Updated: June 10th, 2019
Despite a recent resurgence, reigning champs Atlanta United have fallen from pre-season favorites of +500 to +900. Last year’s Supporters’ Shield winner for best regular-season record, New York Red Bulls, dropped even further, going from +550 to +1600.
LAFC, who started the year at +700, are no prohibitive favorites at +200. They’re followed by Zlatan-led LA Galaxy (+750), the aforementioned ATL UTD, and NYCFC (+900). Eastern conference table-toppers Philadelphia Union have climbed from a pre-season +3300 to +1600.
The biggest risers from pre-season are San Jose. They’ve climbed from the cellar (+25000) to a respectable +6000.
(Odds as of June 10th, 2019)
|LAFC +200||LA Galaxy – +750||Atlanta United +900||NYCFC +900|
|DC United +1400||New York Red Bulls +1600||Seattle Sounders +1600||Philadelphia Union +1600|
|Montreal Impact +1600||Columbus Crew +2400||Houston Dynamo +2400||FC Dallas +3100|
|Sporting KC +3100||Toronto FC +3100||Portland Timbers +3400||Minnesota United +5000|
|Orlando City +5000||San Jose Earthquakes +6000||Chicago Fire +9500||Real Salt Lake +9500|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +11000||Colorado Rapids +12000||New England Revolution +12000||FC Cincinnati +20000|
The Red Bulls latest impressive showing came Saturday night via a 4-0 shellacking of Real Salt Lake.
No BWP, no problem
The 2018 MLS Supporters Shield winners have done all of this without the services of all-time club goal-scoring leader Bradley Wright-Phillips, who remains sidelined with what has been described for weeks as a day to day injury.
Tightening up leaky defense
In his absence, New York has had to find goals from a variety of sources to fill the gap, a problem that vexed the Red Bulls early, but has been solved recently with a goal scorer by committee approach.
Similarly, Red Bulls defense has not been the airtight certainty that it was in 2018. However, Chris Armas’ side has tightened up recently in that area, a testament to the Red Bulls impressive depth.
Welcome back, Petke
On Saturday night the Red Bulls welcomed back former coach Mike Petke, now helming Real Salt Lake. As fondly as Petke is remembered by the Red Bulls faithful, they delighted in Saturday’s second-half goal-scoring explosion.
In a battle of two of the best ever MLS keepers between Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando and the Red Bulls Luis Robles, it took an own goal in the 58th minute to break the deadlock. Rimando, in particular, had been excellent to that point, but the 39-year-old could do nothing when Red Bulls fullback Michael Murrillo’s driven cross ricocheted off of RSL center back Marco Silva for the Red Bulls opening tally.
Silva’s misfortune released the pressure valve on the New York attack and goals soon followed from Daniel Royer, just one minute later, Murillo, in the 64th minute, and then a late capper from rookie Omir Fernandez in the 83rd minute.
The Red Bulls recent improvement was played out in each of the goals with Royer beautifully set up by Kaku. The Paraguayan’s early season unhappiness after missing out on a post-season transfer to Mexico led to petulance and a suspension. However, all of this now seems far behind the playmaker.
Royer’s goal was well struck and a reminder that with Wright-Phillips sidelined, the Austrian needs to find his scoring boots. Red Bulls coach Chris Armas would surely love to see Saturday’s goal spark a run for Royer.
Murillo’s early season struggles saw the Panamanian World Cup veteran benched for Connor Lade. Since then, Murillo’s response has been heartening for the Red Bulls, with the talented fullback bouncing back with a series of strong matches. His recent assist spree has put Murillo atop the team’s leader board in that import statistic.
The final goal of the match came from one of the Red Bulls important depth players, Bronx native Omir Fernandez, via a perfect crossing pass from another of the Red Bulls Killer B’s Andreas Ivan, with that man Murillo picking up the secondary assist.
With the injury to BWP continuing to linger, Armas will need players like Fernandez and Ivan to contribute to the score sheet and with Fernandez scoring off of the bench in consecutive matches, the coach has reason to be encouraged.
The win marked a second clean sheet on the trot for NYRB and Robles, the 67th of the veteran’s career.
Keeping pace atop the table
The victory also allows New York to keep pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference. They currently sit in fourth place with 24 points, just three behind first-place DC, with the Bulls having played two fewer games than United.
RSL, meanwhile hang onto the final playoff berth in the congested Western Conference and will be looking to right the ship when they return to MLS action on June 22, in Chicago. RSL host LAFC in US Open Cup play on June 11.
Continuing their up and down season, the Red Bulls were admittedly disappointed with last night’s 2-2 draw at home to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
A draw draws no positives
Sitting in front of his locker long after the rest of his teammates had scattered, Red Bulls captain Luis Robles didn’t even try to pull any punches. “No, absolutely not,” was the New York netminders reply when asked if his team took this draw as a positive.
After struggling for a moment to convince himself that a tie wasn’t so bad, “at least we got a point, right?” Robles reconsidered.
“So, a midweek game against a West Coast team to get a point is really one of the only positives that we can take away from the game. But yeah, it’s it’s really disappointing. If we’re being honest, it’s disappointing against a team that; they’re okay. A team that traveled a very long way to play midweek and (we) felt like we had an opportunity to get three points tonight.”
With the matches coming hard and fast, although primarily at home, the Red Bulls can’t help but look at last night’s match against a team that Robles described as “okay”, as two points dropped, especially coming on the heels of Sunday’s feel-good win over red hot Atlanta United.
Heightening the Red Bulls disappointment was the home teams utter domination of the first half, a first 45 minutes that rarely saw visiting Vancouver get into New York’s defensive half of the field. While possession can be a misleading stat, New York’s 69.4% to 30.6% advantage would normally result in better than a 1-1 halftime score.
In fact, New York spotted Vancouver a one goal lead with fullback Scott Sutter punishing the Red Bulls on a blistering counterattack in the 29th minute. Sean Nealis was turned inside out by Whitecaps striker Joaquin Ardaiz before he set up Sutter, who finished well from a tight angle.
That vulnerability to the counter would be a problem all night for Chris Armas’ Killer B’s, with the Red Bulls playing a largely reserve side after Sunday’s hard-fought win over Atlanta. Armas was without his first choice center back pairing, Aaron Long, injured, and Tim Parker, red card suspension.
Of the Red Bulls starting 11 versus Vancouver only goalkeeper Luis Robles, midfielder Kaku, Alex Muyl, and recently, center back Amro Tarek, would be considered first 11 on this Red Bulls side, and most of the B’s are learning on the job.
Robles rued that inexperience post-game, calling games like last night “part of the learning process.” Robles continued, “if you look at in the field, Brian White, second-year pro, Omir Fernandez first-year pro, Sean Nealis, his first-year pro, Kyle Duncan second-year pro. I could go through and for the most part, outside of Sean Davis, who came on late, Alex Muyl, Derek (Etienne), there’s not a ton of guys, even Kaku, second year in this league, there’s not a ton of guys who really understand what’s required to get results midweek.”
It was one of those young players, Brian White, who found the net for the Red Bulls equalizer when he flicked on Tarek’s header to beat Zach McMath in the Vancouver goal in the 37th minute.
White was briefly credited with the Red Bulls second goal, but his deflected cross was eventually ruled an own goal, with Andy Rose getting the “credit.”
The Caps picked up their play in the second half but it was the Red Bulls that went ahead through that o.g. But the lead wouldn’t last long. Just six minutes, in fact, with Fredy Montero burying a VAR aided penalty kick in the 61st minute.
The call was for a handball on Sean Nealis, who had a tough night, although Armas had his back. “We say that defenders get judged for their bad plays, right?” Armas began. “So we can put out 20,30, 40, fires tonight. He plays, he does well. Maybe a couple slip. But he’s such a he’s a young player, but he gives a lot. So we’ll always look and try to learn from the (mistakes), that’s why he’s out there. He’s got courage, and he’s growing quickly.”
Armas will have to keep faith with Nealis and his other youngsters, especially with the Gold Cup/COPA America disruptions, with 3/4 of his back four likely traveling, if Long recovers from his injury.
That’s not to say there will not continue to be some growing pains for the young Red Bulls. Here is Robles again, on that topic.
“It really is about the mentality. It really is about how you approach the game and how you’re able to regroup under 72 hours and do it again. And the teams that have done very well and won Supporters Shields for this organization, they figured that out. And that’s part of playing in this league. And if you look at the schedule, it’s not getting any easier, right, because of the scheduling change in the season being done at the beginning of October, you look at the congestion in the summer. And we’re going to have a lot of these. But as I said, those are younger guys, and they’re going to learn and they have very high ceiling. So I am very optimistic with that.”
The Red Bulls next travel for an away match on Saturday against FC Cincinnati.
FanDuel Sportsbook NJ has the Red Bulls as the slightest of favorites at +160. FC Cincinnati are +160. The draw is priced at +240.
MEN of the Match
For his 65th minute winner and first career MLS goal, NYRB rookie Tom Barlow was singled out as Man of the Match.
In truth, several Red Bulls would have been worthy recipients of the honor. Michael Murillo, Amro Tarek, Daniel Royer, and Sean Nealis all merited consideration. Had I been asked I would have given the nod to fullback Kemar Lawrence for his high octane defensive work throughout.
But MoM or not, the candid and ebullient Lawrence was clearly the star of the post-game.
The Jamaican international’s locker is the first inside the door at the home team’s room at Red Bull Arena. With the media packed tightly around Lawrence on Sunday night, egress and access became a problem for his teammates, including injured striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was seen politely making his way through the thicket, balancing a tray of food as he went on his way.
Lawrence came into this matchup with Atlanta hyped to avenge last season’s playoff loss, which he sat out injured. Lawerence played Sunday’s match like a man with a point to prove and his intensity was met by Atlanta’s Hector “Tito” Villalba, with the two battling for 90 minutes and then some, as the Atlanta man attempted to get at Lawrence after the final whistle had blown.
Stationed in front of his locker, Lawrence was practically bursting to say his piece. “I told you I was gonna, right. I told you, I’m gonna win, right? I’m gonna win it for my team. And we went out there we did,” Lawrence began.
And he was just getting started. “I told you, I’ve been carrying around a lot of anger because I got injured last year. And I missed out on the biggest games ever for my team, the Conference Finals. And I just had that feeling. If I was on the field last year, we would have won that game. So I know I had the worst offseason last year knowing I was injured. So getting back from injury and facing these guys, when I’m getting really my full fitness level. It was just amazing. And the only thing on my mind was to repay them for how my team felt. I felt that we did that today.”
Lawrence and Villalba were involved in a late-game incident that led to the post-match fracas when Lawrence stood over the prone Atlanta forward and exulted. Atlanta got a free kick out it, one that could have mattered as Red Bulls clung to a 1-0 lead.
Atlanta took offense at Lawrence’s exuberance, with team captain Michael Parkhurst telling High Press Soccer afterward that, “we were upset with how Lawrence stood over Tito at the end of the game, and, you know, barked at him. I just don’t think there’s a need for that.”
Villaba also expressed similar feelings, but when word was relayed to Lawrence that Atlanta felt that he had been disrespectful, the Jamaican chuckled. “Lack of respect? No, honestly I can tell you what I said, I said, bring your best. I said, come on, bring your best. I see you bring your best against every guy, week in and week out, I want your best. That’s what I said. So if he feels like that’s disrespectful, that’s his fault.”
Exciting match from two emerging rivals
The match itself was a high-energy affair with New York flying out of the traps, perhaps in a bid to wear down Atlanta, who played and won Wednesday night in Vancouver.
Atlanta’s 1-0 win over the Whitecaps was the fifth on the trot for the defending MLS Cup Champions and the club’s fifth shutout in a row.
Atlanta coach Frank de Boer knew his team had missed an opportunity to topple the Red Bulls while playing with a man advantage from the 35th minute when Tim Parker was shown the line for pulling Josef Martinez and “denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.”
“Everybody is very disappointed to get not even a more out of it. And yeah, the time was right for three points,” de Boer noted, adding, “it’s always difficult to win here.”
The United coach didn’t seem to be looking for excuses. Rather, de Boer seemed forthright when asked about possible fatigue. “100%? It’s fatigue, I gave him two days off, because we have to be physically but also mentally, ready for Salt Lake, on Friday. And, you know, I saw the spirit was there, you know, they wanted but maybe the body and the mind, you know, sometimes will not do what you think will want to do.”
The big moments in the match came down to the red card to Parker and the New York goal. New York’s impressive depth, not an easy thing to build in a salary capped MLS, was key The Red Bulls started without USMNT center back Aaron Long and 35 minutes in his partner, Parker, was shown red.
Sean Nealis was introduced and he would be instrumental in the game’s lone goal. Red Bulls coach Chris Armas praised the substitute for his courage to make a play. “Sean Nealis drives with the ball on that play from center back and he makes a really good pass.”
Nealis set up Royer, who hit a brilliant cross that Barlow somehow managed to head back across Brad Guzan’s goal and into the net for what turned out to be the winner.
It was exciting, it was a bit nasty, and it seemed like the beginning of a rivalry sparked by genuine dislike.
De Boer doesn’t seem to mind. “Yeah, but it’s nice, you know, to have that kind of vitality between two teams, you know, because, yeah, that makes the sports. Fun, I think to watch, you know, they’re eager to win against each other, and they will do everything to win it from each other. Of course, there always has to be respect, of course, on both sides. But yeah, this is what you want. This is what you want to experience every week.”
And what does Lawrence think of the rivalry?
“I feel like this is like on the top of the list. I feel like there’s really a rivalry there.”
And how does Lawrence feel about his battles with Villalba? “Every now and then,” a smiling Lawrence began, “you’re going to find one player that you don’t like. You know, a lot of guys around the league like me,” but the New York fullback concluded with a shrug, “I can’t please everyone.”
- Harrison Hamm joins to discuss the unexpected ascension of Philadelphia Union (0:30) to the top of the Eastern Conference.
- Then Harrison recaps the first MLS transfer period (16:00).
- Peter Nolan joins (31:20) to discuss the New England Bruce Arena hire.
- He also looks at the rise of NYCFC and New York Red Bulls (38:00), including their game against Atlanta United this Sunday.
MLS Matchday 12 odds are released and with loads of quality games this week. Our two marquee match-ups for the week are: Philadelphia vs Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls vs Atlanta United
MLS Matchweek 12 Game Odds
All listed odds from May 15 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Wednesday, May 15|
|Toronto FC -150||Draw +310||D.C. United +380|
|Houston Dynamo -150||Draw +320||Portland Timbers +350|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +220||Draw +250||Atlanta United +120|
|Seattle Sounders -220||Draw +360||Orlando City +550|
|Thursday, May 16||Draw +260||Southampton +195|
|Los Angeles FC -310||Draw +440||FC Dallas +750|
|Saturday, May 18||Liverpool -310|
|Montreal Impact -135||Draw +280||New England +350|
|Real Salt Lake +130||Draw +270||Toronto FC +185|
|San Jose Earthquakes +105||Draw +280||Chicago Fire +220|
|Philadelphia -120||Draw +280||Seattle Sounders +300|
|Minnesota United +115||Draw +250||Columbus +230|
|Houston Dynamo -130||Draw +290||D.C. United +320|
|Kansas City -250||Draw +390||Vancouver Whitecaps +600|
|Sunday, May 19|
|Orlando City -135||Draw +280||FC Cincinnati +370|
|New York Red Bulls +140||Draw +250||Atlanta United +185|
|FC Dallas +190||Draw +260||Los Angeles FC +130|
|LA Galaxy -270||Draw +440||Colorado +650|
Visit FanDuel Sportsbook NJ as games near for updated odds and, for NJ residents, to place your wagers.
