Welcome to my MLS Soccer picks, and with the season already well underway, there’s plenty of betting opportunities available for us all to make more money off the bookies.
My next pick features a Western Conference encounter between lowly Houston Dynamo and play-off candidates Real Salt Lake at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Texas, but all is not as it appears…Kickoff: 2100hrs (EST)
Houston Dynamo currently occupy a disappointing 10th place on the Western Conference league ladder following a miserable four-match losing sequence which has resulted in the Dynamo slipping down the table.
Defeats to Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas and Columbus Crew means they need to stop the rot very quickly before their season disintegrates completely.
With eight points now separating them from tonight’s opponents, Real Salt Lake, Wilmer Cabrera’s men need to pick up three points here if they’re to stand any chance of catching up to a sixth place finish.
Looking at the league table, with Real Salt Lake in 6th place and Houston Dynamo in 10th, the assumption is that the hosts taking all three points here would be beyond them – but this is where all is not how it appears.
Real Salt Lake have the second worst away record in the Western Conference, so Houston won’t get a better opportunity than this evening to turn their season around.
However, the hosts need to improve upon their concentration levels for the whole 90 minutes as Houston Dynamo have been drawing at half-time but have ended up losing at full-time in each of their last four matches.
Recent history appears to be on Houston Dynamo’s side though as they’ve won the last two encounters at the BBVA Compass Stadium against Real Salt Lake, winning 5-1 and 1-0 respectively.
Houston now have just five more home games of the regular season remaining, and their plan must be to win at least four of these and try and pick up a few points on the road in the season run-in from here onwards.
Home Form & Team News
Coming into this encounter against Real Salt Lake, Houston have suffered back-to-back defeats to Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas which is not great preparation for this ‘must win’ clash.
However, both Philadelphia and Sporting Kansas possess better away records than Real Salt Lake, while Houston Dynamo’s home record stands at 6-2-4 25/15.
There have obviously been more defeats on home turf than Dynamo would have liked so far, but they are the third highest goal scorers at home in the Western Conference behind Real Salt Lake (26) and LA Galaxy (28).
Prior to their recent two defeats, Houston had put together a promising seven match unbeaten sequence which included five wins, most notably wins against LA Galaxy and New York City.
Wilmer Cabrera will therefore be hoping his side can re-discover this sort of form this evening and break out of their current losing streak.
The Houston Dynamo manager will be very aware that he must keep a lid on his players’ discipline though as there have been no fewer than four red cards dished out to his team in recent weeks.
Cabrera will have to do without the services of forward Albert Elis (9 goals, 7 assists) as he serves a suspension, while Aj DeLaGarza, Mac Steeves and Juan Cabezas still remain sidelined through injury.
One piece of positive news for the hosts though is the possible return of former Arsenal defender, Philippe Senderos who may return to the starting line-up and who has scored 4 goals in 6 matches for the Dynamo.
REAL SALT LAKE
Onto Real Salt Lake, and the visitors head into this important clash on the back of a 2-0 defeat away at Los Angeles FC which ended a promising four-match unbeaten run in recent weeks.
Real Salt Lake had drawn three of these four games with stalemates against Colorado Rapids 2-2 (home), San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 (away) and Montreal Impact 1-1 (home) along with a 2-1 home win over Chicago Fire.
Despite currently sitting in the last remaining Final Series play-off spot, Real Salt Lake’s form has been sporadic, seeing short bursts of wins but also losing games when seemingly on a good run of form.
Much like Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake need to improve upon their concentration and consistency if they’re to nail down this final sixth place with the likes of Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders breathing down their necks.
There’s no doubting Real Salt Lake’s ability to regularly pick up points at their Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah as they hold a great home record of 9-3-1 26/16 scoring the second highest number of goals at home in the Conference.
However, their form and results away from home are threatening their play-off place ahead of this trip to Houston…
Away Form & Team News
Real Salt Lake are seemingly a whole different outfit altogether away from home as they’ve lost 9 of their 12 away matches to date and possess the second worst away record in the Western Conference ahead only of Minnesota United.
The visitors’ overall away record to date stands at a really poor looking 1-2-9 8/27 which includes the lowest goal tally away from home in the Conference.
Real Salt Lake have failed to score in 5 of their 12 away matches, while winning just once on their travels all season which was a 1-0 win at Seattle Sounders. This win is becoming ever increasingly important as the season continues!
In addition, Real Salt Lake have conceded 2 goals or more in 9 of their 12 away matches as they seem unable to keep things tight at the back on the road.
Manager, Mike Petke, continues to have a long list of absentees through injury with the count being seven players sidelined long term.
The midweek defeat at Los Angeles FC may result in Petke rotating his squad again for this clash with Jaoa Plata (7 goals, 4 assists) and Damir Kreilach (6 goals) being restored to the starting line-up.
Goalkeeper, Andrew Putna may continue in goal at the expense of substituted Nick Rimando who Putna replaced at half-time against Los Angeles.
Right-back Shawn Barry looks set to continue in defence with Brooks Lennon rated as doubtful for the trip to Houston.
This looks an interesting match-up with Houston having lost their last four matches on the trot while Real Salt Lake can’t pick up an away win for love nor money.
My lean is towards the hosts here, but it may not be a straightforward win for Houston with the absence of Albert Elis, while Real Salt Lake may run out of puff. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!