New York Red Bulls vs Inter Miami Odds, Pick, Predictions | MLS Betting Preview

New York Red Bulls vs Inter Miami Odds, Pick, Predictions | MLS Betting Preview article feature image

Jeff Dean/Getty. Pictured: Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets.

New York Red Bulls vs Inter Miami Odds

Saturday, Aug. 26
7:30 p.m. ET
Apple TV
New York Red Bulls Odds+110
Inter Miami Odds+220
Over / Under
 -143 / +110
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

At long last, nearly a month after Lionel Messi played his first game for Inter Miami, he is set for his MLS regular season debut when the Herons visit the New York Red Bulls on Sunday night.

It is also shaping up to be Messi's first game as an underdog with his new club according to oddsmakers.

After early movement toward the Herons, the action has slid in the other direction following Miami's triumph on penalties over FC Cincinnati in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal.

The market appears to be pricing in the likelihood — or at least possibility — that Messi won't start for the first time since his debut in the opening match of the Leagues Cup last month after going all 120 minutes of that wild 3-3 draw in Ohio. And it's valid to expect this might be the occasion where manager Tata Martino spells his star for at least the first half, given the rest of the Herons' schedule.

The Red Bulls are coming off a 1-0 home win over D.C. United on Sunday decided by John Tolkin's late free kick, but they will be seeking their first consecutive win combination of the season in front of their first packed house at home since a 1-0 win over NYCFC on May 13.

Let's dive into the New York Red Bulls vs Inter Miami.

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls have been one of the more disappointing teams in MLS this year after finishing fourth a season ago, and they are facing real danger of missing the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

Data-driven folks might suggest RBNY have merely been unfortunate. The Red Bulls own the best xG differential in MLS at +9.8 while playing the high-press football adopted across all the Red Bull clubs around the world.

But they haven't really had a competent starting center forward over the last three seasons, which is one major explainer as to why they've struggled to turn that superiority into results in 2023. Lewis Morgan's 14 goals from his position out wide covered that liability last season, but he's been on the injury shelf most of this campaign.

Another factor is game states. The Red Bulls have spent 714 minutes of the regular season trailing and only 282 holding a lead, and teams are more likely to run up xG numbers when playing from behind.

Belgian striker Dante Vanzeir and former Philadelphia Union super-sub Cory Burke were supposed to help RBNY's deficiency at the No. 9 role, but each man only has two goals to his name. Vanzeir also served a six-match suspension for using a racial slur toward an opposing player earlier this season — for which he publicly apologized — and is now questionable Saturday due to a thigh issue.

There have at least been some modest signs of improvement since Gerhard Struber was relieved in May in favor of Troy Lesesne. Perhaps proving the point about game states, six of RBNY's seven wins have come since the change. But Lesesne's squad is only averaging +0.27 xG per 90 minutes versus the +0.57 number on Struber's watch.

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Inter Miami

In our last Messi and Miami preview for the semifinal against the U.S. Open Cup, I posited that while Miami would probably continue to overachieve their xG numbers with Messi on board, it was nearly impossible to imagine them doing so by the extent to which they had so far.

Through the Leagues Cup, Miami bettered xG expectations by more than two goals per 90 minutes.

On Wednesday night, Miami again earned a result despite losing the xG battle, but the margin of -0.77 xG was more in line with what you might expect Messi and the Herons to replicate more regularly. It came with a switch of personnel that may also lead to more sustainable attacking play — the insertion of Leonardo Campana in favor of Josef Martinez at striker.

Yes, Martinez also scored in extra time as Tata Martino emptied his bench to climb out of a 2-0 hole against Cincy. But despite a promising beginning to their relationship, Messi and Martinez had appeared at odds over positioning on several occasions as the Leagues Cup progressed. It was a recipe that left Messi rescuing Miami through lower-probability shots of his own. His conversion rate on such chances will always be better than average — but not as high as it was over this first flurry.

By comparison, Camapana wasn't as obvious a presence against Cincinnati. Yet, he was able to get into the right positions for two higher-probability chances set up by Messi to pull the Herons level. And his mobility coupled with Messi's could allow Miami to create a greater volume of chances, which they will need if they're to keep this white-hot form going.

Of course, all this may be a moot point for Saturday. This would appear to be the obvious place to give Messi and other veteran stars like Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets a rest for at least the first half. It's a fourth consecutive away match, played only 72 hours or so after the third, with further league fixtures looming next Wednesday and Sunday. Not to mention all those players went an extra 30 minutes in the Open Cup semifinal.

New York Red Bulls vs Inter Miami

Pick & Prediction

In the interest of full disclosure, this is a game where the more appealing action comes after lineups are announced when you can fade reaction to the team news in specific ways.

If Messi defies expectations and starts, I'd expect Miami to swing back into the favorite role. As such, prices could decrease for fading Miami on the corner kicks market — which has been very profitable for bettors since Messi's arrival. And I'd be inclined to play an under on some form of a Miami total corners wager. With Messi playing, Miami have not earned more than three corners in any of their eight games.

If that veteran core is on the bench, I'd look to back the Herons on some form of second-half play, particularly if your book offers a draw-no-bet option. The Herons have lost only one second half so far since Messi's arrival while winning five and drawing two. They're 2-1-1 (W-L-T) in second halves on the road.

If Messi isn't even in the match day squad? Maybe you bet the under or a no wager on both teams to score. Or you could just pass.

But at this moment, making an educated guess that Messi and others will be coming off the bench after halftime, I think the best wager here is to play the first-half total under 1 at +120 odds and an implied 45.5% probability. The Red Bulls have had particular trouble scoring before halftime, only doing so in 3-of-13 fixtures at Red Bull Arena. The pre-Messi Herons scored before halftime in exactly one of their first 11 away games.

If there is a stray goal somewhere during the first half, your wager pushes.

Pick: First-half total under 1 (+120 via BetRivers)

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