Inter Miami look to extend their unbeaten run as they host Atlanta United at DRV PNK Stadium (1pm ET Sunday; TV: Live on ABC & ESPN Deportes).
Will it be three games without defeat for Phil Neville’s men? Or can the visitors upset the hosts and claim their first road win of the new season? Hopefully this preview, from USA Betting, can answer those questions with our MLS game predictions before giving our concluding betting picks.
After a disappointing opening effort against LA Galaxy, where they looked sloppy at the rear, conceding three goals in the process, Inter Miami have started to get their act together. They dug deep to fight back from a goal down to earn victory number one at Philadelphia, which is no mean feat, while match-day three saw them grind their way to a 0-0 draw away against Nashville. It must be said that their attacking efforts were poor last time out, as a meagre total of 0.3 expected goals for suggests, but they held their visitors at bay and earned a hard-fought travelling point.
After two reasonably subdued attacking efforts on the road, Miami will be pleased to return to the comforts of home, where despite losing, they scored twice and produced a pleasing 2.8 expected goals for on opening weekend.
A franchise in decline?
It took Atlanta United little time to reach the top of Major League Soccer as an expansion side. They scrapped for the Eastern Conference title and made the playoffs in their inaugural season, while they went all the way and lifted MLS Cup the following year, but since then things have gone downhill at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Last campaign, their fourth in MLS, Atlanta never really got going, finishing in a disappointing 12th. Their season was of course blighted by the absence of talisman Josef Martinez, but nevertheless, they were a shade of their old self all over the pitch.
Changes were made in the off-season, as manager Gabriel Heinze, who took over in December 2020, stuck to what he knows, acquiring talent from his native Argentina. Veteran striker Lisandro Lopez joined from Racing, while Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra have joined from River Plate and Argentinos Juniors respectively. Five Stripes’ fans will be hoping that this new crop have a similarly devastating impact as the one had by Martinez and Almiron back in 2018, though the early signs aren’t overly inspiring.
Their opening day draw against Orlando was forgivable, while they showed signs of life, especially in the final third when beating Chicago on home soil next time out, but they looked like a wounded animal when beaten by New England Revolution last weekend. On that occasion, they gave plenty away, offered little resistance and simply couldn’t match their opponents in terms chances created.
Home advantage key?
It is hard to judge Miami at this point. On the surface, they’ve made progress since their opening day defeat, but their best attacking effort came in that very loss, where they posted an expected-goals-for figure of 2.8, which is positive. It is therefore easy to feel that the return to DRV PNK Stadium after two road matches is a real plus. Moreover, their best efforts came at this venue last season, where they had a 50%-win rate, compared to just a 20%-win rate away from the comforts of home.
Those looking to support the hosts in the betting will also be buoyed by the fact that playing on the road has plagued Atlanta for some time. During the previous campaign, the Five Stripes won just two of their ten away matches, while they lost six of the other eight. In addition, Atlanta finished the previous campaign with the worst expected-goals-for average in the Eastern Conference, producing a meagre average of just 0.95 xG for per travelling 90.
It is also worth noting than Inter Miami have never lost against Atlanta, winning two of the previous four renewals of this fixture. Then again, the games between the pair have always been close, at least in terms of the score. Neither of Miami’s two victories were by more than a single goal, while the visitors snatched a 1-1 draw when they last visited this venue.
Where’s the money going?
Unsurprisingly, Inter Miami are currently hot favorites ahead of this match. They were much better at home than Atlanta were on the road last season, while their only home effort this season was mildly encouraging, especially offensively, which is not something that can be said for Atlanta’s two travelling efforts.
However, have the hosts impressed enough to warrant being -115 on the moneyline? In short, no, they haven’t. Even less so when we consider that both Gonzalo and Federico Higuain are likely to miss out after the recent loss of their mother. If the former is out then it’s a big blow for the hosts, one that will probably carry more weight in the betting lines once Sunday arrives. Keeping this in mind, those who fancy the visitors to get something out of this game will be better off getting on early rather than late, that’s for sure.
Lack of goals forthcoming?
At the current odds, ‘under 2.5 goals’ stands out as a value option. Inter Miami don’t exactly come into this game off the back of impressive attacking efforts, scoring only two goals in their last two games, while their expected goals numbers have been poor too, posting just 0.9 and 0.3. Returning home should help, but if their main man Higuain is out, then the chances of a low-scoring game are heightened.
Similarly, Atlanta have delivered relatively subdued attacking efforts this term, especially in terms of creativity. The Five Strips are averaging a modest 1.26 expected goals for, which isn’t overly inspiring. When we add this to the fact that Inter Miami have surrendered an average of just 1.0 expected goal per 90 since the return of MLS, the odds currently available on ‘under 2.5 goals’ start to look slightly generous.
So the predictions and picks verdict of this MLS game preview is this sole betting tip suggestion: