Dave Farrar predicts Atlanta United will emerge triumphant in Orlando, the local derby going to Portland and TFC struggle again in New England...
“The thought of Miguel Almiron, Villalba, and Josef Martinez being afforded the kind of space that Orlando have been allowing teams will be encouraging for both Atlanta fans and bettors.”
Tata to take Florida
Orlando City v Atlanta United
Live on Sky Sports Football
Atlanta United suffered a midweek reality check when they were beaten by Sporting KC, but if anything, that makes me fancy them even more to go to Orlando and win this weekend.
Atlanta were unfortunate against SKC, losing Brad Guzan to a first half red card, and therefore losing the creative promptings of Hector Villalba, and they were playing one of the best teams in MLS so far in 2018, the ten men only killed off by a late second goal.
They'll miss Guzan for the trip to Orlando, and they'll likely concede, but I think that they'll make Orlando suffer defensively, and Jason Kreis will be forced to take a serious look at his back line.
Orlando made it six wins in a row last week against RSL, but they were fortunate to still be in the game as it approached its final half hour. At that point, they were 1-0 down, but it could have been four, with RSL missing chance after chance and hitting the post twice.
Orlando were a shambles defensively, and while they always look likely to score more than once, the fact that they've been behind in four of those six wins tells us plenty. And if Atlanta get in front, they're unlikely to let a lead slip.
The thought of Miguel Almiron, Villalba, and Josef Martinez being afforded the kind of space that Orlando have been allowing teams will be encouraging for both Atlanta fans and bettors. They'll have multiple chances, and unlike many of Orlando's recent opponents, Tata Martino's team are good enough to take them.
Derby day for Timbers
Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders
Live on Sky Sports Mix
Even though Seattle grabbed revenge against TFC in midweek, and seemingly turned their season around, I still think that the Portland Timbers represents decent value at around the [2.0] mark to win Sunday night's big derby.
Seattle's season had been a nightmare until that trip to Toronto. Their CONCACAF Champions League campaign had fizzled out, they'd picked up only one win, they'd looked uninspired. Brian Schmetzer changed their system in midweek, playing with three centre-halves to compensate for injury absentees, and it worked.
Toronto, though, are also depleted, and still should have won the game. This was a smash and grab, and Portland at Providence Park provide a very different challenge. With Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro still potentially absent, Schmetzer may be forced into setting up the same way tactically, and that could play into Portland's hands.
Diego Valeri is starting to find the outstanding form of last season, Sebastian Blanco is a more the capable foil, and even the occasionally hapless Fanendo Adi has been among the goals lately. Portland have won three in a row, and if this turns into attack against defence, I think they'll have far too much for a Seattle team who'll try and get by on spirit alone: it just won't be enough.
Toronto tumble continues
New England Revolution v Toronto FC
After that defeat by Seattle, Toronto FC now take their failing season to New England, where they'll need to make something happen. Brad Friedel's team will still be smarting after they conceded four against Montreal last week, victims of a virtuoso display by Ignacio Piatti.
Toronto have won just twice all season, at home against RSL and Philadelphia, and while you can blame their CCL campaign for some of that underachievement, it's not the only reason they've struggled.
Injuries have played their part, a whole host of them, and they've missed Jozy Altidore in particular. The sight of Victor Vazquez hobbling off in the first half against Seattle was yet another depressing one for their fans, and it may be a while before they start mounting another post-season charge.
New England are nothing special, and a top six place and some post-season involvement is the best that they can hope for, but after what happened in Montreal, I think that Brad Friedel will have them especially motivated for this challenge, and they remain a rock solid proposition at home. They've won three of five here this season, were excellent in beating SKC in their last home outing, and Toronto will struggle to get anything this weekend.
Staked: 30 points
Returned: 35.04 points
P/L: + 5.04 points
Back Atlanta United to beat Orlando City @ [2.6]
Back Portland Timbers to beat Seattle Sounders @ [2.0]
Back New England Revolution to beat Toronto FC @ [2.4]