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.
Sacha Kljestan’s 73rd-minute goal had Orlando City SC singing “I Love New York” Saturday night in Harrison, New Jersey.
With Kljestan’s second half strike, Orlando secured a 1-0 victory of the New York Red Bulls, picking up their first win of the 2019 season.
Late Saturday night I caught up with Kljestan, a former Red Bulls captain, outside the visitor’s locker room of the stadium he called home from 2015-2017, and I asked the 31-year-old if this goal was somehow “special.”
“I feel really good,” Kljestan said, adding:
“I wouldn’t say extra special, more than any other goal I’ve scored in my career. But it just feels really good because the team put in a really good performance and we–we desperately needed those three points.”
Orlando’s first win is a big one
Orlando has shown positive results against strong teams this year, having come from two goals down to earn a season-opening draw versus NYCFC at home in early March. However, as Kljestan noted, these three points were big.
After finishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2018, Orlando came into Saturday’s match against last season’s Supporters Shield winners “desperate” to pick up its first win of the campaign. They happily headed to Newark airport on the right side of the playoff line in fifth place, one spot ahead of Saturday’s highly rated hosts, and just two points behind table-toppers DC United and Columbus Crew.
With just four games played Orlando won’t be popping any corks just yet, but both Kljestan and coach James O’Connor used the word “encouraged” when I caught up with them as they headed for the RBA exit on Saturday night.
O’Connor, the 39-year-old Dubliner who took over at Orlando when Jason Kreis, recently appointed as the U.S. U23 MNT coach, was fired last June said, “we’re very encouraged by the level of performance. I think we’ve seen some things that we can do better overall and I think, so far, we’re really encouraged.”
Kljestan, who was surprisingly left unprotected by Orlando City in the expansion draft held to stock FC Cincinnati prior to the season, echoed O’Connor’s remarks. “I feel like we’re headed in the right direction,” Kljestan said. “I think we had a really good pre-season and four games in – I think we could have done better in our first three for sure, but tonight is a good performance to build off of.”
A frustrating start of season for NYRB
While encouragement was the takeaway from the visitors, frustration seemed to be the key emotion in the Red Bulls camp following Saturday’s match, even as Red Bulls coach Chris Arms admitted, “I’m happy for Sasha too, and he had a good game.”
Naturally, Armas was more honed in on his own team, telling the gathered press post-game, “…credit to Orlando, for sure. But again we were more focused on, we didn’t bring on good stuff on the night.”
“We went to a major opportunity in front of loyal supporters, people that come out and support us all the time, and we didn’t give them what they deserved.”
As he stood in front of his locker, I asked center back Tim Parker for his take on the match. “It was really frustrating,” Parker admitted. “You know, I think it was shown on the field and we’ll talk about it but it’s one of those things that we’ve kind of- we’ve got to put behind this and push forward.”
That frustration boiled over after the match when team captain Luis Robles angrily confronted the officials over what Armas said was the home team’s frustration with Orlando’s time-wasting tactics, which Armas called, “a deliberate attempt to slow the game down.”
And speaking of frustration, on a night when the Major League’s Soccer’s insistence on playing during sanctioned FIFA international breaks cost the Red Bulls three of its starting back four, Aaron Long (USA), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), and Michael Murillo (Panama), as well as key playmaker Kaku (Paraguay). Armas also had to deal with injuries to Conor Lade, filling in at one fullback position, subbed off in the 26th minute, and his replacement Omir Fernandez, who had to check out after 80 minutes.
Ultimately, the night belonged to Kljestan
But the hero of the evening was the returning Kljestan. And even if he wouldn’t admit to taking any extra pleasure in scoring the game-winner versus the team that cast him out just two years ago, Kljestan was happy to talk about playing at his former home base.
“It’s not so much fun to come play my old team,” Kljestan said, “but to play in this stadium. I love Red Bull Arena. It’s a special place, the field is always perfect. And it’s, it’s just a place that I get excited about playing.”
With the international break upon us, the MLS has a light matchweek of fixtures. Early contenders like New York Red Bulls, LAFC, and the Columbus Crew at least give this scaled back schedule some headliners.
MLS Matchweek 4 Game Odds
All listed odds from March 20 on FanDuel NJ Sportsbook.
|FC Dallas -170||Draw +310||Colorado +460|
|Philadelphia Union +165||Draw +240||Columbus Crew +160|
|New York Red Bulls -310||Draw +440||Orlando City +750|
|LAFC -170||Draw +310||Real Salt Lake +440|
|New England Revolution -105||Draw +280||FC Cincinnati +250|
Odds and Ends
- NYRB are by far the heaviest favorite this week against a not-great-but-not-that-bad Orlando City. NYRB have a game in hand and if they paste Orlando by 4, would move into an early tie with DC United for top of the table.
- Columbus Crew is an ever-so-slight road favorite against a Philadelphia Union team that just tied Atlanta United. Any points here would move the Crew top of table.
- Should New England Revolution really be an odds-on home favorite? They play a mid-table FC Cincinnati team who also tied ATLUTD on the road. The +280 draw or +250 on Cincinnati outright my have some value.
The New York Red Bulls spotted the San Jose Earthquakes an early lead on Saturday when Christian Espinoza eluded defender Kyle Duncan and beat Luis Robles to his short side in the fifth minute on Saturday. The 0-1 tally put last year’s regular season champions on their heels.
As last season’s points leader, the Red Bulls raised the Supporters Shield in a pre-game ceremony prior to Saturday’s home opener. This only served to underline the gap in quality between the Red Bulls, who earned that Shield by amassing 71 points last season while the Earthquakes had 21, fifty points less than RBNY, the lowest point total in the league in 2018.
Not surprisingly, San Jose made some changes in the off-season, with the team’s biggest move coming behind the bench, where the Quakes made a high profile move to bring in former Chivas boss Matías Almeyda.
The Almeyda move brought a certain amount of legitimacy to the organization, but their remains a lot of work to for the coach to do before that positive image translates onto the pitch.
Duncan was replacing MLS Defender of the Year finalist Kemar Lawrence who is still out injured. The Red Bulls depth is a team strength, and it was further tested at Saturday’s home opener, with coach Chris Armas needing to replace suspended DP and assist leader Alejandro Romero Gamarra, AKA Kaku.
Kaku’s absence was all a bit of a mystery when the team’s talisman was left off the game day roster. Initially described simply as a coaches decision, it was later revealed that Kaku had been suspended for the match. Afterward, Armas said this of the situation:
“We had a minor internal issue, and we dealt with that quickly. It’s nothing to talk about or discuss here.”
Earlier in the week, Kaku had raised eyebrows when he tweeted, in Spanish, “Sad when you realize, you’re not as important as you thought.”
Kaku also was very interested in making a winter move to Mexican club America, raising the question of a possible lack of focus for the Paraguay international.
Muyl Shines as Red Bulls Depth Tested
The Red Bulls depth would be tested once more when Florian Valot had to leave with what looked like a knee injury in the 30th minute after a collision with Quakes midfielder Judson. Valot missed the majority of last season with a knee injury, so there was quite a bit of concern among the Red Bulls players and staff, who were understandably reluctant to speculate on Valot’s prognosis.
Alex Muyl replaced Valot and the all-action midfielder would turn the game on its head, translating his typical energy into tangible results, scoring a second-half brace to propel the home team to at 4-1 victory.
Muyl, whose work rate stands out even on the hard-working Red Bulls, has been criticized for his final touch, be it a pass or a shot. The Manhattan native has scored two, three, and three goals in his three seasons with the Red Bulls, so yesterday’s tally was as impressive for Muyl as it was necessary for his club.
Second Half Onslaught Leaves San Jose Quaking
The Earthquakes maintained their slim lead into the halftime break but Muyl’s first strike leveled the match in the 51st minute. Bradley Wright-Phillips started the sequence when he drew a strong save from San Jose keeper Daniel Vega. Vega was in hard luck, however, when his save caromed directly to Daniel Royer, who found Muyl alone in front of goal.
Muyl took his chance and the sides were level.
When Muyl struck again, the goal, if not necessarily the goalscorer, seemed inevitable. The score came from a trademark Red Bulls set piece, when Sean Davis fed Royer, after a bit of misdirection. Royer’s cross was deflected but still made its way to the San Jose goalmouth where the alert Muyl smashed home a close-range volley to give the home team the lead.
