Deportivo Cali v Union Magdalena
Once again, the crisis strangling Deportivo Cali has tightened its grip and plunged the club to a new low. Throttled by $20 million of debt, the Cali situation has been growing steadily more desperate for months. While the club’s members fight among themselves, more interested in defending vested interests than achieving real solutions, the club crashed to their latest disaster on the pitch midweek losing 3-0 to Medellín. Far from ideal preparation for this Sunday morning tie against Union Magdalena
It leaves Cali perilously close to the drop in Colombia’s convoluted three-year average points total that determines promotion and relegation. Worst still, the club’s very existence is under threat. Yet, while rumours were still swirling of a changing-room bust-up between some of the team’s star players and the manager, it was later revealed that the club had yet again failed to pay their players.
Because the backlog now stretches to two months, players are now free to rip up their contracts and walk out. Several have already issued ultimatums, including star pre-season signing Daniel Mantilla. “You could see out on the pitch how the bad the situation is for them,” observed Medellín’s Felipe Pardo after his team put Cali to the sword on Wednesday. “They’re all arguing with each other, nobody’s working together.”
With manager Jorge Luis Pinto also admitting he doesn’t know how to turn things around, recently breaking down in tears and claiming this was the worst crisis of his almost 40-year coaching career, it’s hard to see how things could be worse for Cali at the moment. And against Union Magdalena here, the pressure will be cranked up to the maximum.
This is a relegation six pointer and while Magdalena have their own problems after a 3-0 thrashing midweek, the crisis at Cali is so great that the price of 5.5 for a Magdalena victory looks ludicrous. Temper it though with a +2 handicap bet on Magdalena at 1.36, or +1 at 2.3.
Olimpia v Nacional
Olimpia return to home comforts after a self-inflicted midweek defeat in the National stadium against Luqueño, Iván Torres’ own goal decided the affair. Nacional drew 2-2 with Guaireña on Matchday 12 and are now with just one win in eight since their Copa Libertadores exit.
Olimpia have been underwhelming since the new manager Diego Aguirre took over, the Uruguayan has managed just two wins in his six games. There is plenty of sympathy available however, with the squad severely depleted by injury especially up front, the latest victim is Guillermo Paiva who will be out both this weekend and the Copa Libertadores game. In defence Aguirre has turned to experience with 40 year old Antolín Alcaraz starting two of the last three league games, but he didn’t last the full 90 and is a doubt here.
Nacional finally found some goals again, scoring over 1.5 in a league game for the first time since the opening day of the season. Gustavo Aguilar notched both in his first start in almost a month, he also got on the scoresheet in the previous meeting with Olimpia. Jordan Santacruz will be back following his suspension and should slot straight back into midfield providing more defensive solidity.
These sides drew in their recent match up last month as Olimpia relied on a late penalty to earn a point. Since then they have a new manager and the goalscorer on the night, Derlis González, is out with injury along with several other key players. El Decano’s 20-game unbeaten home record was ended by Guaraní which could give the visitors some hope.
CF Montreal v DC United
Two of the teams in the bottom three of the Eastern Conference meet at Stade Saputo in the early hours of Sunday morning when CF Montreal play host to DC United in a match both sides will be extremely eager to win.
Montreal have made a terrible start to the season with five defeats in six, although their supporters should be quick to point out that each of those losses were on the road and the only game they have played at home this term they have won.
That would be a fair enough fact to point out but Montreal have got big issues to overcome. No team in MLS have conceded more goals than them so why they let their best defender Kamal Miller be traded to Inter Miami in the week is a real subject of debate, and something DC United can feed on.
DC haven’t made the best start to the season themselves. They only have one win from their seven matches but they do have two more draws to their name and have been more competitive even if the scores haven’t necessarily reflected that.
With Christian Benteke up top and Taxi Fountas starting to build his fitness, along with Lewis O’Brien, DC have some good options in attacking areas on the field. The men from the capital are not particularly tight at the back though and that is always a concern.
The extra edge on this game is this will be the first time Montreal coach Hernan Lozano has gone up against DC since they disposed of his services last season. Therefore I expect him to have the Canadian outfit bang up for this, so I expect Montreal to offer plenty in this match but their defensive vulnerabilities can ensure we go beyond 2.5 goals in this one.
No team have conceded more than Montreal this term and only three have shipped more than DC. Goals should be on the menu in Canada here.
Austin FC v Vancouver Whitecaps
Two teams in the Western Conference meet at the Q2 Stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning when Austin FC look to get a season which hasn’t really got going kick started when they host a wounded Vancouver Whitecaps side.
The Whitecaps have made an encouraging start to the MLS season and there is a lot to like about the Canadian side. They would have been on a high when they opened up their Cascadia Cup campaign with a win over Portland last week but had their wings clipped for a second time by Los Angeles FC in the Champions League in midweek and were ruthlessly dumped out of that competition.
The positive in terms of this match is the tie was done and dusted by half time so Vanni Sartini was able to get four first-choice players off and save them a little for this match.
Austin can vouch for running into LAFC at the wrong time as they did the exact same thing last week and lost 3-0 in the MLS but I actually thought it was one of their better displays even in defeat.
The big problem for Austin now is that a defence which was undermanned anyway, as I have highlighted all season, is another man down with left-back Zan Kolmanic done for the year having torn his ACL. That unit continues to look more and more exposed and the likes of Julian Gressel will be primed to exploit it.
Austin have scored in every home game this term. Vancouver have scored in every MLS match this season. I think both teams score in this one.
Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders
One week after opening up their Cascadia Cup campaign with a defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Portland Timbers will look to level their ledger when they host the other team in the competition in the form of the Seattle Sounders.
Seattle head to Providence Park on top of the Western Conference and looking like a really good side, one where there might even be more to come with them having functioned without the likes of Raul Ruidiaz and Heber due to injury at times this season.
There is definitely more to come from Portland, certainly from an attacking point of view, because they have got a remarkably long injury list. The problem they have in that regard is nobody is coming off of that list ahead of this match, and actually home-grown star Eryk Williamson is done for the year having torn his ACL last week so it is being added to rather than shrinking.
The other problem the home side have here, which is a bigger problem given who they are facing in this match, is that defensively they have been appalling this term and there is no injury issues in that regard, they are pure and simply undermanned in that department.
The last thing a team with a wide open defence needs is to be running into a rampant offensive side which the Seattle Sounders are, with only Columbus Crew having scored more than them this term.
To go into a match in that situation with their own offense light because of injuries only compounds the problem.
The Timbers won their opening game of the season but haven’t won since and have shipped 12 goals in those subsequent six matches. Only the current Supporters’ Shield leaders FC Cincinnati have beaten Seattle this term.
I expect a Seattle win here but given that this is a rivalry clash I’ll play the Sounders without the draw in play.
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