Odds and Ends
- In our first marquee match of the week, Philadelphia Union (-120) take on Seattle Sounders (+300). Not only does Philadelphia have the advantage of playing at home, but they are also sitting 1st in the Eastern Conference and have a 5 game unbeaten streak. Seattle Sounders are not in a bad position either – sitting 3rd in the Western Conference. However, they have only won 1 out of 4 away games and have not beat Philly since 2016.
- In our other marquee match up, New York Red Bulls (+140) take on Atlanta United (+185). Last week, we had high hopes for NYRB who seemed to be getting back in their groove with two back-to-back wins…until Montreal brought them back to reality beating them 2-1 in New York. They did, however, redeem themselves against Dallas this past Saturday. Meanwhile, Atlanta has been on a roll with four back to back wins. Atlanta does, however, have a difficult week ahead of them as they travel all the way to Vancouver on Wednesday after just playing this past Sunday and then heading to New York on Sunday. While Atlanta is doing that, Red Bulls get to recover and prepare the whole week for Sunday’s match up. Regardless, this will be a good indicator as to which team’s improved form is for real.
Change is good, they said. Squad rotation is important they said. Well, Chris Armas was listening.
Coming off of a deflating 2-1 home loss to the Montreal Impact and facing a quick Wednesday to Saturday turnaround, the New York Red Bulls boss heard the advise and changed out an astonishing 10 members of his starting 11 for Sunday’s match in suburban Dallas.
Armas’ bold play worked a charm as the Red Bulls topped FC Dallas with a 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon at a sparsely populated Toyota Stadium.
Rotated squad rumbles to victory
Aaron Long figured to miss out after picking a hamstring injury of so-far indeterminate severity and Bradley Wright-Phillips has been day-to-day all along, but it was a surprise that Armas also left mainstays Luis Robles, Daniel Royer, and Marc Rzatkowski off the matchday 18 and back in the New York/New Jersey area.
The makeup of the Red Bulls bench was equally surprising, with the likes of Kemar Lawrence, Sean Davis, and Tim Parker cooling their heels alongside the surprise Red Bulls backup keeper Evan Lauro.
Dallas held the statistical edge in most categories against the Red Bulls on the night, but the visitors claimed an 11th minute lead when 19 – year old midfielder Cristian Casseres finished from Andreas Ivan the Red Bulls were on the way to winning the only statistical battle that matters, goals scored vs goals allowed.
That Red Bulls lead stood up for the first 45 minutes but the home team managed an equalizer before the halftime break, when Jesus Ferreira slipped away from Sean Nealis and found himself wide open in the Red Bulls box to head past Ryan Meara, deputizing for Luis Robles in the New York goal.
The goal is the fourth of this break out season for the 18 year old Ferreira, the son of former Dallas star, 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira. The younger Ferreira was widely tipped to earn a spot on the U.S. U20 World Cup side, but the citizenship papers for the Colombian born, Texas raised teenager apparently didn’t beat the FIFA clock.
So Ferreira will stay with FC Dallas while three of his teammates, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, and this year’s Cinderella story Edwin Cerrillo all head to Poland where the U.S will kick off on May 24th against Ukraine, followed by Group D matches versus Nigeria, May 27th, and finally Qatar on May 30.
With the match level heading to the final 45, Ferreira’s goal gave the home team a solid platform to press for the win. However, led by Meara, Armas’ band of backups first re-took and then added to the lead.
Michael Murillo, who just a couple of weeks ago would have been a member of the “A” team before some shoddy play saw the Panamanian international banished to the bench, thought he had the go-ahead goal. Replays showed that the ball skipped off of Nealis’ head for the 58th-minute tally.
Meara made that slim lead hold up, earning Man of the Match honors, with his standout moment coming in the 71st minute with spectactular diving save from Zdenek Ondrasek.
Brian White ended Dallas’ comeback hopes when he finished a nice one-two with Omir Fernandez in the 85th minute to ensure Dallas’s first home loss of the season.
For fifth place Dallas this game was a missed opportunity to make up ground on fourth place Houston, who dropped a 1-0 decision to Seattle on Saturday, while the Red Bulls resilience gets them back on track, just two points below the Eastern Conference playoff line.
Momentum, good vibes. Whatever you want to call it, it can vanish in an instant, or for the New York Red Bulls, in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact.
Wednesday night the New York Red Bulls hosted the Impact in the final game of a three-day home set. After a disappointing start to the season that saw the 2018 Supporters Shield winners sitting at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, New York’s MLS originals seemed to have righted the ship with consecutive wins versus FC Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Galaxy at Red Bull Arena.
The 1-0 victory over Cincinnati was merely the appetizer for the Bulls main course, a thrilling 3-2 defeat of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic led Galaxy, a win that cast Montreal as the dessert course in what would have been a rather tasty three game redemption dinner.
Montreal ends the momentum
Alas, Montreal put paid to all that with Wednesday night’s comeback win in front of a typically small mid-week RBA crowd. Despite the continued absence of the Red Bulls primary goal scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, the home side opened briskly, putting immediate pressure on Evan Bush in the Montreal goal.
With Kaku available after serving his five game suspension for a wild kicked ball that struck a fan, New York coach Chris Armas elected to begin with his sides chief playmaker on the bench.
Afterward, High Press Soccer asked Armas if he had held Kaku out for a lack of match fitness? For Armas it seemed like a case of -if it’s not broke, why fix it?
“You know, he was match fit and training well,” the New York coach began. “He’s been with us all year here and we came out last game feeling pretty good, we felt like the same structure made sense and the players that started match for them to be out there.”
Armas’ theory was looking good with the home team starting well and they got their reward in the 36th minute when Long leaped highest to power home a header from a fine Marc Rzatkowski feed.
The Red Bulls 1-0 halftime lead seemed about right, and it was easy to imagine the home team walking away with the spoils 45 minutes hence.
But to their great credit Montreal, still without their best player Ignacio Piatti, and playing its ninth road game of 12 in 2019, were only too happy to upset the Red Bulls applecart, scoring twice in the second half while blunting the New York attack.
With no Piatti to turn to the Impact mimicked the Red Bulls approach– their big center-back Zakaria Diallo flicking home a header from a Max Urruti cross after Urruti took a pass from a dead ball situation.
Montreal would take the lead on an Urruti penalty conversion that came from a bad giveaway by Connor Lade, who has been one of New York’s best players in recent weeks, good enough to keep 2018 MLS All-Star fullback Michael Murillo glued to the bench of late.
Long ended up committing the foul on Jackson-Hammel to concede the pk, another moment in an event filled night for the big defender.
Urruti took his chance well for his first goal of 2019 and it would be enough to end the Red Bulls mini-streak and break their momentum as RBNY head to Texas for a Saturday date with FC Dallas.
Afterward, Long stood in front of his locker and described his injury as “super tight right now,” saying that he would be going for an MRI the following day (Thursday). The Red Bulls center back looked to be in considerable pain when he was helped off the pitch in the 76th minute and post-game Long admitted that this particular pain was a new feeling.
“No, never felt like that before,” a frustrated Long answered when High Press Soccer inquired. “Hoping it’s not too bad.” The Red Bulls will be hoping the same and while hamstrings can take a while to recover from Long conceded that “Saturday is probably unlikely.”
Having used up all their subs the Red Bulls finished with 10 men and could not find an equalizer. From a Red Bulls perspective it was undoubtedly a hard loss, with team slipping to 10th place in the Eastern Conference ahead of only Cincinnati, who just fired its coach, Alan Koch, and New England, who must surely be considering Brad Friedel’s position after consecutive losses of 5-0 Wednesday night to Chicago and 6-1 on Saturday versus Philadelphia.
NYRB adding some goal-scoring punch from RBII
But let’s end on a positive note. Earlier on Wednesday the Red Bulls announced the signing of forward Tom Barlow from Red Bulls II, the team’s USL representative.
