Orlando City vs Charlotte FC Preview, MLS Game Picks, Betting Predictions: Expect Low Scoring Affair

Alexandre PatoAfter suffering what was a disappointing and probably unexpected defeat last time out, Orlando City will look to bounce back against Charlotte FC on Saturday (7.30pm ET). In front of a home crowd at Exploria Stadium, they could have a tough night.

The visitors have started to exceed expectations and frustrate teams, so this is far from a foregone conclusion. Let’s see how it will play out with our OCSC vs CLTFC MLS game preview, predictions & betting picks.

When they got the better of fellow Floridian side Tampa Bay in the USL cup just over a week ago, Óscar Pareja’s men were flying high. They’d won three on the bounce in all competitions and were sitting pretty, behind Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, such momentum failed to serve them well when they hosted the New York Red Bulls, who returned north with all three points last weekend. The hosts remain in a lofty position, but suddenly, they need a reprieve following a game where they were comfortably beaten.

In contrast, Charlotte comes here with renewed confidence. After toughing it out in the US Open Cup, emerging victorious after extra time, they went away to Colorado and returned with both a point and a clean sheet, both of which are notable achievements.

Back at the start of the campaign, as many MLS newcomers do, Saturday’s visitors were expected to struggle and struggle they did initially, though they’ve since picked up the pace. After three wins, two respectable defeats against top teams, and a tie from their last six MLS games, Miguel Angel Ramirez’s men have shown that they can compete. It is clear to see that they’re not easy to get the better of.

More needed?

In general, as far as results go, the hosts have made a pleasing start to the campaign, but if we take a closer look at their efforts, it’s easy to feel that they need to do more if they’re to challenge seriously for a place at the top of the Eastern Conference.

For a start, they have score more than once in just two of their last eight fixtures, and in only three out of nine overall in MLS this season. OK, they’ve only failed to score twice, but an average of 1.11 goals per 90 minutes isn’t exactly great. What’s more, an average of 1.04 expected goals per game doesn’t exactly point towards an abundance of creativity, which could be a problem in time.

Last time out, as they slumped to defeat, Pareja’s men created a measly 0.1 expected goals, and as things stand, Orlando sits in the bottom half in the east when it comes to xG for, with only four teams below them.

Visitors digging their heels in

Sure, they are without a win in two, while they’ve only scored once during that time, but unlike many teams that step into the cauldron of Major League Soccer for the first time, the Charlotte boys are holding their own and are not avoiding heavy defeats on a regular basis.

They’ve only lost by a maximum of two goals since the opening night, and they’ve only lost by more than a one goal margin on one occasion. Since their 0-2 defeat to the team that’s currently the best in the league, they’ve conceded just two goals, have kept two clean sheets and have been doing a pleasing job of limiting their opponents to few chances.

Since conceding 1.3 expected goals against the Union, Angel Ramirez’s men have surrendered a maximum of 1.1 xG, giving up a respectable average of just 0.96 expected goals in their last three fixtures. Such numbers tell us that they are capable of keeping teams at bay, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the hosts, who as mentioned in this preview above, haven’t been thriving in terms of creativity of late.

Low-key affair to unfold at Exploria Stadium

For my money, there are two worthwhile plays ahead of this clash. Firstly, ‘Under 2.5 Goals’ catches the eye. For starters, the hosts aren’t the most offensively dynamic, and they’ve not scored more than once at any point this season, while in their last three, they average just one goal for. At the same time, they can keep teams quiet, as two clean sheets in their last three suggest. Combine this with Charlotte’s lack of forward power, with the visitors scoring only two goals in their last four, and a low-scoring game starts to look a bit more likely than the early betting lines with the stateside sportsbooks would have us believe.

Moreover, both teams find themselves in the bottom five (in the Eastern Conference) in terms of expected goals for, with averages of just 1.04 and 0.9. Such figures don’t exactly scream high-scoring fixture.

Following on the same theme, ‘Both Teams to Score – No’ appeals too. Not only are we looking at a couple of teams that have found it hard to be overly creative in recent times, but we’ve seen two competitors who from a defensive point of view, can both make life tough for their opponents. Before they delivered a below par showing against NYRB, Saturday’s hosts had kept back-to-back clean sheets, while they’ve kept a clean sheet in three of their last six. The visitors have kept two clean sheets in their last three too, and they seem to be getting better at nullifying opposition threat. Interestingly, both teams have scored in just two of Charlotte’s eight fixtures this season.

One final factor that makes leaning towards a low-scorer easy is the lack of a prolific striker in both dressing rooms. Orlando City of course have the experience and class of somebody like Alexandre Pato, but the Brazilian, who is top scorer for the hosts, has been far from unstoppable in terms of goals, scoring only twice this term. The visitors have Karol Swiderski, who does have four goals to his name, but he has now gone four games without scoring, while nobody else in their ranks has scored more than once. So as the culmination of our predictions, these are the two betting picks for this OCSC vs CLTFC preview: