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March 8, 2019

MLS Matchweek 2 Odds: NYCFC Home Favorites Over DC United, Philadelphia Union Heavy Underdog to Sporting KC

High Press 10 March 8, 2019

The 2019 MLS season got underway last week. We learned some things, some things stayed the same.

The New York Red Bulls played their B team to save legs for the CONCACAF Champions League; NYCFC stumbled to a 2-2 draw; Atlanta United looked poor with Frank de Boer, losing 2-0 to a might-be-a-contender DC United; and Zlatan did Zlatan things (read 5 more things learned during Matchweek 1 here).

How does 2019 MLS Matchweek 2 look? Let’s examine the lines and some things to watch.

2019 MLS Matchweek 2 Game Odds

Remember, home team is listed first. If you need a refresher, visit how to bet MLS or how to bet soccer.

All listed odds from FanDuel NJ Sportsbook.

Chicago Fire -130 Draw +290 Orlando City +320
New England Revolution +135 Draw +250 Columbus Crew +190
FC Dallas -145 Draw +320 LA Galaxy +340
Houston Dynamo +105 Draw +260 Montreal Impact +230
Real Salt Lake -150 Draw +310 Vancouver Whitecaps +380
San Jose Earthquakes +135 Draw +250 Minnesota United +190
Seattle Sounders -210 Draw +360 Colorado +500
NYCFC -125 Draw +280 DC United +320
Sporting KC -135 Draw +300 Philadelphia Union +330
Atlanta United -240 Draw +390 Cincinnati +550
LAFC -140 Draw +300 Portland Timbers +340

MLS Matchweek 2 Odds and Ins

Week 1 surprisingly saw only three odds on favorites. Matchweek 2 doubles that total to six. Some notes:

  • NYCFC finds themselves at -125 (so bet $125 to win $100) at home against a potentially strong DC United (+320, so bet $100 to win $320) squad. With Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta picking up right where they left off from last year, there may be some value there with DCU. It’ll be interesting to see if NYCFC’s Alexandru Mitrita builds on a promising debut in front of the home crowd.
  • Maybe it’s more of a hunch, but we think LA Galaxy is going to have a strong, playoff-caliber year. Priced at +340, even on the road against FC Dallas, are longer odds than they may deserve. Plus, you know, Zlatan.
  • Oddly, we may know a lot about Atlanta United (this week’s biggest favorite at -240) after this weekend’s match against expansion FC Cincinatti (biggest dog at +550). Another poor de Boer showing and the #DeBoerOut movement will grow exponentially. Perhaps giving the team some run back in Tata Martino’s successful 3-5-2 system (instead of the 3-4-3 that’s definitely not working) will snap United out of its early funk. If de Boer has learned anything from his previous two wildly unsuccessful stops at Inter and Palace, it might be to not stubbornly stick with something that’s not working–especially when you know something will work with the personnel you have.

 

Manchester City Facing UEFA and Premier League Financial Fair Play Investigations, Champions League Ban Possible (UPDATE)

High Press 10 March 8, 2019

European football’s governing body, UEFA, is investigating financial fair play (FFP) violations by Manchester City.

The investigation puts City’s Champions League eligibility into question.

In a statement, UEFA said:

“The investigation will focus on several alleged violations of FFP that were recently made public in various media outlets.”

German publication Der Spiegel reported that the independent Football Leaks investigative project uncovered club documents revealing City inflated sponsor fees. CNN reportedthat City, “also allegedly concealed a player investment fund, which would allow the club to hold equity in promising players — so-called “third-party ownership (TPO), something banned by UEFA and the Premier League — by using a company in the Cayman Islands, the newspaper reported.”

Premier League Investigating Too…

The Premier League has also issued a statement regarding City’s alleged FPP violations:

 

How Could City be Punished?

This isn’t City’s first brush with FFP allegations. They faced controversy in 2012 around the naming rights of Etihad Stadium. Despite the likely impropriety of the deal and there wasn’t exactly a second bidder, City consulted UEFA before the deal was made, and UEFA didn’t investigate it further.

City are also under FA investigation for an alleged £200,000 payment to the agent of Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho when the he was just 14.