With BWP out and backup Brian White suffering from a “soft tissue injury,” very much the in vogue malady of the moment, Barlow got the start. The 23-year-old was drafted out of Wisconsin prior to last season and he immediately lit up the USL, scoring 10 goals in 11 starts in 2018 and adding six before his call up to the big club this season.
Barlow admitted that despite the loss, that “ Yeah, couldn’t be more happy to make my debut tonight.” High Press Soccer asked if Barlow if he thought he’d scored on a second half effort that was blocked by an Impact defender.
“I hoped,” Barlow laughed. “Oh, yeah,” Barlow went on with a rueful grin. “I was hoping but uh, they might have called it offside, I think. But the goalie made a nice little play. But yeah, we’ve been nice. But unluckily, it didn’t go in.”
It was that kind of night for the Red Bulls who head to Dallas and another chance to get back that fleeting momentum, those elusive good vibes.
Zlatan Ibrahimović came to town Saturday night and delivered a possible “tarp-out” to Red Bull Arena as the home team edged the Galaxy in a 3-2 thriller.
The match was played in front of the team’s largest crowd of the season, which saw the Red Bulls overcome a goal and an assist from Zlatan.
Whether the 20,128 attendance constitutes a reduced capacity sellout, or “tarp-out,” is difficult to say, given that we don’t know precisely how many of the arena’s 25,000 seats have been buried under the bright red tarpaulins that have recently sprouted across the upper deck at either end of the team’s Harrison, New Jersey stadium.
Whatever the exact percentage of seats filled was, and there appeared to many an unoccupied seat, the 20,128 announced attendance and the TV viewers at home were treated to an exciting match. Yes, a fair amount of those fans were on hand to cheer for the Galaxy’s flamboyant striker. Regardless, the home town fans had to be thrilled with the Red Bulls second consecutive home win.
Red Bulls fast start helps stifle hot Galaxy squad
The Red Bulls came flying out of the gate, dominating the early exchanges with an L.A. Galaxy side that entered the day with an impressive 7-1-1 record. The Red Bulls have been struggling, and with striker Bradley Wright-Phillips missing a second consecutive match with a soft tissue injury, the question of Red Bulls goals and where they might come from was an open one.
If you had Amro Tarek, Marc Rzatkowski, and Derrick Etienne, first time 2019 goal scorers all, for the Red Bulls goals then you probably had Country House winning the Kentucky Derby.
The Red Bulls were pressuring David Bingham’s goal from the start with Rzatkowski and Daniel Royer looking extremely likely in the opening minutes. The home team was rewarded when center-back Tarek blasted home in the 15th minute, a good goal from a surprising source.
L.A. center-back Diego Polenta saw Tarek’s goal and decided to show off his passing skills, twice sending delicate long balls over the Red Bulls defense to earn secondary assists with first-rate passes.
The first of Polenta’s elegantly struck chips landed at the feet of Ibrahimovic with the big man setting up Uriel Antuna perfectly for the 39th-minute equalizer. Just four minutes later a wide open Polenta sauntered into the New York half and then picked out Chris Pontius. The veteran attacker immediately fed Ibrahimovic for a diving header to give the visitors the lead just ahead of the halftime whistle.
It was a bit of a shock for New York but a pair of second-half goals from a couple of more unlikely sources wrested the points from the visitors and the victory to the home team. Etienne’s winner was subject to a VAR delay but the officials ruled that Brian White did not interfere with Bingham in the Galaxy goal.
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s Montreal Impact Match-Up
This second consecutive home win sets New York up nicely for Wednesday night’s showdown with Montreal Impact — the Red Bulls will look to close out a three-match homestand with a perfect 3-0-0 record.
The Impact sits in third place in the East with 17 points, six more than eight place New York. If Montreal talisman Ignacio Piatti remains sidelined, that can only help the Red Bulls chances of completing the home sweep.
Oddsmakers view the Red Bulls as heavy favorites, pricing them at -135 over at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|NY Red Bulls -135||Draw +280||Montreal Impact +360|
Without looking past Montreal, the Red Bulls will surely be aware that following Saturday’s May 11th visit to Dallas FC, they return home for a pair of matches versus Atlanta United and Vancouver, making for five home games out of six, a stretch that could see the Red Bulls catapult themselves right into the heart of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The New York Red Bulls welcomed expansion side FC Cincinnati into Red Bull Arena Saturday night with one objective in mind and one objective only: to collect three points.
NYRB accomplished that goal thanks to a brilliant long-range strike by Mr. Red Bull himself, Connor Lade.
Lade leads new line-up
Often overlooked but always ready to do whatever it takes for the team, Lade started Saturday night at left wingback with Red Bulls boss Chris Armas looking to shake up his moribund team.
Armas ran his side out versus the MLS newcomers in a three-back set with Amro Tarek slotting in alongside fellow center-backs Aaron Long and Tim Parker with Lade and Alex Muyl manning the wingback roles.
Armas wanted to see his team break down a Cincinnati side that he expected to come out “in two banks of four” and thought “with our wingbacks, we could unlock it.” Armas noted that Red Bulls sent in a “bunch of crosses which they defended well.”
With his team coming into the match struggling with a record of 1 win, 4 losses, and 2 ties, Armas was looking for “little ways to spark the team, get them excited for a different formation.”
“So, we’d say it worked,” was Armas’ read. “1-0 for a shutout and a really important win.”
Afterward, Lade found himself in the unaccustomed position of being the center of attention, although the popular 29-year-old was quick to deflect back to the team. “Personally, I would say it’s nice to get the goal but I think that’s secondary on the night.”
“Obviously,” the modest Lade continued, “it’s a huge win for the team. We needed that in the worst way and obviously to get a shutout at home I feel like that’s what we are going to take away from tonight.”
With Bradley Wright-Phillips, the team’s all-time leading goal scorer, missing out with a muscle strain, Lade’s moment of magic was badly needed by a Red Bulls team that has struggled to find the net in 2019.
Lade’s 38th-minute goal was a brilliant effort with BWP’s replacement Brian White heading down smartly to Daniel Royer at the top of the Cincinnati box. Royer’s clever backheel was intelligently ignored by Marc Rzatkowski who left the ball for the onrushing Wade to strike past Cincinnati goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton with a powerful and accurate first time left-footed strike.
The goal was only the second regular-season goal of Lade’s career and although it was a great goal and a thrilling moment for the Red Bulls High Press Soccer wondered if Armas was becoming concerned with just how hard a time his team is having scoring goals, even with BWP in the lineup?
Armas asserted that Lade’s position change to wingback from his usual fullback position put Long in a more attacking position, “so it wasn’t so unexpected.”
Armas did concede that “we want to create more chances and we work hard at that every day.” “There is a lot that goes into creating and scoring goals,” Armas noted, adding that he’s “not concerned because we created chances tonight and our team has always scored goals.”
Sure, just not so much lately. In last year’s Supporters Shield winning season the Red Bulls scored the second most goals in the East, with 62. Atlanta racked up 70 and three teams in the wild west outpaced the Red Bulls, although the well balanced New York side was number one in goal difference.
This season has been a different story, no surprise given the teams place in the standings. And while it is still relatively early the ninth-place Red Bulls have been outscored by seven of their Eastern Conference foes and all but one Western team, Vancouver. Even the winless Colorado Rapids have outscored the Red Bulls, scoring 12 times this season while the Bulls have rung the bell just nine times.
Saturday night’s three points are big but only if they serve to jumpstart a Red Bulls revival and with attendance already hurting some wins, and maybe some goals could only help.
Thank you @NewYorkRedBulls! Great win! – Cant believe more people dont fill this World Class stadium every week to watch a team that is always giving everything!👍 I grew up just blocks from @RedBullArena and would have done anything to attend a game at such an amazing facility. pic.twitter.com/vOngmqNU5F— Tab Ramos (@RamosTab) April 28, 2019
Some weeks back I referred to the MLS standings as a Seinfeld-esque Bizarro World where up is down and down is up. A quick look at the tables show that characterization holding steady, with last season’s MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United and Supporters Shield-winning New York Red Bulls sharing last place in the Eastern Conference table.
Given the high expectations from the 2018 season, it was hardly surprising when the coaches of the two strugglers became the subject of dismissal rumors, with the cacophony around Red Bulls boss Chris Armas amplified by the identity of his alleged replacement, legendary former Red Bulls and Arsenal star Thierry Henry.
With English site Sky News reporting that Henry was in negotiations to take the helm in Harrison, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Armas. It didn’t help when the Red Bulls dropped a stultifying 1-0 decision to the New England Revolution Saturday night in Foxborough.
Come Monday Armas’ boss, Denis Hamlett, released the briefest of statements:
“Recent reports of Thierry Henry joining the New York Red Bulls are false.”
Evidently a follower of the maxim, generally attributed to Mark Twain, that says, “I wrote a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one,” New York’s Sporting Director left out any encouraging words for coach Armas to cling to.
Armas puts rumors “officially to bed”
With that backdrop, High Press Soccer traveled out to the Red Bulls Training Facility in Whippany, New Jersey on a perfect Tuesday morning and asked Armas if he had been disturbed by the speculation surrounding his future employment.
Not surprisingly, Armas denied any concern, telling High Press and the two other journalists gathered in a mini-scrum on the edge of one of Red Bulls practice fields, “officially that was put to bed yesterday.”
“From day one,” the former USMNT d-mid continued, “the inside is what we really care about here. And from day one, I was made known that things were just rumors.”
“So imagine now on the outside what’s talked about and imagine the comfort on the inside here,” Armas explained, “which allowed us to show up every day and continue to give everything every day.”
How quickly did Hamlet privately quash the Henry rumors? “As soon as it came out,” Armas responded. “We, the team, was aware of that. I was aware of that, the staff on the inside, again, where things mattered, that was taken care of.”
Armas added that impressions outside of the group didn’t concern him. “No, not at all. I mean in this business – I’ve been around a long time. I mean, we’re always subject to criticism.”
“When I was a player,” Armas continued, “it was the same. You know, so many people (saying) Chris Armas, stinks, why is he on the national team? – (he) shouldn’t be starting, you know, why isn’t he an all-star?”
Flashing a hint of defiance tempered by an understanding of the realities of his chosen profession, Armas went on. “And then you achieve everything and then maybe they quiet down.”
“But in this business, especially when we’re not winning, we’re subject to that. Which is, which is fair game for the folks on the outside.”
But Armas is no longer a player, with the ability to change minds with his performance on the pitch. Nor is he an assistant, allowed to quietly do his work on the anonymity of the training ground. Surely it is different to face the slings and arrows of a disgruntled fanbase as the frontman, as the face of the franchise?
Intentionally or not, Armas channeled the Derek Jeter, Joe Torre Yankee dynasty of the late ’90s and early aughts with his answer.
“Yeah, listen, you know, I remind myself, and I think people who know me know that I don’t really get too high. I mean, on the inside, I love winning. I love success. It’s what I’ve experienced in my career, but I’ve had downs as well, with losses and injuries, and I’ve never gotten too low, at least not for too long.”
Don’t get too high- never get too low. It’s not a bad way to approach a job that invites the type of scrutiny a head coach can endure in the New York marketplace, even if the spotlight doesn’t shine with quite the same intensity on Armas as it does on some of his local coaching brethren.
It’s there though. “So yeah, it’s a, it’s interesting, because last year, you know, it’s this isn’t my first go around, right? I took over the team last year, you’d say it was a really difficult half a season to deal with.”
“And,” Armas noted, “we came out of that looking pretty good. I mean, not much was talked about our team, or me in general, and again, don’t need that. But again, didn’t get too high. And now I’m certainly, I’m certainly not going to get too low.”
Armas paints a picture of a coach and a team that puts its faith in hard work, not rumors.
“What we do is show up every day, where we love the training session today, the energies, right, we believe so much in what we’re doing, we just gotta, we gotta get some results. We know that. And we’re pushing hard.”
A week that began for the New York Red Bulls with rumors that Thierry Henry would soon be pushing Chris Armas out as the team’s coach ended with a fifth consecutive match without a win, as the 2018 Supporters Shield winners fell 1-0 to a New England Revolution side that is no one’s idea of a contender.
Rumors and uncertainty swirl for NYRB
Last week, Sky Sports reported that Herny, the former Arsenal and New York Red Bulls superstar, was in negotiations with Red Bull for a job someplace within the sprawling organization, and that his most likely landing spot was in Armas’ place on the corporate depth chart. While unconfirmed, those rumors hover over NYRB during this unexpected run of poor form.
Still, the Red Bulls players might have been expected to back their coach by putting on a performance that said to management – “ we’ve got this.” Instead, this looked like a team that missed its creative fulcrum, Kaku, who missed this match on a red card suspension stemming from last week’s incident when he fired a shot into the stands, striking a fan.
The Red Bulls will likely have to do without Kaku for an extended period once the league’s disciplinary committee hands down its punishment in the coming week.
As for Armas’ job security, seven games does not a season make but with attendance problems becoming an issue at the scaled down Red Bull Arena, it is worth considering when “it’s still early” becomes it is “it’s too late,” for the Red Bulls. They now find themselves in last place tie on points with Atlanta United and NYCFC in the conference with a record of one win, four losses, and two draws.
A wasted chance for momentum
Saturday night in New England seemed like an ideal time and place for the struggling Red Bulls to steal a road win, particularly against a Revolution side with problems of its own.
Brad Friedel’s side came into Saturday’s match at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, having lost three on the trot, while conceding 12 goals and scoring just five for a dismal -7 goal differential on the season.
Friedel coached New England to an eight place finish last year in his first season behind the Revs bench, finishing nine points off of the final playoff position in the East. The USMNT icon has had troubles of his own in 2019. It remains to be seen if Friedel made the right call in late March when he threw his players, indeed the league’s players, under the bus by saying:
“The mentality of a player in this league, a lot of players, when they lose, it doesn’t hurt enough. There’s not relegation, they don’t get fined, they don’t have fans waiting by their cars, they don’t have people beating them up. They don’t have the pressure they have in other leagues.”
With a long playing career in the English Premier League behind him, Friedel’s remarks hold weight. However, coming from a second year coach with a thin resume, Friedel’s comments can be taken as a cop out from a coach having trouble motivating his players.
With that backdrop, neither side was likely to be overly concerned with anything other than emerging with as many points as possible on what was a dismal night in Foxborough. The home side claimed all three available points on a 73rd minute strike from substitute forward Cristian Penilla.
Sent in on goal by fellow sub Juan Fernando Caicedo, Penilla’s angled shot traveled under the gloves and through the legs of Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles, a rare miscue for the Red Bulls captain.
Despite a five to two advantage in shots on goal, the Red Bulls really only had two legitimate scoring opportunities on the night. The first came on a fine bit of trickery from midfielder Marc Rzatkowski in the 39th minute. Rzatkowski deftly controlled a cross from Vincent Bezecourt, showing off his juggling prowess before powering a left footed shot that Cody Cropper did well to save.
Bradley Wright-Phillips had a chance to end his scoring drought in the 50th minute, but with Cropper off his line and out of the play, BWP’s shot was blocked by Revs defender Michael Mancienne.
New England faces a quick turnaround with a home game on Wednesday against the Montreal Impact, who are coming off of a 3-0 shellacking at Philadelphia. NYRB take on FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena next Saturday, the first fixture of a three game home stand that may have a lot to say about the remainder of the Red Bulls season.
It will also be interesting to see how oddsmakers now view the Red Bulls. Cincinnati is coming off an embarrassing 0-3 home loss to Real Salt Lake. With two wins though, Cincinnati sit ahead of NYRB in the table. Will FanDuel Sportsbook NJ install New York as a favorite despite the struggles? Look for the MLS Odds later this week.
After seven weeks of MLS, the Western Conference is nosing ahead of the East, reversing a trend from last year.
LAFC and the Seattle Sounders are likely the two best teams in the league (a case can be made LAFC is certainly the best), easily outpacing eastern leaders DC United and the Columbus Crew. With an undefeated Houston Dynamo, a CCL-free Sporting KC and spry FC Dallas, the West looks like it could produce a superior group of seven playoff teams.
At the bottom, however, the difference is stark, and could be spark an East revival. The floundering New England Revolution are the only bottom-tier East team that fits the profile of a true last-place contender. Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls will surely sort themselves out enough to accelerate up the standings. Hectic, draw-happy NYCFC could rise as well.
Five East teams are out of the playoffs as it stands, with each team having played between five and seven games: the four mentioned above, plus eighth-place Chicago Fire. Let’s go over each one, and evaluate whether they can overtake the playoff teams:
The Fire are a confusing team. They theoretically have at least some attacking talent, enough to win games and challenge good teams. Nico Gaitan arrived as a new DP talent not too long ago. With CJ Sapong playing either up top or on the wing as a target scorer, Chicago have versatility.
But watching them, it’s hard to discern what they’re trying to do, or any consistency to their approach. Aleksandar Katai’s role is ambiguous. The midfield can pass, but there is little connectedness, and the front four is all over the place. They have to sort themselves out before they can maximize their ability.
New York Red Bulls
Rumors of Thierry Henry taking the managerial job notwithstanding, the Red Bulls have underperformed to start the year. They’ve managed just one win from their first six games, and now will lose Kaku for (presumably) a significant stretch of games after he went a little bonkers in Kansas City.
One of their biggest keys to getting back on track is Cristian Casseres Jr. in midfield. The Red Bulls need strength and ball-winning out of his position. Stability there could rub off on the backline.
If the Fire are difficult to figure out, NYC are doubly so. Discerning what Dome Torrent is trying to do is impossible on a game-by-game basis. With five draws from six games, this is an oddball team. No one really knows what to expect from them.
It will be interesting to see how Torrent manages the playing time of his wingers. Alexandru Mitrita, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Medina and Valentin Castellanos are competing for the same minutes, and once Heber takes the starting forward job, none of them will be able to play as a false 9. Right now, it looks like Mitrita and Lewis are the favorites to start, though Castellanos had his best game in MLS last week in Minnesota.
Atlanta’s road win over New England will inspire renewed confidence in a Five Stripes team enduring a sluggish start to the season. Winning against the Revs is far from a difficult task, but there were positive elements to take.
Most notably, Ezequiel Barco produced a breakout performance. With Hector Villalba starting on the left side, Barco had space to maneuver and generate chances. His confidence looked as high as it’s been in MLS. More performances like that would be a boon for Atlanta as they deal with complacency and Pity Martinez’s injury.
New England Revolution
The Revs are a few classes below the rest of these clubs. Outside of a 2-1 home win over Minnesota on March 30, New England have very publicly struggled. Brad Friedel, looking a lot worse now than he did in the early days of his coaching tenure, blamed MLS’s structure for his managerial deficiencies.
The attack, as ever, is marginally good enough to get the Revs into the playoffs with a strong midfield and stout defense. Those things, reader, are not happening in New England. The midfield is a revolving door, particularly when Wilfried Zahibo plays, and the backline is leaky and mistake-prone. A high-energy press will nick them points, but teams figured the Revs out a long time ago, and they aren’t organized enough at the back to keep the ball out of their net.
Eastern Conference leaders DC United host still winless (with 5 draws in 6 games!) but hungry NYCFC.
MLS Matchweek 8 Game Odds
|Friday, April 19|
|FC Cincinnati -115||Draw +280||Real Salt Lake +280|
|Toronto FC -160||Draw +320||Minnesota +390|
|LA Galaxy -125||Draw +290||Houston Dynamo +310|
|Saturday, April 20|
|Chicago Fire -160||Draw +310||Colorado +420|
|Philadelphia Union -145||Draw +290||Montreal +380|
|Orlando City -175||Draw +340||Vancouver +430|
|Atlanta United -155||Draw +300||FC Dallas +400|
|New England Revolution +145||Draw +250||New York Red Bulls +175|
|Columbus Crew -170||Draw +320||Portland Timbers +430|
|San Jose +260||Draw +280||Sporting KC -105|
|Sunday, April 21|
|DC United -115||Draw +270||NYCFC+290|
|LAFC -140||Draw +310||Seattle +340|
Odds and Ends
- Yes, LAFC are the best team in MLS. However, some of LAFC’s placement as top team is because Seattle have two games-in-hand. Seattle at +340 this season against anyone is a bit long. Some value in Seattle at that price or the +310 draw.
- Speaking of draws, call it a hunch, or call it “they’ve literally drawn 5 of 6 matches to date,” but NYCFC at +270 for an even end results is a good price.
- New York Red Bulls traveling to New England are basically getting the exact same odds as Atlanta United did last week. ATL dominated. NYRB at +175 is tasty.
- And speaking of the Five Stripes, are they really back yet? If they’re win over New England wasn’t so much a sign of things to come as it was simply “New England sucks,” then Dallas at +400 or the draw at +300 are good prices.
A moment of madness from midfielder Kaku in which he kicked a ball in anger into the crowd, striking and injuring a fan, overshadowed a thriller 2-2 draw between the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City.
This was the first point earned by the Red Bulls after three consecutive losses. Sporting will be pleased to to snatch the draw on a late goal from 16 year-old Gianluca Busio – his third straight match with a goal.
Unfortunately, Kaku’s red card offense and looming suspension will be the talking points from the game.
Kaku, AKA Alejandro Romero Gamarra, turned to the modern day Town Hall, Twitter, after the game with the following pair of tweets in an attempt to own his actions.
I want to take the time and apologize for my actions during tonight’s match. As a competitor, I was frustrated with myself and took out my frustrations in a way that is not acceptable. I love this game and would never want to disrespect it. pic.twitter.com/0f1ufcXyJ4— kaku (@kakuromero17) April 15, 2019
What happened before Kaku’s red card…
Playing in front of an “announced” sellout, SKC made a determined start, determined to wipe out the stench of last Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Monterrey, a defeat that eliminated Peter Vermes’ side from the CONCACAF Champions League by an embarrassing 10-2 aggregate score.
KC attacked from the opening whistle, with Gerso drawing a save from Luis Robles just seconds into the match, having skipped past New York’s right fullback Michael Murillo.
But Sporting would spend most of the opening half exploiting a mismatch on the opposite side of the pitch with Johnny Russell having his way with Connor Lade, who was filling in for Kemar Lawrence, who missed out with the flu.
That strategy paid off in the 23rd minute when Russell all too easily raced past Lade on a throw-in that was put into his path by Krisztián Németh. Russell’s well struck shot put the home team in the lead.
The opening exchanges were dominated by Sporting against a shaky New York defense that also had its hands full with the intelligent play of center forward Nemeth, who was finding gaps between the Red Bulls center-back pairing of Aaron Long and Tim Parker.
The visitors began to come to grips with the match about 15 minutes in and even had the ball in Tim Melia’s net in the 16th minute before the goal was canceled out for an offside call on Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Despite New York’s improved play, SKC forced most of the first-half action with Luis Robles much busier in the NY net than Melia was at the opposite end of the field.
The Bulls picked up their play on the re-start, although Russell should have stretched the Kansas City lead just past the hour mark when he fired wide from a very dangerous area. Red Bulls coach Chris Armas then made an unusual move when he removed the team’s all-time leader in goals Wright-Phillips in the 71st minute for Brian White.
BWP went to the bench not having scored a goal in four consecutive matches. He has a total of just one in six games for the season. White made Armas look good when he headed home his first goal of 2019 in the 75th minute off a brilliant long range pass from Kaku, a reminder of what the Paraguay international can do when he uses his left foot for its intended purpose.