The Red Bulls had the bit between their teeth now and for the new look Earthquakes, a familiar feeling of dread must have begun to creep in. Two late and remarkably similar goals for the Bulls sealed the deal and left San Jose glued to the bottom of the West Coast standings with a 0-3-0 record.
The Red Bulls goals came from Wright-Phillips whose deft touch finished a driven cross from Davis in the 85th minute and Royer, who tapped home a similar cross from the opposite wing from fullback Michael Murrilo in the 89th.
Both goals came from the inside the six-yard box after the Quakes wide defenders had been beaten, an area of vulnerability that Almeyda will want to address.
As for the Red Bulls, it is always good to start the home schedule with a win but the old attendance issue raised its ugly head once again, as an announced crowd of 15,621 failed to come close to filling the reduced capacity Red Bull Arena, a sobering note on an otherwise celebratory day for the MLS original franchise.
Heading into MLS matchweek 3, the Western Conference certainly appears to be the stronger division at the top. How do we know such things? Because despite only being two weeks into the season, LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE EASTERN CONFERENCE TEAM HAS DROPPED POINTS.
How is that even possible?
On the Best Coast, the Seattle Sounders, Minnesota (!!!) and LAFC have secured all six available points.
This week’s MLS match-ups will put LAFC to the test, as they find themselves as underdogs traveling to NYCFC. Minnesota are underdogs in a strong road challenge against Zlatan and LA Galaxy. Seattle travels as slight underdogs to play Chicago Fire.
Atlanta United, still struggling under first year manager Frank de Boer, will try to secure their first W of the season at home vs. Philadelphia Union. The New York Red Bulls host perennial bottom dwellers San Jose. These games will be a test for ATL and NYRB depth, as the clubs have played a heavy slate of tough games early this season thanks to the CONCACAF Champions League.
MLS Matchweek 3 Game Odds
All listed odds from FanDuel NJ Sportsbook.
|Chicago Fire +135||Draw +250||Seattle Sounders +195|
|Columbus Crew -135||Draw +260||FC Dallas +390|
|New York Red Bulls -370||Draw +480||San Jose Earthquakes +850|
|Houston Dynamo -155||Draw +310||Vancouver Whitecaps +390|
|Orlando City +110||Draw +270||Montreal Impact +220|
|DC United -150||Draw +290||Real Salt Lake +410|
|LA Galaxy +120||Draw +260||Minnesota United +210|
|FC Cincinnati +140||Draw +250||Portland Timbers +185|
|Toronto FC -145||Draw +300||New England +360|
|Atlanta United -170||Draw +330||Philadelphia Union +410|
|Colorado Rapids +195||Draw +260||Sporting KC +130|
On a blustery night in Torreon, Mexico, the New York Red Bulls came to town with their CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) hopes all but extinguished following last Tuesday night’s 2-0 home loss to Santos Laguna in the first leg, only to quickly set the tie on its head by scoring twice in the opening nine minutes.
Homegrown product Omir Fernandez set the stage for the visitors with his first ever Red Bulls goal in the fourth minute. The Bronx, N.Y, native beat Santos Laguna keeper Jonathan Orozco, unbeatable just seven days earlier at Red Bull Arena, to give the visitors hope.
That hope multiplied just six minutes later when Daniel Royer, who earned an assist on Fernadez’ opener, leveled the aggregate at two when he slotted home from a Bradley Wright-Phillips set up to stun the boisterous Estadio Corona crowd into something approaching silence.
In the 23rd minute, Orozco shut down Wright-Phillips, a flashback to last Tuesday at RBA, when the RBNY hitman fired at the keeper from close range. New York netminder Luis Robles did his part to keep the home team at bay robbing Marlos Moreno in a one v one battle at the 40-minute mark, preserving the good vibes for the Red Bulls just ahead of the intermission.
A Tale of Two Halves
Whatever words of wisdom the coach Salvador Reyes imparted during the break, Santos Laguna was a different team at the restart, immediately pinning the Red Bulls in their own end, earning corners and putting Robles’ goal under pressure. Then, as the Red Bulls began to work their way into the second half, Jose Abella fired Santos back into the second leg with a 72nd-minute strike that proved to be the beginning of a four goal in nine minutes onslaught that left New York in tatters, along with their CCL dreams.
After Abella’s opener, the goals came fast and furious for the home side. First from Brian Lozano in the 76th minute, then just three minutes later Diego Valdes got on the scoresheet before Lozano struck again in the 81st minute. That last goal from Lozano had to be a particularly bitter one for New York and its fine keeper and captain Luis Robles to surrender, as Lozano caught Robles off his line a blasted, Carli Lloyd style to beat the New York keeper from the far side of midfield. And so a night that had begun with so much promise, two goals in nine minutes, unraveled just as quickly as the Red Bulls conceded four times in that same time frame to see their CCL dream turn into a nightmare.
Santos win the game 4-2, and advance 6-2 on aggregate.
Harrison, N.J. – Goals on each side of halftime by Santos Laguna‘s dynamic attack pairing of Diego Valdes and Julio Furch left the New York Red Bulls staring at an early exit from the CONCACAF Champions League.
The 2-0 home loss leaves much work to be done in Leg 2 for a Red Bulls team that advanced to the semifinals of last year’s tournament.
Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips said post-game that the first leg home loss, “throws a spanner in the works,” if his side intends on matching or besting last year’s CONCACAF Champions League appearance. Wright-Philips said that the 2-0 deficit, “definitely doesn’t reflect the game,” and cited several missed scoring opportunities. However, BWP noted, “we created chances, I get confidence from that.”
New York’s English born striker accounted for both Red Bull goals in last year’s quarterfinal win at Tijuana, a result that BWP cited as a confidence booster heading into next Tuesday’s second leg on the road at Estadio Corona. One difference this time around is that the Red Bulls went on the road last year with a 3-1 win over their Mexican opponent already in the books, rather than a finding themselves in a 0-2 hole.
Santos Laguna Overcome Frigid Temps and Canceled Flights
Only a smattering of fans braved Tuesday night’s frigid temperatures that never climbed out of the 20s, with a sizable percentage of those supporters on hand to cheer on the visitors. After resting eight of his regulars for last weekend’s MLS season opener in Columbus, a 1-1 draw, coach Chris Armas turned to his first team to take on the Mexican side.
The home team was handed an early advantage before a ball was kicked as Santos Laguna’s inbound flight was canceled, leaving the visitors to finally arrive at their hotel on the wrong side of midnight. Speaking through an interpreter at his post-game press conference, Santos Laguna coach Salvador Reyes acknowledged that he was proud of his players for shrugging off those logistical difficulties, while praising Red Bulls as a great team and noting that nothing has been decided.
As New York imposed its will early in Tuesday’s match it was no great leap to suggest that the Mexican club was feeling the effects of their journey. The Red Bulls sprang from the traps quickly when Kaku fed Wright-Phillips with a defense-splitting pass, but BWP was unable to beat Santos keeper Jonathan Orozco, who parried Wright-Phillips’ chance for a corner kick.
— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) March 6, 2019
Orozco would frustrate the home team all night long (seen in the above video), although poor finishing played it’s part as well. With the match still knotted at zeroes, a pair of particularly egregious misses would haunt the New York side. The first came in the 35th minute when Daniel Royer failed to convert from Orozco’s doorstep after latching onto a wayward shot off the boot of Wright-Phillips.
Moments later, BWP was the culprit when he headed wide from a lovely cross by Marc Rzatkowski. Those misses would prove costly when Diego Valdes eluded the New York defense to blast past Luis Robles in the Red Bulls goal after a nice set up from Santos striker Julio Furch just three minutes before the half time whistle.
The Laguna attack, led by Furch, Valdes and Marcos Moreno, was causing the Red Bulls top rated back line all sorts of problems with its movement and clever interplay. This issue would raise its head again soon after the resumption of play when Furch put the Bulls in a two goal ditch in the 48th minute.
To their credit, the home team battled on. Things got chippy as normally mild-mannered midfielder Kaku got into an altercation that earned him a yellow card on the hour mark. The Red Bulls continued to attack Orozco’s net. Unfortunately for them, the combination of their own profligacy and the Santos Laguna net minder’s stellar play kept a goose egg on the the new RBA scoreboard at Red Bull Arena.
With the Houston Dynamo also falling at home to Tigres 2-0, it was yet another bad night for MLS teams when faced with Mexican opposition. Still, Wright-Phillips was undeterred in defeat. “I’m hoping for another Tijuana,” BWP said outside the Red Bulls locker room late Tuesday night, adding with a hint of a promise, “I feel like I owe the team a couple of goals.”
Yes, the Columbus Crew drew the New York Red Bulls 1-1 on Saturday.
But that wasn’t the story.
That there was even a game at MAPFRE Stadium, in front of 17,931 beleaguered supporters, was the evening’s big headline. It’s a story that had been played out over the many months since former Crew owner and Art Modell-wannabe, Anthony Precourt, announced his intention to move the Columbus Crew to Austin, Texas.
That the #savethecrew movement actually succeeded, and that the Columbus Crew still exist, was and will remain the headline to the Crew’s 2019 season.
Now About the Game…
On Saturday evening, the “saved” Crew played to a 1-1 draw against a New York Red Bulls side thatbrought new meaning to term “squad rotation.”
Saturday marked the debut behind the Crew bench of Caleb Porter, replacing Gregg Berhalter, the new USMNT coach. Porter, of course, made his name as a coach in the college ranks with the Akron Zips, before going pro with the Portland Timbers, who he led to the 2015 MLS Cup Championship.
So, with something of a local hero in Porter leading a team that most believed was gone for good, the Crew figure to get something of a free pass this season from their grateful fans as they await a promised new stadium from new owners, Dee and Jimmy Haslam of the Cleveland Browns.
No such latitude will be afforded the New York Red Bulls, who are still searching for a first MLS Cup Championship as the former MetroStars and MLS originals entered season 24. The Red Bulls enter the season as second favorites to do so, priced at +550 on BetStars NJ in 2019 MLS Cup Futures.
That lack of an MLS Cup has haunted the franchise, despite pains taken by all associated with the club to point out three Supporters Shields earned as the best regular season team in the league, the most recent of which came last season, only to be followed by yet another playoff elimination.
That last year’s playoff campaign ended in the conference finals to eventual champions Atlanta United must gall as much it encourages.
On Saturday’s season opener, Chris Armas, in his first full season in the top job after replacing Jesse Marsch midway through 2018, had a chance to test his team’s much-touted depth. Armas rested virtually his entire team ahead of Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League encounter with Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna.
Of his regular starting 11, Armas started just three versus Columbus. He even went so far as to leave star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips back in New Jersey to prepare for Tuesday’s home game, lest he be tempted to use him. Only goalkeeper Luis Robles, and defenders Aaron Long and Michael Murillo began the match for New York, with Armas swapping out Long for his usual defense partner Tim Parker after halftime.
Armas handed regular season MLS debuts to Homegrown attacker Omir Fernandez, who started, and defender Sean Nealis, who was selected in the second round of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. Nealis showed deserving of the selection as he solidified the defense in a strong second half shift.
The Bulls benefitted from an early lead with Andreas Ivan slipping away from defender Harrison Afful to nod home a perfectly weighted cross from Florian Valot in the sixth minute.
Despite playing with what could generously be called a “B” team, Armas sent his young side out to play “Red Bulls soccer,” with the Bulls eschewing a more passive style in favor of the teams usual, pressing system.
Columbus tested that strategy before breaking through with a deserved 41st-minute equalizer off the head of Gaston Sauro who slipped in front of Murillo to head home a corner kick from Columbus maestro Federico Higuain. With Higuain pulling the strings, the Crew had the young Red Bulls scrambling. Robles was up to the challenge though, making a superb double save at the death from Afful and then Gyasi Zardes, no doubt frustrating the home fans who braved the cold Columbus night.
Now New York turns its attention to Santos Laguna and the CCL, a competition that an MLS team has never won in its current format. Columbus gear up for a trip to face the New England Revolution in MLS play next Saturday.
Zlatan did Zlatan things again, and the MLS and LA Galaxy are better off for it.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, our pick for MLS Golden Boot winner and MVP this year, got the LA Galaxy off to the right start today, heading in the 2-1 game winner in the 80th minute against the Chicago Fire.
