Aurora v Independiente Petrolero
Aurora have made a solid start to the season, unbeaten after five (two wins and three draws), they are third in the table. In Independiente’s case despite the win in their last game they have started woefully, and sit 14th with one win and four defeats to their name. Aurora drew their last game “away” to Universitario de Vinto (they stadium share) while Independiente finally got some respite for their manager beating Blooming 2-0.
Historically these teams have played 12 times, with Aurora leading the series 8-3, their last encounter in October 2022 being the only draw between them. In Cochabamba Aurora have one every one of the six encounters, with a crushing goal tally of 19-3.
Aurora have an established set of mature players as their backbone (Blanco, Ramallo, the Torricos and Reinoso) while Independiente have cobbled together a few veterans of their own, such as Victor Hugo Melgar, Brazilian Thomaz Santos, Paraguayan Robin Ramirez and Alejandro Bejarano. They are missing their goalscorer Juan Sinforiano Godoy.
Inter Miami v Philadelphia
One of the standout matches in the second round of action in the MLS 2023 season comes from Florida where Inter Miami go up against the Eastern Conference champions from last term in the form of Philadelphia Union.
Both teams got their campaigns off to a winning start last week, but there was a much more convincing look about the Union in their 4-1 in over the Columbus Crew, who are fancied as dark horses this term.
Inter Miami opened up their season with a 2-0 win over CF Montreal, who are a side in transition at the beginning of the year, which makes the 2.55 xG that the Canadians racked up very much a concern.
That would be a concern for Phil Neville at the best of times but there is a serious argument to be made that Philly have the most all-round attack in the league, and with Daniel Gazdag and Julian Carranza already hitting it off as a pairing I fancy the home side are going to struggle here.
I really like the Union this season. On paper they are comfortably the pacesetters in the Eastern Conference once again. Because of the salary caps, draft placements and other managing methods the league places on teams it is hard for MLS teams to improve their roster season on season. The Union have done that and they are going to be dangerous.
I’d have no problem with anyone taking Philadelphia on the nose here but they do begin their Champions League campaign in midweek so I’ll air with a slice of caution and just take the draw out of play this early in the campaign.
Columbus Crew v DC United
There is another all-Eastern Conference clash in the early hours of Sunday morning when Wayne Rooney takes his DC United side to Ohio to take on the Columbus Crew in a match between teams who had very different results in week one.
The Crew actually took the lead against the Philadelphia Union but collapsed in the second period to go down 4-1. While they wouldn’t have wanted that result, the Union really do look the standout side in the Eastern Conference and I think Columbus should take heart from the fact that they troubled Philly for the period they did.
DC United make the trip to Ohio off the back of an incredible win over Toronto FC last week. They went into injury time 2-1 down in that contest and came out 3-2 winners but I think they will need to up their game if they are to get something out of this one.
They lost the xG battle in that home opener 1.39-1.90 and that was with Toronto main man Lorenzo Insigne leaving the field in the opening period with an injury. Columbus have a vibrant attacking unit and will be motivated to win their first home game of the season and put to bed the ultimately disappointing outcome last weekend.
Columbus have the likes of Lucas Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez who looked in decent touch last week and against weaker opposition, I think they can combine to get the home side their first win.
Austin FC v CF Montreal
Two sides whose opening match of the season didn’t go to plan meet in the early hours of Sunday morning when Austin FC take on CF Montreal in a clash which is actually between the two second placed teams in their respective Conferences last term.
Austin FC came up short against the new boys St Louis City last week. They were exposed defensively by the expansion team and were not helped by the first-half injury to Julio Cascante. His replacement in the game, Kipp Keller, had an absolute mare including a back pass to his keeper which handed the St Louis second goal to them on a plate.
Cascante has been ruled out for a few weeks and Austin FC are short of options at centre-back such is the way MLS rosters are formulated at the minute. That means either Keller is going to have to start after his howler last week or someone is going to have to play out of position.
That will all be music to the ears of CF Montreal. They are looking to rebound from a 2-0 loss to Inter Miami but might be wondering how they didn’t score in that game when you consider their xG total was 2.55.
That continued the attacking intent the Canadians showed last season even though there has been a change of manager at Saputo Stadium since then. A number of players have departed the scene including defender Alastair Johnston so you sense chances are going to come at both ends in this match.
Austin looked like they might concede every time they were attacked last week but they have more than enough in their own attack to deliver the goods. Over 2.5 goals looks a standout play in this one.
Seattle Sounders v Real Salt Lake
The last match to kick off in the second round of matches in the MLS this weekend does so in the early hours of Sunday morning when the Seattle Sounders take on Real Salt Lake in a clash between two big sides in the Western Conference.
If I was rating the performances of teams in this league last week I would have the Sounders as the second best. I expected to see a strong Seattle this season after they missed out on the playoffs last term and based on their opening display that premonition could well be true.
Seattle absolutely battered Colorado Rapids last week and the 4-0 score didn’t flatter them in any way. They ran up an xG total of 3.53 with new signing Heber looking a perfect fit between Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan.
I strongly believe the Sounders are going to be strong this season, especially at home and I fancy they will take the game to Real Salt Lake. Unlike this time last season, Seattle have no Champions League campaign to distract them.
They go up against a Real Salt Lake side who will be revelling in their come-from-behind win over the Vancouver Whitecaps last week. They won 2-1 but what was most eye catching about them in that game was that the Whitecaps built up an xG of 1.68.
While I suspect Vancouver might have a decent season, in no way does their attack compare to the Seattle one so I’m expecting the Seattle front three, four if you include the string puller Nico Lodeiro in behind them, will have a lot of joy here.
I wouldn’t be completely surprised if RSL find the net here but I think the best bet in this match is to take the home side to score at least twice. There are goals in a number of places in this Seattle team and two of them can come along here.
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