A desperately needed victory looked to be in the cards for New York but then up stepped Sporting’s 16 year-old sensation Gianluca Busio to deflect a Graham Zusi shot past Robles for an 88th minute equalizer.
With the goal, Busio became the youngest player in MLS history to score in three consecutive games, bettering the mark he set last week when he scored his side’s only goal in a 1-1 draw at Cincinnati.
Sporting nearly claimed all three points in added time when Daniel Salloi had Robles beaten all ends up only to see his shot carom violently off the underside of the crossbar and away.
Then, all hell broke loose.
With New York trying to start one last attack and the ball in the Red Bulls defensive end of the pitch, Kaku could be seen frantically waving for a pass out around midfield. The ball didn’t reach him, going out over the sideline for a throw-in, before rolling slowly to Kaku, prompting him to put his laces through the ball with a hard shot intended for the side boards.
Unfortunately the shot carried a little high, striking a fan in the face, or so it appeared. The Kansas City players jumped in to confront Kaku, the Red Bulls came in to back their teammate and a bit of a fracas ensued with Kaku earning a straight red card and Robles and Nemeth going into the book with yellow cards.
Kaku immediately attempted to apologize, although he reacted with incredulity to the sending off. The league is expected to come down hard on Kaku, with a multi-game suspension and a hefty fine likely.
In a welcome gesture, the Red Bulls players and coaches went to the fan and apologized as did members of Sporting KC. It’s been reported the fan did leave bloodied and dazed, however.
As for Kaku, he began the season angry with Red Bulls brass that a transfer that he wanted to Liga MX side Club America did not come off, was suspended for unstated reasons for one match earlier in the season and now this.
We will see how long Kaku is suspended for, then we will see if his final action in a Red Bulls uniform came when he kicked a ball at fan Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park.
MLS Matchweek 7 Game OddsAs always, home team is listed first. If you need a refresher, visit how to bet MLS or how to bet soccer. All listed odds from April 10 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Wednesday, April 10|
|Colorado Rapids +194||Draw +240||Seattle Sounders +140|
|Friday, April 12|
|Chicago Fire -145||Draw +320||Vancouver Whitecaps +350|
|Saturday, April 13|
|Montreal Impact +115||Draw +250||Columbus Crew +220|
|Houston Dynamo -180||Draw +350||San Jose Earthquakes +440|
|Seattle Sounders -120||Draw +270||Toronto FC +320|
|Minnesota United -115||Draw +280||New York City FC +280|
|New England Revolution +145||Draw +240||Atlanta United +180|
|FC Dallas -155||Draw +310||Portland Timbers +390|
|Colorado Rapids +185||Draw +250||D.C. United +140|
|Real Salt Lake -115||Draw +280||Orlando City +280|
|Los Angeles FC -270||Draw +410||FC Cincinnati +650|
|LA Galaxy -105||Draw +280||Philadelphia Union +250|
|Sunday, April 14|
|Sporting KC +100||Draw +270||New York Red Bulls +250|
Odds and Ends
- In our marquee match-up, Sporting KC (+100) vs New York Red Bulls (+250) battle it out in Sporting’s backyard. Looking at both teams the past weekend, Sporting is coming off a tie away against FC Cincinnati (not to mention their tough loss in CCL) while the Red Bulls come off a loss at home to Minnesota United where the Red Bulls were seen to be struggling. In fact, the Red Bulls have only picked up 4 points in their last 5 matches. Pretty tragic so far. BUT, can anyone remember 2016 when Red Bulls were 1-and-6 and then ended up winning the Eastern Conference? We wouldn’t count them out just yet. Both teams need the points — for morale and conference standings.
- The match of the weekend in terms of current conference standing goes to Seattle Sounders (-120) vs Toronto FC (+320). With Sounders coming off a win at home while Toronto FC struggled for a tie at home last weekend against Chicago Fire, who currently sit at the bottom half of the table of the Eastern Conference, it’s easy to see why Sounders are the favorites. With all this being said, both teams sit in one of the top 3 spots in their conference…if I were Toronto, I’d be a bit offended by the value they were given. Toronto at +320 deserves a longer look.
- A value play worth taking a look at is Minnesota FC (-115) vs New York City FC (+280). Currently, Minnesota have accumulated the most away points (9 points) out of any MLS team in 2019. On top of that, they are about to play in their new home stadium for the very first time. Meanwhile, New York City FC are sitting second to last in the Eastern Conference which makes sense considering they’re currently without a win in their first 5 matches and can’t seem to score (statistics show that they’re averaging LESS than a goal per game). With all this being said, a value favorite is Minnesota FC.
- Another match to look out for is Atlanta United (+180) vs New England Revolution (+145). Both teams are sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It’s still quite early to make a judgement call based on standings but, needless to say, both teams need a win. ATL UTD are returning fresh after a weekend off while New England are returning home after coming off a loss away at Columbus Crew.
Well, at least they scored a goal.
After suffering consecutive 1-0 losses, the first at home to Orlando City and then at Chicago the past two Saturday nights, the New York Red Bulls fell 2-1 to Minnesota United this Saturday in front of their home fans.
Is the honeymoon over?
After making what appeared to be a seamless transition from Jesse Marsch to former assistant coach Chris Armas in the middle of the 2018 season, the opening portion of the new campaign has been an entirely different story. The Supporters Shield holders have stumbled to a record of 1 win, 3 losses, and 1 tie.
This latest loss leaves the Red Bulls in ninth place in the Eastern Conference in what looks like a “Bizarro World” version of the Eastern Conference standings that features Atlanta United in 12th (last) place and NYCFC one spot above the 2018 MLS Cup winners in 11th.
Minnesota is doing what it can to upend the apple cart out West, moving to 3 wins and 2 losses with this victory, good for sixth place in the early going.
Changes afoot, same end-result
One readily apparent change from last season is a new sense of fragility with New York’s much heralded back four. Untouchable on the way to league’s best defensive record in 2018, the previously airtight backsmen have been less of a sure thing in front Luis Robles this year.
The team’s center back pairing of U.S. international Aaron Long and Tim Parker were victimized on both of the Minnesota goals Saturday. The first from Abu Danladi came in the 34th minute when Long combined with Parker and backtracking midfielder Sean Davis to lose Danladi, who finished well for the visitors.
The goal was the lone tally of the opening stanza as the Red Bulls scoring drought stretched to 225 minutes.
Looking to shake those goal scoring doldrums, Armas tinkered with his lineup, inserting 19 year-old Cristian Cásseres Jr. into the midfield as well as partnering slumping striker Bradley Wright-Phillips with 18 year-old Mathias Jørgensen.
Cásseres Jr. would eventually come through with a goal in the 70th minute, pouncing on a rebound from Parker’s header that Vito Mannone did well to save from Davis’ corner kick, a goal that halved the Loons lead.
The goal was the first of his nascent MLS career for Casseres, a player the Red Bulls rate highly and are hoping can contribute to filling the void left by Tyler Adams’ departure to the Bundesliga.
Minnesota had tacked on a second goal at the 50 minute mark with Long victimized by a push off by Angelo Rodriguez, who then crossed to Romario Ibarra for an acrobatic finish. Long probably had a case for a foul but had the center back stood up to the Rodriguez challenge the point would have been moot.
New York was unable to tack on the equalizer as BWP’s scoring drought extends now to three games, with the former Golden Boot winner’s lone goal having come in New York’s 4-1 home win over lowly San Jose in a 4-1 victory back on March 16.
Wright-Phillips’ struggles, and those of the Red Bulls in general, are quite a change from last season’s Supporters Shield winning campaign that saw a balanced Red Bulls team lead MLS in defense and top the league in goal differential, signs of a well balanced side.
The Red Bulls continued to struggle off the field of play as well with an announced attendance of just 15,706 making their way out to Harrison, New Jersey on what was a beautiful Saturday evening.
