Who Will Prevail in the MLS Game of the Year?

Who Will Prevail in the MLS Game of the Year? article feature image
Credit:

USA TODAY Sports, Dale Zanine. Pictured: Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8)

The Highlights

  • The top two teams in the Eastern Conference face off on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
  • Atlanta United has the highest expected goal differential (11.8) in the league and are tops in points (29).
  • New York City FC are a perfect 6-0-0 at home this season and are listed at +131 to extend the streak against Atlanta.

It’s the final weekend of MLS action before the World Cup starts as the league will take some time off for the opening games in Russia. There are some notable matches on Saturday, including Sporting KC-Portland and Columbus-NY Red Bulls, but the premier meeting is between New York City FC and Atlanta United at 12:30 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium.

 

After dissecting the betting market, I’ve picked out a value play on the NYC FC-Atlanta United match (Season Record: 30-29-2, +20.35 units, 35% ROI).

(All lines as of Friday afternoon via Pinnacle sportsbook. All betting percentages are the offshore market average. Bettors can find all the latest odds and betting percentages with a Sports Insights membership).

Atlanta United at New York City FC (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: NYC FC +131, Atlanta +197, Draw +269
Total: 3 (o-117)

This is the match of the week in MLS and perhaps the match of the year thus far. Atlanta United are still title favorites at +500, but NYC FC have held on strong with the second-best odds at +700.

The Citizens own a perfect 6-0-0 home record this season and are slight favorites to keep the run going on Saturday afternoon. It’ll be a tough task against the league’s best road team since Atlanta sits at 4-1-1 as visitors while dropping only four points along the way.

Unfortunately for NYC FC, midfielder Yangel Herrera has been ruled out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery. It’s a substantial blow as the young Venezuelan started in 12 of 14 games this year and he leaves NYC FC with a hole to fill in the center of the park. It appears that his absence has had an effect on the line since NYC FC increased from +108 to +131, and Atlanta dropped from +226 to +197.

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NYC FC will also lose a couple players to the World Cup soon: Ronald Matarrita (Costa Rica) and Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica). It’s possible those players are looking ahead to their international duty and not risking injury in MLS play.

Not only has the line moved toward Atlanta United since opening, but public bettors are actually loading up on NYC FC (55% of bets). This is setting up to be a great contrarian play on Atlanta United to get the road win and all three points.

Atlanta United have been the best team in the league and they also have the highest Expected Goal Differential (xGD) at 11.8, so they’re not going anywhere. They’ve got plenty of offensive firepower to compete on a small field (Yankee Stadium), and they’re catching NYC FC at a great time considering the Herrera injury and the World Cup looming.

Even though the line has already dropped a bit, I love the value on Atlanta United +197 to solidify their spot atop the Eastern Conference.

I’ve gone light in MLS this weekend with so many pending World Cup bets, and made it easy to track all the futures here.

Updated MLS Cup odds (via 5Dimes):

  • Atlanta United (+500) remain the favorites for the seventh consecutive week.
  • All four New York and Los Angeles teams have odds of +1600 or better.
  • FC Dallas keep on winning and now have the third-best odds to win the MLS Cup at +750.
  • Oddsmakers still can’t figure out Real Salt Lake: they’ve moved from +3400 to +7000 to +8000 to +4500 to +3500 in the last month.

Don’t forget to visit our 2018 World Cup Central page for all the latest odds, analysis, value plays, injuries and more. We have betting breakdowns for all 32 teams in the tournament from our talented roster of writers.