MLS Playoffs – LA Galaxy v Real Salt Lake Preview (26/10/16)

LA Galaxy preview

The Galaxy knew that they were pretty much destined to finish third in the Western Conference for quite some time. They rounded out the season with some dull lower scoring contests, a couple of 1-0s and then a 0-0 against Dallas on Sunday. Manager Bruce Arena was wise in resting most of his key players at the weekend. One of the big problems for Arena this season has been dealing with absences and injuries. Officially for this game, only attacker Gyasi Zardes is ruled out. The likes of Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane & Giovani Dos Santos have all been dealing with knocks of late but now that the whole season is on the line, I would expect Arena to start his strongest possible XI. And when his best XI play well then few teams in the MLS can stop them. The Galaxy are also known for being extremely formidable at the StubHub Centre. Only one team has beaten them here this season (Seattle) although a collection of draws have hindered them a bit. But in a playoff match the atmosphere will be mega intense and be a massive advantage for the Galaxy.

Real Salt Lake preview

Of all the teams in the Western Conference, RSL carry the least amount of momentum into the playoffs. They were excellent in the first half of the season but their campaign has badly tailed off, especially in recent times. They’ve only just limped into the postseason and failed to win any of their last seven games. The most worrying factor is scoring goals and a total of just two have been netted in their last 550 mins of action. A niggling heel injury to striker Yura Movsisyan hasn’t helped their cause and the likes of Martinez, Morales & Plata, who were so great earlier in the season have all seen form go downhill. RSL have lost 7 of their last 8 away games and have desperately struggled on the road in the second half of the season. A massive improvement needs to be shown if they are to progress to the next round of the playoffs. I would imagine their main tactic will be to sit back and frustrate Galaxy for as long as possible. Right back Tony Beltran is rated doubtful because of a back injury and fellow defender Aaron Maund has been a casualty for the last two months and won’t feature either.

Conclusion & betting analysis

The Galaxy got knocked out of the playoffs at this same stage last  year and there’s no way Bruce Arena is going to let that happen again. The difference a year on is that LA are actually hosting the game, and everyone knows how strong they are at this stadium. Another difference is that they are facing a woefully out of form RSL side who don’t look like they will cause the Galaxy too many problems. The two teams have been involved in a couple of really high scoring contests this season, 5-2 and 3-3. But I expect to see a tighter game here. RSL will look to defend for long periods and might be able to hold out until after half time. But ultimately, the Galaxy’s extra class and likely persistence should prove crucial in the end. They have individual players who can come up with a moment of magic if needed, but in the end I think we will see a comfortable home win. The simple fact is RSL aren’t playing well enough right now and I think backing the Galaxy on a -0.75 Asian handicap looks like best betting option. Something like a 2-0 or 3-0 win could be on the cards.

Prediction: 2-0

Recommended bet 1 unit: LA Galaxy -0.75 @ 2.04