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MLS Odds, Picks, Prediction: Atlanta United vs. Sporting Kansas City Betting Preview (Feb. 27)

MLS Odds, Picks, Prediction: Atlanta United vs. Sporting Kansas City Betting Preview (Feb. 27) article feature image
Credit:

Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Russell (R) and Daniel Salloi (L).

  • Sporting Kansas City opens its season Sunday when it plays Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in MLS action.
  • Atlanta, which is a 145 ML favorite, could be without a pair of its top playmakers, so be sure to check out the starting lineup.
  • Ian Quillen breaks down the game below and gives his top pick.

Atlanta vs. Sporting KC Odds

Atlanta Odds -145
Sporting KC Odds +320
Draw +300
Over/Under 2.5 (-155 / +110)
Day | Time Sunday |  3 p.m. ET
How To Watch FS1 | fuboTV
Odds updated via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.

Gonzalo Pineda’s first full season in charge of Atlanta United begins when they host Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Pineda arrived in the late summer and helped Atlanta continue a late charge that resulted in a return to the MLS Cup playoffs after missing out in 2020.

Sporting Kansas City are coming off a third-place finish in the Western Conference. But they face a full season without Mexican striker Alan Pulido, who is rehabbing from knee surgery.

This is the clubs’ first meeting since a 3-0 Atlanta win in Kansas City on May 5, 2019. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic forced MLS into heavily intra-conference schedules in 2020 and 2021.

Can Martinez Rediscover Magic for Atlanta?

Among the questions facing Atlanta United this season, these are two of the biggest:

  1. How close can Josef Martinez come to recovering his 2017-2019 form.
  2. How quickly will Thiago Almada make the adjustment to a new league.

Martinez scored an incredible 87 league goals in his first three MLS seasons, winning the MLS Golden Boot in 2018 and coming close again in 2019.

Then came an ACL tear suffered in the 2020 season opener at Nashville SC, before a 2021 campaign where Martinez scored 12 times.

For most forwards, 12 goals would be acceptable production. For Martinez, that total — and his 0.55 goals per 90 minutes — represented a decrease by almost 50% from his pre-injury levels.

As for Almada, he won’t be relied upon as the only creative engine for Atlanta, with Marcelino Moreno returning from a first full MLS season when he had nine goals and four primary assists.

But the 21-year-old will be expected to immediately build on the progression shown at Velez Sarsfield, where he had four goals and four assists in 20 appearances in 2021, his third pro season in Argentina.

That’s the long term. In the short term, both Almada and Moreno are questionable due to visa issues, via the team’s injury report.

The same cause is also expected to keep out defending midfielder Franco Ibarra and potentially box-to-box midfielder Santiago Sosa.

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Sporting KC Must Manage Pulido Injury Again

In theory, Sporting Kansas City managed much of last season well without Pulido, who was limited because of the same injury that has resulted in his 2022 absence.

In practice, it took career years from both Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell to avoid more damage from playing without their star forward for half of their total minutes played in 2021.

Salloi scored 16 times, Russell added 15, and each man added seven primary assists, while each bested their previous MLS-best goals total by five.

Russell’s performance was particularly remarkable considering he didn’t begin to start scoring until the Fourth of July.

Even so, there were signs SKC missed Pulido late in the season when his absence was most extended. Kansas City trailed opponents in all six of their league games between the October and November international windows in expected goals (xG). On aggregate, it was 4.8 to 8.4 ratio.

Striker Nikola Vujnovic has been signed on loan from the Serbian top flight to help Pulido’s absence, but visa issues will keep him out of the opener.

Gadi Kinda, an Israeli international midfielder and another attack-minded player, is also out following his own more minor knee procedure. He’s expected back later this spring.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Firstly, wait for lineups if you can.

Almada, Moreno and Sosa are an important corps of Atlanta’s expected starting midfield, and probably more important to their overall ability to produce goals than Martinez, no matter his form.

Martinez is a finisher more than a creator, even when playing at an MLS Best XI level. So if all three are playing, it might make me rethink my direction.

Kansas City also have their availability issues, but at least they are more clear.

And while Salloi and Russell probably won’t combine for 31 goals again this season, their roles out wide make them more involved as creators.

Which means those other SKC absences shouldn’t be as big of a deal in terms of generating chances.

That’s important early in the season in particular. And it’s why I like backing Sporting here to get at least a point.

They did so 10 times in 17 away trips last season, and you can get them at +110 odds and an implied 47.6% probability here.

Pick: Double chance — Sporting Kansas City or Draw (+110)

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