FC Cincinnati v Seattle Sounders
One of the standout matches in the third match day in the new MLS season comes from TQL Stadium when two entertaining teams meet as FC Cincinnati take on Seattle Sounders with these sides having a strong argument for having the best attacks in the competition.
You’ll go a long way in this league to find a better front three than Luciano Acosta, Brenner and Brandon Vazquez for FC Cincinnati but Seattle will raise you with Jordan Morris, Heber and Cristian Roldan so there is certainly no shortage of attacking players on the pitch in this match.
Seattle have started the season looking like the best team in MLS. They have scored six goals in their opening two matches and would have had a lot more but for last-ditch clearances, the woodwork and the odd poor finish and there is nothing to suggest they won’t stay on the front foot even though they are away from home for the first time this term. Cincinnati are never not on the front foot at home and have already looked good inside this stadium in the opening week of the season so we should approach this match as one where the attacks are going to get the better of the defences on show.
Seattle registered xG figures of 3.53 and 2.63 in their opening two wins while the two matches Cincinnati have been involved in have seen their xG totals recorded at 1.40 and 1.44. If we use those figures and take them into this one where attacks should still be improving as combinations start to click more then over 2.5 goals looks a good bet here.
DC United v Orlando City SC
Matches between teams in the same Conference in MLS always have a little extra riding on them and one such clash in the early hours of Sunday morning sees DC United hosting Orlando City SC at Audi Field. I think it is fair to say that both these teams have looked different so far in this short MLS campaign. DC United look a little too leaky at the back but have looked a whole lot better going forward than at any stage last season which is a positive.
If you are an Orlando City fan you could be forgiven for complaining about a lack of entertainment as they have only seen one goal in their opening two matches and there were no goals when they were in Champions League action in midweek either. That match is extremely significant when looking at this one. Last weekend Oscar Pareja rested near enough every one of his starters ahead of the trip to Tigres in midweek and while it worked with the key players fresh enough to come away from Mexico with a 0-0 draw, it is hard to believe he won’t approach this one with the same plan, especially as his side are on the road.
Even if Pareja were to pick a stronger side for this match you would imagine there would be a comedown and a negative reaction to chasing a technically proficient Tigres side around at altitude in midweek and that could be very much to the advantage of DC here. There is no getting away from the concerns over DC defensively but they have been opened up by the likes of Federico Bernardeschi and Lucas Zelarayan and whoever is sent out for Orlando here there is nothing of that quality in their ranks.
With a huge Champions League match in midweek where Orlando have a major chance of upsetting an established side, I have to think the priority will be that match rather than this one, and DC United, who did the double over Orlando last season when they were much worse than they’ve looked so far this term, can take advantage and come out with the win if anyone wins this.
Boyaca Chico v Medellin
Medellín have eyes elsewhere. Despite an upturn in league form in recent games, DIM have thrown this game to the wind. Next Wednesday’s crucial home game against Magallanes in the Copa Libertadores with a lucrative place in the group stage (first leg ended 1-1, is understandably considered far more important.
A trip to Tunja to face Chicó isn’t a pretty place to go at the best of times. Tunja doesn’t have an airport, so it’s a flight and then a long bus ride from Bogotá just to get there. Then there’s the pitch. A scorched rag of Earth is probably a better description for Chicó’s Estadio La Independencia, which doesn’t seem to have seen any maintenance to its playing surface for years. Yet it suits Chicó’s direct and ugly playing style and it’s no wonder that at home this season, Chicó have picked up three wins and a draw.
Thus, Medellín have tossed nine debutants into the ring for this trip to the highest altitude stadium in Colombia. There’s still a little bit of quality in the travelling squad, but with the focus evidently on getting the job done at home versus Magallanes in order to grab the more than USD $3m prize fund awarded by Conmebol, the wise money should look to a home win.
Sporting Kansas City v LA Galaxy
There are a few matches between two teams in the Western Conference this week and one of those comes along at Children’s Mercy Park where Sporting Kansas City take on LA Galaxy in a clash which sees both sides looking for a first win of the season.
Sporting Kansas City have started the season slowly in terms of results, with a 1-0 loss at Portland Timbers followed by a 0-0 draw at Colorado Rapids but before we write them off or get too critical, they are two tough away assignments and this is a more comfortable fixture. Even allowing for the fact that they are tough outings, SKC played very well last week in Colorado and were only denied by a home keeper who had the performance of his life. He made 11 saves in that match otherwise Kansas City would have won comfortably.
Now that they are at home we should expect an even better attacking output from them, with teams notoriously finding winning away in MLS tough. However, LA Galaxy will only improve from their 3-1 loss at FC Dallas last week.
They were inconvenienced by the fact that their match in round one was postponed so the trip to Dallas, where they have a terrible record, was their season opener so there will be natural improvement from Galaxy now they are a little more up to speed.
I thought heading into the season that Los Angeles looked light defensively but there is no shortage of attacking talent on their roster and similar comments could be placed on Sporting Kansas City as well. This is another match where I expect attacks to better the defences and both teams to score looks the strong possibility in this one.
Portland Timbers v St Louis City
The final match to kick off in the MLS on Sunday sees the former MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers playing host to the newcomers in the league in St Louis City in what could quickly turn into a very entertaining encounter at Providence Park.
St Louis matches have been full of excitement so far. They have won 3-2 at Austin FC and then beat Charlotte FC 3-1. While they have been the beneficiaries of some absolutely terrible defending in both matches, they have pressed high, attacked in numbers and been in the right areas to be able to capitalise on the gifts which came their way.
Portland were involved in an entertaining game themselves last weekend. They trailed 3-0 at Los Angeles FC before pulling a couple of goals back late on and setting up a bit of a grandstand finish. Going to LAFC on the day they were presented with their MLS Cup rings and in their opening game of the season was always going to be a tough ask so the result was probably always only going to go one way, but I expect a much better showing from the Timbers now they are back at Providence Park, where they are generally a decent side.
The one thing we’ve seen with St Louis so far is that they are prepared to risk being caught out defensively to press high and try and impose themselves on the opposition and in Evander, Portland have someone who can take advantage of that.
Portland lost a key cog in their defensive wheel when Bill Tuiloma headed to Charlotte and he hasn’t really been replaced yet. There are goals in both of these teams and there are defensive weaknesses in them too. That can equate to another high scoring MLS game.
NEC Nijmegen v FC Utrecht
Over the course of the season, you would suggest that these two sides are two of the better Eredivisie teams outside of the top four.
A good number of NEC’s players would get into a number of top-half teams. You’ve got goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who would be a top goalkeeper for any Eredivisie club; their defence is strong; Lasse Schone’s experience in midfield is important; and there are some decent attacking midfielders too. If NEC have a lethal goal-scorer, they could be pushing up into the top six. Nevertheless, NEC have improved throughout the season, and they look good for a top-half finish.
On the other hand, although Utrecht sit above their opponents in the table, the club are still reeling from their shock cup exit to amateurs Spakenburg. The club who play in the Dutch fourth tier bagged four goals on their way to an historic semi-final, at the expense and embarrassment of their Eredivisie opponents.
Utrecht looked really low on confidence after letting slip a lead at home to Fortuna Sittard last weekend. The players know that they need a win from somewhere to turn things around quickly and that debacle behind them, but I don’t see that happening this weekend. NEC will keep things tight, and I see Utrecht’s low confidence playing a big part.
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