado side (1-2-1) that has also seen its fair share of struggles in the early going.
Games between these two have always taken on a bit more importance with the Rocky Mountain Cup on the line. RSL has historically owned this rivalry, as they’ve won the season series eight times in 12 so far. RSL won two of the three showdowns between these sides last season, as well.
Designated Player Albert Rusnak enjoyed a breakout performance for his new club last week, as he scored his first goal and added two assists in the 3-0 triumph for Salt Lake. He and Yura Movsisyan, who has scored in three of his last four games, have the potential to form a deadly partnership in attack.
Scoring could prove difficult this week against a Rapids side that has been excellent defensively at home over the last couple of seasons. They’ve been more porous thus far in 2017, though, and their lackluster attack hasn’t done them any favors. We’re still waiting on Shkelzen Gashi, who scored nine goals last season, to find the back of the net for the first time this year.
If RSL can look like the team we saw last week on a more consistent basis, they should be able to put their ragged start behind them in short order.
Moneyline: Kansas City +305, Portland -115, Draw +255
We’ve got a fun one to close out the night between a pair of Western Conference powerhouses. First-place Portland will look to continue their dominant run of form at home against a defensive-minded Sporting KC side. The Timbers have the best record in the league at 4-1-1 in the early stages, while KC is unbeaten at 2-0-3.
Portland’s daunting attack starts with Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri, who have each been rampaging through teams early on. Both players have already scored five times in 2017 through just six games in leading the Timbers to a league-best 16 goals thus far. The Timbers came back from 1-0 down to beat Philly 3-1 on the road last week for their second away win of the season.
KC have gotten to where they are thanks to a stingy defense that has been keeping opponents out of the net so far. Sporting have allowed just two goals all season to this point and they’re coming off a solid 3-1 triumph over Colorado at home. Dom Dwyer opened his account for the season in that one, though the team has still scored just five goals through five games.
The Timbers aren’t exactly sturdy in defense – they’ve allowed eight goals – but when you score at the rate they have been that hardly matters. Something has to give in this strength-on-strength showdown, but we have to give Portland the slight edge in their home park. They have racked up 15 wins in their last 21 outings at Providence Park, and haven’t lost in their last eight home fixtures.