Regardless, it’s HIGHLY unlikely the Premier League deduct points from City this year (sorry Liverpool fans) or strip them of past titles.

UEFA could certainly impose a Champions League ban on City and levy a fine against them.

Ultimately, the fine wouldn’t hurt. That’s pocket change for Sheikh Mansour / Abu Dhabi United Group / City. A Champions League ban though? That would leave a mark.

We’re sure a lot more will come of this in the coming weeks and months. Grab your popcorn.

Atlanta United Not the Same Under Frank de Boer

Chops March 8, 2019

Is it too soon to admit that Frank de Boer might not have been the right hire for Atlanta United?

With a 3-0 loss to Monterrey on Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions League, his start at Atlanta United has been far from inspiring.

Full disclosure: I’m in the camp that thought this was a dreadful hire the second it was announced. I appreciate the measured take by writers like J. Sam Jones at DirtySouthSoccer. It’s the right way to view it. Wider lens. However, this is a situation where you can have opinions on both sides of the argument and still be right.

While de Boer’s (super) brief tenures at Inter Milan (yikes) and Crystal Palace (YIKES!) were certainly reasons for skepticism, the more substantive take had to do with how his coaching philosophy and system might not have been the best fit for the personnel the team had. This was an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” situation. Poor de Boer wasn’t set up for immediate success. And if immediate success didn’t happen, a viscous confirmation loop was going to start among those who care more about his recent history (me me me!) than his (distant) past success–and a rabid fan-base who may not have the patience to see if de Boer can make it work.

Typically when coaching changes are made, organizations go for the polar opposite of the previous coach. That’s because most coaching changes are made because that previous coach wasn’t succeeding.

Not the case with the Five Stripes.

But here were are. Tata was loose. FdB is strick. Tata started practices late sometimes. FdB considers five minutes early to be late. Tata came from recent success. FdB not so much.

Atlanta Has Earned Benefit of Doubt…Right?

Atlanta United has gotten just about everything right since its inception. They deserve the benefit of the doubt. They’ve earned it.

New coaches and systems don’t click overnight.

However, the players and the system did work fantastically the past two years.

All but one of their key players is back (caveat: the key player who left, Miguel Almiron, was the MLS’s best player and has transformed Newcastle United since arriving on record-transfer). One player brought in, Pity Martinez, is a moderate facsimile to Almiron. The emergence of Ezequiel Barco (looks legit) is almost like adding a new player. The talent is there. The drop off shouldn’t be significant if the players buy into de Boer’s system.

But if the results aren’t there as they were last year, will they actually buy in?

Is It Fair to Judge de Boer Against Recent Opponents?

Timing is so important in every element in life. FdB wasn’t given the easiest early slate.

In the CONCACAF Champions League, he drew Monterrey in the quarterfinals. Monterrey is literally the best team on the continent.

While FiveThirtyEight might want to tweak their prediction algorithm, their Global Club Rankings is still a valuable tool. Monterrey ranks 96th, the highest Liga MX team and by far higher than the New York Red Bulls (187) and Atlanta United (196). Monterrey is ranked higher than Brighton, Fulham, and Cardiff City in the Premier League. Atlanta shouldn’t beat them. It should be closer, though. Sure, United led possession 51-49%, but Monterrey fired off 17 shots (5 on target) to Atlanta’s 5 shots (1 on target). Reigning MVP Josef Martinez’s work rate looked like LeBron playing defense for the Lakers. Despite all of this, the game was still close until the end. This is where de Boer having a better feel for his team would come in handy. As Joe Patrick at The Athletic noted:

In the MLS, the Five Stripes started their season away against a strong DC United squad. The 2-0 loss was disappointing, but its not like they were playing Orlando.

Where Does It Go From Here?

I’m in Atlanta. This city has real pride when it comes to the Five Stripes. The team is loaded with talent. While United owner Arthur Blank has shown patience when it comes to coaches and his Falcons, will he take the same approach with Frank de Boer if the Five Stripes keep laying eggs?

The good news for United fans is: there’s almost nowhere to go but up from here, and the talent is there. Hopefully de Boer is watching Maurizio Sarri‘s struggles at Chelsea and learning that being rigid and not adapting systems to players isn’t always the best approach to success.

 

 

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