Unfortunately these attendance issues are nothing new, in fact Red Bulls management felt it necessary to reduce the seating capacity at Red Bull Arena prior to the 2019 season, hardly an encouraging sign for one of the better teams in the league.
MLS Matchday 6 lines are out.
The marquee match-up is easily Eastern leaders DC United against Western leaders LAFC. That’s required viewing if you’re a MLS fan.
MLS Matchweek 6 Game Odds
All listed odds from April 03 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Friday, April 05|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +170||Draw +260||LA Galaxy+145|
|Saturday, April 06|
|NYCFC -140||Draw +310||Montreal Impact +340|
|Toronto FC -180||Draw +350||Chicago Fire +430|
|DC United +130||Draw +270||LAFC +190|
|New York Red Bulls -175||Draw +330||Minnesota United +450|
|Orlando City -130||Draw +300||Colorado Rapids +310|
|Philadelphia Union -110||Draw +260||FC Dallas +290|
|Columbus Crew -180||Draw +320||New England +480|
|San Jose +175||Draw +260||Portland Timbers +135|
|Seattle Sounders -230||Draw +360||Real Salt Lake +600|
|Sunday, April 07|
|FC Cincinnati +125||Draw +250||Sporting KC +210|
Odds and Ends
- So, yeah, we said it looks like oddsmakers have adjusted. Yet, the New York Red Bulls are heavy favorites against Minnesota United despite ‘Sota having a better goal differential (by 1, but still). How can this be? In part, the Red Bulls have been unlucky. Their xGF is less than their actual tally. Minnesota, on the other hand, have been lucky. Golden opportunity for the Red Bulls to regress to the mean and earn a W.
- Bottom-dwelling NYCFC, albeit at home, find themselves heavy favorites against mid-table Montreal. How can this be? Again, look at their goal differential. Both are -4 after four games. Montreal in particular is a sieve on defense, conceding 11 goals. This could be a high-scoring affair. Look at high tally goal props on this one.
- Looking for some value underdogs? Sporting KC at +210, a superior team to a still surprisingly solid FC Cincinnati, and FC Dallas at +290 against Philadelphia Union are both worth a longer look.
- A value favorite is Orlando City at home. At only -130 against a middling Colorado team, those are some short odds for a clearly superior team.
Coming off of a disappointing 1-0 shutout loss at home to last season’s worst in the East, Orlando City, the New York Red Bulls were expected to take their frustrations out on a Chicago Fire team that entered Saturday night’s game in Bridgeview, Illinois looking for its first victory of the season. Instead, New York stumbled to a second consecutive 1-0 loss.
With MLS players returning from the international break, the Red Bulls’ vaunted back four was together for the first time in 2019. However, the quartet of Aaron Long, Tim Parker, Michael Murillo, and Kemar Lawrence (all but Parker represented his country during the break) were disorganized throughout, and could well have conceded more than the Parker own goal that decided the match.
Poor showing by key players
Lawrence raised some eyebrows among Red Bulls watchers when he accepted a call up to Jamaica despite having played just 45 minutes this season for his club due to injury. Those concerns were shown to have some merit when Lawrence limped off the pitch in the 81st minute, replaced by Conor Lade.
The Red Bulls midfield maestro Kaku was also back from playing for Paraguay and from serving a suspension for the Red Bulls. Kaku was needed to provide some badly wanted creativity for a Red Bulls attack that was devoid of ideas last week versus Orlando. Kaku failed to provide much in that department and he and fellow Red Bulls midfielders were overrun in the middle of the park, certainly for the opening 60 minutes of the match.
With New York’s midfield being dominated by a Dax McCarty led Fire group, it was difficult not to notice that NYRB product Tyler Adams picked up a spectacular assist in RB Leipzig’s 5-0 win over Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga Saturday afternoon.
This assist 🤤🤤🤤. @tyler_adams14 continues his rise in Germany.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 30, 2019
Marc Rzatkowski has gotten the first shot at filling the void left when Adams took his talents to Leipzig, with players like Sean Davis also expected to pick up some of the slack. The Red Bulls are also high on 19-year-old Cristian Cásseres Jr., although coach Chris Armas has been cautious with the young Venezuelan.
With the team struggling in defense and in the midfield it was always going to be a tough night for the Red Bulls attack, but leaving out a 4-0 shellacking of a dreadful San Jose side, New York has scored just one goal in four games, and scoring ace Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored just once.
An inspired Chicago Fire performance
Coming off of a 4-2 home defeat to Seattle, there was little to suggest this performance from Chicago coming into Saturday night’s matchup with the 2018 Supporters Shield winners. Like the Red Bulls, Chicago was also searching for goals from its primary scoring option, with 2017 Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolić yet to ring the bell this season.
Chicago’s tally came on a Red Bulls own goal, so Nikolić did not get on the scoresheet Saturday night. Fire coach Veljko Paunovic will have been pleased with the effort from his striker, who pressured the NY backline throughout and whose shot it was that caromed off of Tim Parker and across the goal line for the game’s lone goal.
As the clock ticked toward 90′ Saturday night, desperation set in and RBNY showed more urgency in the latter stages of the match. However, German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger was immense at the heart of the Fire defense, leaving Fire goalkeeper David Ousted to face just one shot on goal despite all of that Red bulls urgency.
10 minutes from the final whistle Paunovic handed his MLS debut to 31-year-old Argentine midfielder Nicolás Gaitán. The addition of Gaitán to the Chicago midfield could make Schweinsteiger’s relocation to central defense permanent, a move that could shore up the Fire defense with McCarty providing cover for the back four.
MLS Matchweek 5 lines are now released in full.
The marquee match-ups are Eastern conference fixtures between Orlando City and top-of-the-table DC United, and Columbus Crew vs Atlanta United. An Orlando win *could* temporarily put them top of table (albeit with a game in hand), depending on the outcome of the Friday night Toronto FC vs NYCFC game. An Atlanta United win would…give them their first win.
One thing to watch for is how many players who participated for their country over the international break are inserted back into the starting line-up for their respective clubs.
MLS Matchweek 5 Game Odds
All listed odds from March 28 on BetStars NJ.
|Friday, March 29|
|Toronto FC +100||Draw +270||NYCFC +260|
|Saturday, March 30|
|Chicago Fire +180||Draw +250||New York Red Bulls +145|
|Columbus Crew +105||Draw +260||Atlanta United +250|
|New England Revolution +125||Draw +260||Minnesota United +200|
|Sporting KC -167||Draw +310||Montreal Impact +425|
|FC Cincinnati +125||Draw +260||Philadelphia Union +205|
|Colorado Rapids +150||Draw +245||Houston Dynamo +175|
|Real Salt Lake +120||Draw +240||FC Dallas +225|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +260||Draw +260||Seattle Sounders +100|
|Sunday, March 31|
|Orlando City +145||Draw +260||DC United +170|
|LA Galaxy -120||Draw +290||Portland Timbers +310|
Odds and Ends
- After coming off a win as the biggest Matchweek 4 underdog (+750! On the road! Against the Red Bulls!), Orlando City is getting some respect. They’re now slight home favorites against DC United.
- Should New England be favored against any one right now? They are against a stronger than expected Minnesota United. Some value in that +200 there.
- Atlanta United aren’t automatic favorites any more, especially against a strong Columbus Crew squad.
- Same goes for Colorado. To paraphrase Fran Fraschilla, “they’re two years away from being two years away.” Yet a solid Houston Dynamo team is a slight underdog traveling to Denver.
- NYCFC has struggled, dropping leads and drawing all three games. But +260 to Toronto? Seems a bit long.
- New York Red Bulls have also struggled and had some key players on international duty. Yet, they’re given a slight edge (+145) traveling to Chicago (+180).
- The only odds-on favorites now are the Galaxy and Sporting KC. They former host a falling Timbers team who are receiving some action, going from +310 to +270. The latter is being bet heavily, as Sporting has gone to -167 and Montreal longs from +260 to +425.