We’ll deeper dive into the MLS action come Monday, but other highlights from Saturday include:
- FC Cincinatti lose their opener to the Seattle Sounders 3-1
- Michael Bradley nets a brace (!!) as Toronto FC beats Philadelphia Union 3-1
- NYCFC draw Orlando City (!!) 2-2
- And the New York Red Bulls a 1-1 draw against a Columbus Crew team not skipping a beat despite the loss of Gregg Berhalter
With Gregg Berhalter’s second USMNT camp approaching, and his first with European-based Americans, let’s look at what’s going on with the US’s top exports.
Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund
Christian Pulisic is out with a thigh injury and was not in the 18 for Borussia Dortmund’s game against Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Dortmund are in the midst of a competitive title race with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, and their focus will likely be centered on the league for the rest of the season, as they look likely to lose to Tottenham in the Champions League Round of 16.
The biggest recent news for Pulisic, though, was Chelsea’s ban on signing players until 2020. Pulisic will still go at Chelsea this summer, but this looks like good news — it means less competition once he arrives in London. With the Blues struggling mightily (and chaotically) under Maurizio Sarri, Pulisic promises to step right into the starting lineup.
Weston McKennie, Schalke 04
A starter for a poor Schalke 04 team, Weston McKennie will reportedly have an MRI on a thigh injury he picked up in a Champions League Round of 16 loss to Manchester City. It could threaten his availability in the second leg against City — Schalke are only down a goal — as well as in Gregg Berhalter’s March camp and friendlies.
He would be a big loss for Schalke if he isn’t back for the second leg against City. He was vital in the Champions League group stage:
Tyler Adams, Red Bull Leipzig
Tyler Adams has started playing big minutes for Red Bull Leipzig. He went 90 in a 3-1 win over Wolfsburg last week and has, by all accounts, excelled as a box-to-box midfielder. Whether he is a right back or a midfielder long-term is still a question, but his performances in the middle of the park for Leipzig indicate that he can play the position at a high level. He’s yet another success story of the MLS (in this case, the New York Red Bulls) developing talent who can succeed in Europe.
Here’s an every-touch video from a game against Stuttgart, in which Adams picked up an assist:
DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
Now a teammate of Miguel Almiron at a Newcastle United team starting to poke their heads out of the relegation battle, DeAndre Yedlin starts every week at right back. Rafa Benitez’s side won 2-0 against a 10-man Huddersfield this weekend, though that was not exactly a tough ask, considering Huddersfield are firmly planted in last place.
Yedlin could face a battle for his starting right back position with the USMNT, though he remains the probable starter heading into the March international break.
The biggest question in the MLS Eastern Conference this season is whether anyone can challenge Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls for the top two playoff spots. Right now, I wouldn’t put money on it.
TFC sold Sebastian Giovinco, marking a new era for the team that fell so far last season. This is a contract season for Jozy Altidore, and one has to wonder if this is his last go in Canada. New GM Ali Curtis brought in Laurent Ciman to anchor the central defense and Terrence Boyd to likely be the backup forward. Rumors abound as to who their third DP will be. It’s an important season for TFC, and they still have the talent and infrastructure to win a lot of games.
Keeping up last year’s second-half Wayne Rooney magic could be a difficult task for DCU. But they kept Luciano Acosta (though one has to wonder if he is fully motivated after nearly being transferred to PSG) and they brought in Boca Juniors right back Leonardo Jara on loan.
Ernst Tanner, brought in this off-season as Sporting Director, will have Philly playing a 4-4-2 diamond formation and pressing, big changes after they kept the ball and played a 4-2-3-1 in a resurgent 2018. The Union’s ability to contend depends upon their ability to execute Tanner’s ethos.
I’m inclined to believe the Fire are more likely to finish last than first. They finished 10th last year, after all, and unless Grant Lillard emerges at center back, they haven’t helped their leaky defense. But a midfield three of Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Djordje Mihailovic could feast, if Veljko Paunovic lets it.
Caleb Porter is in charge. It will be odd watching the Crew managed by anyone other than new USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter. But Porter will be pragmatic, and he has capable pieces across the roster. Left back Milton Valenzuela’s torn ACL hurts pretty badly, though, and they still won’t have scoring from the wing until Justin Meram snaps out of his funk or Pedro Santos figures it out. I wouldn’t bet on the latter.
