The slow week for World Cup qualifiers is over, and Major League Soccer steps up to the plate with a ton of compelling matches for us to take a look at heading into the weekend. As we're getting deeper into the season, we have more data available to analyze as we look to make the smartest bets we possibly can. We see that Seattle is struggling to create offense without Obafemi Martins. We know that the Houston Dynamo attack has been nothing short of dynamic. We can follow the trends that these clubs are developing, and use them to our advantage.
Now, for the usual intro.
* * *
For the uninitiated, odds are generally presented in three forms -- a "spread," a "moneyline," and a "total."
The spread is the goal difference expected. For example, if the spread for Orlando City is +1.5, you'll want them to win, draw, or lose by one goal to win the wager. Losing by two or more goals would result in losing the wager.
The moneyline is my personal favorite, and the only odds we'll use for soccer. I'm not a fan of spreads with this sport, as the margin for error is very small. A moneyline is simple -- odds are presented, and you select the outcome you expect -- Team A win, Team B win, or Draw.
The total is the total number of goals scored this game. This can be tough to predict in soccer, and is generally something I recommend staying away from -- though it can be a useful moneymaker for both hockey and basketball.
Odds are presented with a number preceded by either a + or a -. When the number is presented after a +, this means that selection is an underdog. The number following the + is the amount of money the odds pay out for every $100 risked. When the number is presented as a -, this means that selection is a favorite. The number following the - is the amount of money you will need to risk for odds to pay out $100.
To improve your odds, you can always play what's called a "parlay." A favorite of mine, with this option you can select winners across multiple games, and watch your payouts soar. The risk, however, is if you miss any one contest on your parlay, you've lost the entire bet.
(Note: These odds were pulled from BetDSI, and may not reflect lines posted by your sportsbook of choice.)
* * *
While the United States Men's National Team laid an egg against Guatemala on Friday night, our neighbors to the south in Mexico were kind enough to do as the world expected of them and put away the far inferior Canada to give us a win last week.
Hopefully, you were wise enough to jump on the second match on Tuesday for the 4-0 win.
This week, we first focus our attention on the San Jose Earthquakes (-147) and D.C. United (+440). United has been absolutely putrid to start this season, featuring a league worst -6 goal differential. The Quakes have twice the goals of United (4) and half the goals allowed (also 4), earning six points out of three games.
FC Dallas was missing half its roster and they still whooped D.C. 3-0 last week. United has been a mess in the early stages and comes limping into this one, missing Marcelo Sarvas and Bill Hamid. The Quakes should hold form here. The Pick: San Jose Earthquakes.
Another match to keep an eye on will be Sporting Kansas City (-120) hosting Real Salt Lake (+350). Real has looked vastly improved from last season, and I've used this space to applaud Yura Movsisyan, who scored his first goal in against the Timbers on March 20. Repeating the feat won't be easy against a KC defense that has allowed just one goal in 2016.
Tim Melia has done quite well, but the phenomenal work that Matt Besler and Nuno André Coelho are doing in front of him has certainly helped, as the pair is averaging a combined 5.4 interceptions and six clearances per game. That security in the back has cleared the way for Brad Davis and Graham Zusi to take turns feeding the beast that is Dom Dwyer for what is shaping up as one of the most feared rosters in MLS.
Movsisyan and Real are on the upswing, but their momentum will take a hit in this one. The Pick: Sporting Kansas City.
This subsection is always hit or miss as we look for the highest potential underdogs to make some serious cash quick. We hit in week 1 when SKC spoiled the Sounders' opener in Seattle, and I feel just as strong about the picks this week.
We've got the LA Galaxy (+229) travelling to Canada to face off with the Vancouver Whitecaps (+123) in a high profile clash between strong Western Conference opponents. While the Galaxy are generally associated with flash and exciting attacking play, their defense has truly been impressive -- despite losing Omar Gonzalez to Pachuca in the off-season. Their three goals allowed are good for third in the West, behind only SKC and the Colorado Rapids.
Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Keane may get the headlines, but Ashley Cole, Robbie Rogers and Nigel de Jong are making this Galaxy team one to watch, evidenced by their combined 10 tackles per game.
Pedro Morales is off to a great start for Vancouver, but I suspect the run ends here against the active Galaxy defenders. The Pick: LA Galaxy.
If you're feeling extra froggy, don't be afraid to jump on the Montreal Impact (+309) against the Seattle Sounders (-107). Seattle has struggled early, with Clint Dempsey struggling to create chemistry with new teammates and Jordan Morris looking rather normal in the professional ranks. The Impact sits atop the table in the East, while the Sounders sit at the bottom of the West. While I believe Seattle is better than they've shown, I'm not sure this weekend is when they begin to show it. The Pick: Montreal Impact.
I've got my eyes on one match, and that's our own Orlando City (+139) hosting Caleb Porter's Portland Timbers (+201). The defending champs come to town Sunday night for a primetime clash that will feature the return of our captain, Kaká. Darlington Nagbe will be darting around the pitch -- Adrian Heath will need Darwin Cerén & company to be as physical as possible with him. His 91% passing rate is impressive and really ties together Portland's attack, but I envision the midfielders and fullbacks knocking him off his game and off the ball early and often. The Pick: Orlando City.
Easy Money -- 4-5
Feeling Lucky -- 1-6
My Play -- 5-11