LA Galaxy are strong favorites to beat the Portland Timbers in a big Western Conference MLS clash on Saturday.
Who do Bettors Favor?
This game is often one of the most keenly fought of Western Conference rivalries, but according to the bookies - check out our full online sportsbook reviews here – this renewal of the rivalry will be a one-sided game. LA Galaxy are the clear favorites, according to the sportsbooks, at -145 across the board. The draw is available at anything from +322 to +345 while Portland are big underdogs at +350.
|LA Galaxy v Portland Timbers|
LA Galaxy Improving
Three MLS games without a win had seen LA Galaxy’s progress stall after a strong start to the season, but a Cup win over LAFC boosted their morale and they followed up with a 4-1 win over Austin to go into the international break on an upward curve.
Having invested heavily in wide attacking players during the off-season, the returns have been mixed so far, and while their ability to create chances has generally been consistent, defensively they have started to look vulnerable, particularly from open play.
Still, after missing out on the playoffs last season, their current position of sixth is healthy and they are certainly in contention, just two points behind second-placed Dallas in the West.
Portland’s Problems Continue
Portland went into the international break with an appalling record of one win in their previous nine games, signing off with a poor 3-1 defeat against struggling Inter Miami.
Prior to that, they had lost 2-0 at home to Philadelphia – a game in which they failed to score despite having over 60% of the possession. But it is away from Providence Park where the Timbers have struggled most. They are now six games without a win on the road, with four defeats and two draws in that run, and the result is that they are in the bottom three in the West.
After reaching the MLS Cup Final last season, their current situation represents a dramatic decline and with the season at the halfway point, head coach Giovanni Savarese is under intense pressure.
MLS Team News
The CONCACAF Under-20 tournament kicks off on Saturday and three of the Galaxy squad: Marcus Ferkranus, Jalen Neal and Jonathan Perez, have been called up, so will be unavailable here.
Galaxy will be without Adam Saldana who has been out with an ankle injury since February and Sega Coulibaly who is still suffering from a knee problem.
After seven games without a goal, Javier Hernandez has now scored in both of Galaxy’s last two games, including getting the crucial equalizer that set up the win against Austin, so he will lead the line again.
Giovanni Savarese will have to juggle with a depleted squad ahead of this game, particularly up front. Diego Gutierrez is a long-term absentee, while Felipe Mora is still recovering from knee surgery and fellow center-forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda is also missing. Portland are also still waiting on visa clearance for right-back Pablo Bonilla.
MLS Betting Picks
Galaxy prefer to play on the front foot and keep possession for lengthy periods of time, which is a tactic that they have been able to reproduce regularly. They rank in the top three in MLS for passes attempted and completed, and their ball movement is generally sharp. They’ve also shown an improvement in defending at set-pieces this season, something that has been a problem in the past.
The problem with their approach is that they don’t generally press that high, so when they win the ball back, they are not often in advantageous positions. And as a result, all of that possession can become a little sterile and chances harder to come by, which explains why Galaxy are the joint lowest goalscorers in the top eight of the Western Conference.
Still, their style of play can be impressive when it is working well, and it seems to be functioning at the moment. The hard-fought win in El Traffico seems to have galvanized the Galaxy players, and they found their goalscoring form in dramatic fashion against Austin, scoring four times in the last half an hour.
It’s also worth noting that they are up against a team that is struggling for any kind of form. The Timbers have leaked nine goals in their last four and even conceded two in the 7-2 victory over Kansas. A couple of goalless draws earlier in the season suggest that Portland can be defensively strong on occasion, but not without sacrificing their own chances of finding the net.
Bettors have a reason not to feel too confident about either of these sides, but Galaxy are at least heading in the right direction and should be able to overcome weakened opponents here.
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