After a break in the schedule, MLS returns on Saturday as Sporting Kansas City host expansion side Austin FC at Children’s Mercy Park (3pm ET). The hosts go in search of a fourth straight victory, while the visitors are looking to win for the first time in five matches.
After an up and down start to the campaign, a start that saw them lose to both Salt Lake and Houston, SKC have really got their act together in the last month or so. They come into this fixture having won each of their last three, showing their attacking prowess, scoring plenty of goals in the process, especially at home. In fact, home is certainly where the heart is for Kansas this term, as they’ve yet to lose in front of a home crowd, winning three and drawing one.
Goals easy to come by
SKC come here off the back of some excellent results, and they’ve achieved those results not by keeping things tight and shutting teams out, but by getting on the front foot and showcasing their forward power. Saturday’s hosts have scored nine goals in their last three fixtures, scoring three in each of those three games.
Not only have the goals flown for the hosts, but the underlying numbers tell us that they’ve been creating lots, producing expected goals for figures of 2.9, 2.0 and 2.3 in their last three games. Such numbers show a team that is firing on all cylinders offensively.
It’s also impressive that the goals are coming from different sources. Hitman Alan Pulido is really starting to produce, scoring four in his last three, but he’s not the only one as four other players have found the net during that time. Not being so heavily reliant on their target man for goals should really help SKC as the season rolls on.
While SKC go into Saturday’s fixture in fine form, Austin may be feeling sorry for themselves. They have had well over a week to freshen up and put the work in on the training field, but the knowledge that they have won none of their last four, three of which they’ve lost, will surely be hard to shake.
It is always hard for expansion sides to hit the ground running, and it appears as though Austin have the right idea, what with their relatively youthful squad, but at present, things aren’t going well. They have shown some resilience and are yet to be beaten badly, losing by two goals twice so far, but a certain attacking impotence is proving to be costly.
Austin have found the net in none of their last three matches, while they’ve scored just two goals in their last five. One goal in their last four away matches doesn’t exactly bode well either, though that goal did come at this venue, so perhaps that will offer the visitors some encouragement.
This is the second time that the pair have faced off this season. Just over a month ago, Austin visited Children’s Mercy Park and left empty-handed, losing by two goals to one. However, they did take the lead, and only conceded after going down to ten men when captain Alexander Ring was dismissed after being shown a second yellow card in the 67th minute. The problem was that, even though they scored, they offered little offensively and struggled to contain the hosts, even before the sending off. The fact that they conceded 3.4 expected goals, not to mention 25 shots on that occasion, won’t fill the visiting fans with confidence ahead of Saturday’s encounter.
Second victory for the hosts?
To be honest, though Austin may have considered themselves to be unlucky when they visited this venue earlier in the campaign, they didn’t really do enough to warrant being in the lead in the first place, while they’ve shown little in the way of attacking positivity since.
In contrast, SKC have been flying in the final third, creating chance after chance, scoring goal after goal. Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to feel that a bet on the hosts to emerge victorious on Saturday offers punters a slice of value, even at slightly odds-on.
The hosts have shown us that they have little problem breaking down teams in recent weeks, while the same simply cannot be said for Austin, who are currently the lowest scorers in the Western Conference and who’ve produced an average of just 1.27 expected goals for this campaign. Such a number doesn’t stand up well next to SKC’s average of 1.88, neither does Austin’s average expected goal difference of -0.23 next to SKC’s of +0.68, which is the third highest in all of MLS right now.
With simply more to offer all over the pitch but especially in the final third, the hosts are backed to claim all three points, just like they did when the pair met at this venue last month. So, when it comes to our predictions for this preview, it is just the one betting pick: