As the big leagues in Europe dish out division trophies and hand out yearly awards before a well deserved summer break, the United States’ MLS continues at a frenetic pace. The majority of gameweeks feature double fixtures for a number of sides as squad depth in not only tested, but strained to breaking point. The expensive acquisition of formerly renowned players has left the league speckled with a helping of class and quality and, as iterated by Robbie Keane in anticipation of Steven Gerrard’s arrival at LA Galaxy, is not considered a competition to leisurely fade into retirement. Winning at all costs in America is valued just as highly as anywhere else in the world and as the overall standings show, the MLS is highly competitive. I’ve selected four of the week’s matches for punters to string together a tasty quad in the absence of leagues known and loved.
Thursday 28 May
LA Galaxy 11/20
Real Salt Lake 47/10
In what has become something of a rivalry in recent years, LA Galaxy host Real Salt Lake with both sides level on points and goal difference coming into the fixture. Real Salt Lake occupy tenth spot in the overall standings, a place below their counterparts but having a game in hand on the defending MLS Cup champions. Despite their slow start to the season, writing off any Galaxy side coached by Bruce Arena is an exercise in futility. A tepid beginning to the season has become the norm and they ended a five-match winless streak by clinching a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Houston Dynamo last week. Robbie Keane returned from injury as a substitute and had an immediate impact, providing the assist for an injury-time Alan Gordon header. Nick Rimando kept his 120th career clean sheet as Real Salt Lake beat struggling New York City FC 2-0. Goals from John Stertzer and Alvaro Saborio secured the three points but Real Salt Lake haven’t beaten LA Galaxy in the last five times of asking, including a 5-0 thrashing to close out last season. Steven Gerrard’s much anticipated arrival at Galaxy in July promises to address the structural issues caused by Marcelo Sarvas’ pre-season departure, but that is still over a month away. Regardless, Galaxy seem on the mend and I expect them to pick up the home win at 11/20.
Saturday 30 May
Sporting Kansas City 11/10
FC Dallas 23/10
Sporting Kansas City masterminded a goalless draw away at Seattle Sounders to pick up a point amid massive injury concerns. They lost centre forward Dom Dwyer to a neck problem mere minutes before the match and were only able to field a squad of sixteen players. Coach Peter Vermes hailed the club for its “intelligence” in earning the draw, allowing the Sounders their first shot on goal in the 82nd minute. Sporting Kansas City ‘keeper Tim Melia had only the one save to make. They will, however, be required to offer more on the attacking front as they come up against Western Conference leaders FC Dallas. Despite losing 2-1 to Montreal Impact last week, halting a five-match unbeaten run, Dallas remain in ascendancy in a fiercely contested Conference and are only a point behind overall MLS leaders DC United. Defender Matt Hedges scored for Dallas late in the second half last weekend but it was too little too late in terms of closing the deficit. FC Dallas have six wins from their twelve outings, drawing three and losing three, but crucially haven’t succumbed to Sporting KC in the past three head-to-heads. The FC Dallas win/draw Double Chance is the play here at 13/20.
Sunday 31 May
DC United 7/10
Philadelphia Union 39/10
DC United rallied to grab a point from a 1-1 draw against New England Revolution, a match in which they would’ve hoped for a better result. New England are fourth on the overall standings so are by no means pushovers. They were, however, reduced to nine men in the 58th minute following a goal just before half-time and MLS leaders DC United failed to capitalise on having two extra men. Jairo Arrieta netted in the 80th minute and the goal kept Washington atop the league heading into a favourable home fixture with Philadelphia Union. The U ousted mid-table New York Red Bulls 2-0 away from last weekend, stringing together two consecutive wins following a five-match winless run that has sees them lying seventeenth. Most importantly, they beat DC United 1-0 at home, putting a brief end to their miserable run of form and giving them confidence heading into this match-up. Philadelphia Union took their chances on the counter against New York and will likely set up in the same manner when they take on DC United. But DC haven’t lost at home since June last year, a run of fifteen matches unbeaten at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. DC United are tipped to get their revenge at home against the Union at 7/10.
Orlando City SC 11/10
Columbus Crew 9/4
Brek Shea was sent off at the beginning of the second-half of Orlando City’s 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, allowing the Californian club the opportunity to claw a goal back with a man advantage. Despite going down to ten men, Orlando opened the scoring from the spot with a Kaka penalty, his fifth goal of the season. Orlando City’s marquee signing, captain and former World Player of the Year has had a tough time shouldering the responsibility of leading the side and playing the role of chief playmaker, but seems to have settled into his role and has begun to trust those around him to keep in formation and organise themselves as a unit. The Brazilian ran himself ragged at the beginning of the season in an effort to compensate for the lack of experience around him. Orlando’s 4-0 win over LA Galaxy was the catalyst for the shift in mentality. Columbus Crew threw away a Kei Kamara brace to share the spoils with Chicago Fire last Friday. Kamara struck in the eighth minute as well as the 55th but Crew’s lead was halved just three minutes later. Home fans were to leave the Columbus Crew Stadium heartbroken as Chicago equalised four minutes into stoppage time. Orlando City haven’t had a poor start considering it is their first season in the MLS and fellow expansion club New York City FC lie rock bottom in the standings with only a single win. My value bet this weekend is for Orlando to oust Columbus Crew at home at 11/10.
The four-leg multiple is available at odds of 83/10. Take my advice and strike while the iron’s hot.