FC Dallas…oh, FC Dallas. We need to sit down and have a long conversation about how to close out a game. We were this close to nailing our +270 pick last weekend in a Texas Derby between Austin FC and FC Dallas. By the time the 68th minute rolled around, Dallas was up 2-0. Great. Wonderful. That took care of our goals qualifier. All that was left was for Dallas to not blow a 2-0 lead.
Well, uh, they blew it. Austin came back and tied the game at 2-2, which means we lost money last week (only like four bucks) for the first time in this column’s history. It’s time to get back on the right track, people. Let’s make it happen.
Here are my three picks for this weekend’s MLS action.
LAFC AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Bet: LAFC to win
Okay, so I know that home field advantage is very, very real in MLS. I also know that Canadian MLS teams have a really strong home field advantage when teams from the U.S. cross the border and come to town. I know both of those things. But I’m still picking a pair of MLS teams from the U.S. to win on their trips up to Canada this weekend.
Up first: LAFC playing in Vancouver against the Whitecaps.
Vancouver didn’t play in the middle of the week, which is an advantage. They’ll be well rested compared to LAFC, who beat FC Dallas 3-1 on Wednesday evening. Even so, the gap in quality between these two teams is pronounced, to say the least. For my money, this game is the most lopsided matchup this weekend. LAFC, with all of their attacking talent and depth, have the advantage over Vancouver, who largely lack those two attributes.
Don’t take my word on this whole lopsided thing. Let’s look at two other resources quickly here. First, the table: LAFC are top of the Supporters’ Shield standings and they’re the only team in the league averaging more than two points per game. Vancouver, for their part, are 19th in the Shield race and are only averaging 1.24 points per game.
Second, we’re looking at FBref. According to their expected goals differential table, the gap between these two teams’ xGDs is larger than the gap between any other two teams that are facing off this weekend. LAFC average +0.70 xGD per 90 minutes, while the Caps average -0.35. That 1.05 difference is the biggest in MLS across games on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
So yeah, there’s a giant gap between LAFC and Vancouver. And when we’re putting money on games, that’s half of what we’re looking for. We want noticeable quality gaps between teams – and we also want value. That’s the other half. We want to find places where we think Vegas hasn’t properly accounted for those quality gaps. Getting the best team in the league at positive odds against a bad Whitecaps team might be one of those places.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS AT TORONTO FC
Bet: Seattle to win, over 1.5 total goals scored
Here’s that other U.S. vs. Canada pick I mentioned earlier. Both the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC played on Wednesday evening (and they both lost), but I’m still feeling good about Seattle’s chances to pick up three points on Saturday.
After the LAFC/Vancouver game, this matchup has the second biggest xGD gap this weekend. I talked about this last week, but the Sounders are on the up. They’ve only lost twice since May 15th and have been racking up some of the best underlying numbers in the league ever since winning the Concacaf Champions League. The Sounders are a little banged up right now – they’ve been without Joao Paulo since the CCL Final, Obed Vargas recently picked up a back injury, Raul Ruidiaz has missed a few games, and Xavier Arreaga is out at the moment, too – but they have the depth to deal with those injuries.
Other than LAFC and NYCFC, it’s hard to find a roster in MLS that’s better than Seattle’s.
Now, for Toronto. Despite only winning two games since the middle of April, TFC have actually been playing some solid soccer. They beat Atlanta United last weekend and out-created the Columbus Crew on Wednesday. Still, they’re gappy defensively and they lack mobility in key parts of the field. I think the Sounders will make Toronto pay for their poor defense, much like the Crew did on this play.
Given some of the reinforcements that Toronto FC are bringing in, I probably wouldn’t make this bet quite so eagerly after the MLS transfer window opens next week. But hey, this game is this weekend and not next weekend, so we’re good.
If the Seattle Sounders win and the match has at least two goals, we’re walking out of Toronto with a great return on our Backheeled Bucks.
FC CINCINNATI AT NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Bet: Cincy to win
I’m a sucker for road teams this weekend.
It just so happens that over the next few days, a bunch of really good teams are playing on the road. LAFC’s on the road. We talked about that. Seattle’s on the road. We talked about that. The New York Red Bulls, the Philadelphia Union, and CF Montreal are on the road, too.
And then there’s FC Cincinnati, who travel up to New England to play the Revolution on Sunday. If you watch them and look at their numbers, Pat Noonan’s Cincy team is totally respectable. That, for them, is a huge step in the right direction. They’re probably not world-beaters, but they’re a solid team sitting above the playoff line.
The thing is, so are the Revs.
Bruce Arena’s squad is seventh in the East right now and after a rough start to the year, they’re getting results. The New England Revolution haven’t lost a game since April 23. April 23! Their underlying numbers have evened out over the last six weeks and the Revs are now a potential playoff team, just like Cincinnati.
So what is it that’s separating these two teams? Well, other than the fact that New England didn’t have a midweek game, it’s that good ‘ole +475 number that’s floating around out there for a Cincy win. When I was looking through the odds earlier today and saw that number, I genuinely couldn’t believe my eyes. +475 is the highest odds of any road team this week. Higher than Inter Miami playing in Dallas. Higher than Atlanta playing in New York City. Higher than Charlotte playing in Houston.
It makes no sense to me.
Look, I don’t know if FC Cincinnati are going to win this game. I don’t think they should be favored on the road up in the North East, but man-oh-man, they shouldn’t be such massive underdogs. For the value alone, this pick is worth making.