LA Galaxy look to pick up where they left off as they welcome MLS newcomers Austin FC to Dignity Health Sports Park (3.30pm ET Saturday: TV: Live on UNIVISION / TUDN). Can the hosts make it four wins out of five? Or will the visitors cause an upset? We’ll try to answer those questions in this preview with our predictions and betting picks.
Galaxy on the up
After a few seasons in the wilderness, having finished no higher than fifth in Western Conference since 2016, and having not lifted MLS Cup since 2014, LA Galaxy may just be back. It is of course early days, but there’s plenty to suggest that the most successful franchise in Major League Soccer history is on the up.
Under new boss Greg Vanney, who is no stranger to success at this level having won MLS Cup with Toronto back in 2017, the west coast giants have made a very encouraging start to the new season, winning three out of four, beating city rivals LAFC last time out. They rode their luck at times during that fixture, but their effectiveness on the break was impressive, and with somebody like goal-poacher Chicharito, who has already scored six goals this term, in their line-up, the goals are always likely to come.
It is not uncommon for an expansion side to enter the weird and wonderful world of MLS soccer and flounder in their inaugural campaign, but the early signs are that Austin FC are quickly adapting to life at the top of US soccer. The new boys have already claimed two victories, while they have also held their own against some top sides, losing by only a single goal when facing Sporting Kansas City on the road last weekend.
What do the numbers say?
If we look simply at the form of each side, then it is easy to be immediately drawn to the hosts, who on the face of it, seem to have a relatively simple task ahead of them. They have been in hot form, beat a strong outfit in LAFC last time out and are playing in their own backyard. This is probably why they come into the fixture as strong favorites on the moneyline (+110). However, if we scratch beneath the surface, cracks start to appear in the hosts.
Greg Vanney’s men have won three out of four, which is pleasing, but it’s fair to say that they’ve enjoyed more than a small slice of luck. First time out against Inter Miami, they probably didn’t do enough to warrant winning, as the fact that they ended the game with a -1.5 expected goal difference suggests.
They did outplay New York Red Bulls in that department on match-day two, producing a strong 2.3 expected goals for, but in giving up 1.7, they didn’t exactly cover themselves in defensive glory. Problems at the back were also evident when they travelled to Seattle and lost by three goals to nil, while frailties were clear to see last time out, despite them picking up all three points against the other team in Los Angeles. They have scored an average of two goals per 90, and their expected goals for average of 1.37 isn’t too bad, but Galaxy fans may be slightly worried that their side are currently surrendering an average of two goals per 90, as well as an average of 2.0 expected goals per 90.
Austin haven’t done tremendously well in terms of expected goals, though they are averaging slightly more for per 90. After four matches, the expansion side are averaging 1.57 xG for, which is very solid. Unfortunately, they’ve not been able to perform as well at the other end of the field, conceding an average 2.07.
Do the visitors represent a slice of value?
After a real confidence-boosting win at this venue last time out, LA Galaxy deserve to be favorites ahead of this clash, though are they worth a bet at the prices? Probably not. In fact, a bet on the visitors may just offer a slither of value.
Austin have performed better than Galaxy in terms of expected goals for, averaging an extra 0.20 per 90, while they’ve only performed 0.07 worse than the hosts in terms of xG against. The visitors have an average expected goal difference of -0.47, while the home side has an average expected goal difference of -0.62. This of course isn’t everything, but such numbers are strong indicators, and point towards the away side standing a slightly better chance than the early odds suggest. Add in that Austin has already got the job done on some tough away trips during the early weeks of the campaign, and a small bet on the visitors, with the insurance that ‘draw no bet’ provides, stands out as the best play. So the conclusion of this preview’s predictions is this one selection:
- Bet on Austin to win in the ‘draw no bet’ market @ +125 with Intertops.