Maximizing what could be Ignacio Piatti’s final MLS season is Montreal’s most important task — they will have a hard time replacing arguably MLS’s best winger when it comes to it. It will be interesting to see whether Remi Garde maintains counter-attacking tactics, or if he emphasizes more pressing with Maxi Urruti leading the line as one of the league’s top defensive forwards.
New England Revolution
The Revs couldn’t figure out how to do anything more than press last season, so once teams solved them, New England started losing games and never stopped. There is a lot of uncertainty with how Brad Friedel will put together his attack with new transfers Carlos Gil and Juan Fernando Caicedo in the fold. Their biggest weakness could still be passing out of midfield, as well as central defense.
Orlando City SC
One would have a difficult time arguing that Orlando upgraded their roster after last year’s tire fire of a season, especially considering the transfer of Yoshi Yotun to Cruz Azul. But there are a number of younger Homegrowns and USL transfers on the roster, and they jettisoned the entire defensive core. If James O’Connor can put the pieces together, OCSC could at least do some good things.
The newest expansion club spent most of their time buying defenders and defensive midfielders. Their numerous overpays in trades (notably spending nearly $600,000 in value on Nick Hagglund, a brutal blunder from the front office) does not inspire confidence that FCC signed any of the right players. They could prove people wrong, but I doubt it — Cincy are most likely going to be pretty terrible this year.
On Tuesday, as the NBA trade deadline began to envelope American sports headlines, rumblings of a New York Red Bulls transfer swirled. NYRB are apparently in on 18-year-old Danish forward Mathias Jorgensen of Odense BK in the Danish league, with Chris Armas confirming interest on Thursday.
Jorgensen has experience with Denmark’s youth national teams and has made appearances in 13 of Odense’s 20 games this season, though he fell out favor as the Danish league hit their long winter break, which ends this weekend. It’s hard to predict whether he would step into the first team immediately or gain minutes at Red Bulls II as Bradley Wright-Phillips monopolizes striker minutes.
If the deal goes through, Jorgensen would likely compete with 22-year-old Anatole Abang, who is back from various European loans after appearing 25 times in 2015 and 2016 at the MLS level, to back up BWP. Abang’s arrest last month for marijuana possession throws a wrench into that proposition, though.
The Red Bulls’ Offseason So Far
The big-money transfer of Tyler Adams to Red Bull Leipzig (where he is thriving!) remains the biggest winter move for NYRB. As Armas spends his first off-season implementing his managerial principles, NYRB are putting the pieces in place to stay near or at the top of the Eastern Conference. Kaku, around whom rumors perpetually abound, appears to be staying after fierce Club America rumors and some wild messaging from his agent.
The Red Bulls fortified defensive depth by trading a fourth-round SuperDraft pick (essentially pennies) to Orlando for Amro Tarek. They had declined veteran center back Aurelien Collin’s option, and the situation with Fidel Escobar (whose loan from a Panamanian club has expired) is uncertain. Promising center back Hassan Ndam was selected by FC Cincinnati in the expansion draft.
Waiver draft speedster Marcus Epps will arrive from Philadelphia, and two Homegrown signings (Jean-Christophe Koffi and Omir Fernandez) round out the Red Bulls’ transactions. In training camp, they hope that 19-year-old Cristian Casseres Jr. can fill the central midfield void left by Adams, or at least display some potential to hold them over.
Who Won the Transfer Window: The Red Bulls or Atlanta United?
This will be the predominant question in the Eastern Conference, given the Red Bulls and Atlanta United were far and away the top-two sides last season. Both promise to remain elite, even as Adams and Miguel Almiron (who went to Newcastle United on a record transfer) depart on huge transfer fees. Atlanta’s signing of Pity Martinez easily bests anything the Red Bulls have done this winter, and new center back Florentin Pogba (brother of Paul Pogba) looks like he could be starting-caliber in MLS, at least.
The Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield last year and won’t have to adjust to a new manager, as Atlanta are doing now with the hire of Frank de Boer. Both teams will deal with (and prioritize) the Concacaf Champions League in the early parts of the season, possibly inhibiting MLS form. The Five Stripes project as the better team, though the Red Bulls’ ability to conjure quality young players out of the woodwork prolongs usurpation possibilities.