Adam Chernoff, surprisingly, not cheering Atlanta this Saturday and claims LAFC has the best offense in the league.
Family business kept me away last weekend in what was likely a much-needed break. This season has taken a turn south the past month with my overall record slipping to 6-10 (-6.01x). I am back at it this weekend with two wagers on a full schedule.
Turning My Shoulder
If you have followed my column this year, you will know I am a BIG fan of Atlanta United. At one time the defending champions were near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but over the past six weeks, the club has turned the season around and sit just one win out of top spot. Investigating further into their play, however, raises some flags that have me questioning their high price point.
Atlanta has only averaged 1.21 goals per 90 minutes, a big difference from the 2.05 goal average in 2018.
Much like last season the offensive production focuses on Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan attacker has scored 8 of the 17 goals for Atlanta but also contributed 9.2 xG of the 17.5 overall for the team. Marks of 47% for goal production and 53% for team xG are the highest in MLS. To compare, Carlos Vela is on a record setting pace and has accounted for only 42% of goals and 33% of xG for LAFC.
This match sets up to be a potential down spot for the striker. Martinez has played 628 of 630 minutes for Atlanta in the month of May and all of the previous five matches since May 12.
In addition to fatigue, there is also the look ahead to international duty that could affect play. Already pressured for skipping the first friendly against Ecuador, Martinez will immediately fly out following the match to join his international teammates on Sunday for a month. The matchup against Chicago is not an easy task either. The Fire have allowed the third fewest shots per 90 minutes this season.
On the flip side, Chicago is in a similar position to that of Atlanta six weeks ago. The Fire are one point ahead of Toronto in the final playoff spot despite outshooting opponents by 43 and having a total shots ratio within 0.1 of LAFC (1st), Atlanta (4th) and Philadelphia (2nd).
Even despite generating the second most cumulative expected goals, and third highest xG per 90 minutes, Chicago is being priced as a mid-tier club. Getting just lower than even money on the +1 handicap presents a ton value in a match they could threaten to win outright.
Not too much needs to be said about this match. Portland and LAFC have already met one time this season and five goals were scored. Portland has since added Brian Fernandez and earned results against Houston and Philadelphia in back to back weeks. The Argentine put up incredible numbers in Liga MX for Necaxa.
During the regular season, more than half of the passes Fernandez made in the attacking third were successful key passes. That is more than 15% higher than any other player in Mexico. In just 129 minutes of MLS play he has already made a huge impact generating five shots, scored three goals, and generated just shy of one expected assist.
As improved as the offense looks, plenty of issues still exist on defence. Portland allows 15.1 shot attempts per match and 1.79 expected goals against per 90 minutes – better than only Colorado and San Jose. Proximity of attempts against is concerning too. Portland allows opponents to shoot from an average of 14.1 yards away, which is worst in the MLS.
LAFC is setting record numbers in every category, and with a full lineup at option, it is safe to project the best offense in the league finding plenty of success against one of the worst back lines. Over 3 goals is priced too cheap and presents plenty of upside.
- Chicago Fire +1 (1.86). Risking 1.15x
- Los Angeles Portland Over 3 Goals (1.93). Risking 1.07x
Phil Kitromilides is joined by the dream team trio of Paolo Bandini, Mark O’Haire and Brodders who give their top selections for Saturday night’s big one in Madrid.