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MLS Tournament Parlay Preview Article


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
MLS Is Back Tournament Parlay of the Week

Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew
Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN 2) in Orlando

Loss Of Trust In Atlanta

There is clearly something wrong with Atlanta United.

I didn’t want to arrive at this conclusion after its first game, a 1-0 loss to New York Red Bulls.

A poor first game can simply be a product of rust.

But then Atlanta faced arguably the worst defense in the MLS, an FC Cincinnati squad that allowed a record-high number of goals last season and that lost 4-0 in its opener.

For the second time in a row, Atlanta was shut out.

No Easy Fix For Atlanta’s Problems

It’s easy to cite the absence of 2018 MVP Josef Martinez.

But other teams are missing key players and doing just fine. Minnesota is missing its top defender (Ike Opara) and still has four points. Other examples exist.

Instead, I think the problem lies with the manager, Frank de Boer.

His 3-4-3 is an aggressive formation by design. Its aims are to foster possession and to enable greater attacking opportunities.

Statistically, we are seeing plenty of possession. But we are seeing very few passes inside the opposing third.

There is little inspiration or even creativity in build-up play. Too many players who were acquired to add depth are trying to play critical roles. Especially without Martinez, the team clearly lacks a vital playmaker.

Atlanta’s weakness — getting good shots on goal — plays to Columbus’ strength, which is allowing few shots on goal.

Columbus have allowed three shots on target through two games combined. A big reason for their defensive stoutness is center back Jonathan Mensah.

Mensah is reliable on the ball and excels at accruing clearances and interceptions. In the squad's last game against the Red Bulls, Mensah mustered 13 of the former.

It seems very unreasonable to expect Atlanta to turn things around against a hot Columbus squad that has won its first two matches (against Cincinnati and NY Red Bulls) by a combined score of 6-0.


While going forward to create danger in the final third is a weakness of Atlanta, it is one of Columbus’ strengths.

Darlington Nagbe is reliable on the ball. He has the energy to play box-to-box.

He’s a crisp passer who uses his accuracy to be more creative, which is his most important trait. With his positive distribution of the ball, Nagbe facilitates offense.

In addition to Nagbe, Lucas Zelarayan has made a strong impact with two goals and one assist thus far.

The point here is that Columbus has the game-changers that Atlanta lacks.

The Verdict

Atlanta’s puzzlement is a product of its disharmony between tactics and personnel.

While Atlanta United really needs somebody to step up and be brilliant on his own, Columbus has multiple such players.

They have so much more figured out than Atlanta does and yet oddsmakers have the game lined as if Atlanta showed any promising semblance of decent form.

So for the first leg of my parlay I want:

Columbus Crew ML (+153) with BetOnline

Real Salt Lake vs Sporting Kansas City
Wednesday, July 22, 2020 at 9 a.m. ET (ESPN) in Orlando

Unique Situation

Wednesday’s game takes place bright and early in an attempt to circumvent the exhausting consequences of a very hot afternoon.

One solution, though, creates another problem, a unique one.

Kickoff is at 8 a.m. Central Time, which is 9 a.m. ET local time, meaning that Sporting KC will play its earliest competitive game in its club's history.

Five games in the MLS Tournament thus far have started at 9 a.m. ET. In those five games, a total of 10 goals were scored.

This trend shows that defenses have benefitted from the early start times. The burden rests on the offenses to wake up and become creative.

Real Salt Lake’s Backline

Real Salt Lake benefits from returning the essence of a backline that helped it allow one of the lowest goal totals last season.

Through two matches, Real Salt Lake has yet to concede a goal.

Their defensive stoutness starts with an apparent invulnerability to mistakes.

Evidenced by an 82-percent pass completion percentage against Minnesota, Salt Lake’s backline is composed on the ball.

They’re also supported in this respect by defensive midfielders Everton Luiz and Paulo Garcia.

It’s true that Sporting Kansas City will do a lot more high-pressing than Minnesota.

But it’s clear that Real Salt Lake was not bothered by Sporting KC’s pressing last year as Real Salt Lake defeated Sporting KC 1-0 and then 2-1.

The only change in RSL’s backline is the insertion of Marcelo Silva into the starting lineup.

He is consistently reliable in possession and with his vision as he averaged a pass completion rate of 86.9 percent last year. This figure is up to 93.3 percent this year.

Real Salt Lake’s Lack of Attack

In order to advance to the Round of 16, Real Salt Lake can be content with a draw.

So they have no reason to risk anything going forward and every reason to trust its reliably sturdy defense.

This squad has two goals total in two games. Offensively, it is hindered by lack of inspiration or creativity, which, when the squad is in possession, is often manifest in pointless back-and-forth passing.

If Sporting Kansas City does go ahead, it can happily employ Minnesota’s tactic and sit back in order to let Real Salt Lake have more space and control more possession.

Whether tied or behind, Real Salt Lake lacks any offensive threat.

The Verdict

Situationally, the early start time already encourages a low-scoring game.

Match-up wise, Real Salt Lake knows that Sporting KC’s high press is coming and, based on its backline’s recent history, shows no reason to worry about it.

This has the makings of a scoreless draw where Sporting fails to break down Salt Lake’s backline while Salt Lake lacks any situational motivation to risk anything going forward.

If Sporting does take the lead, it can comfortably sit back and let Real Salt Lake’s offense try to figure something out for a rare goal.

So for the second leg of my parlay, I want:

Real Salt Lake/Sporting Kansas City Under 3 (-108) with BetOnline

Best Bet: Columbus Crew ML (+153) & Real Salt Lake/Sporting Kansas City Under 3 (-109) Parlay at +387 odds with BetOnline


VC's Valentine
Agree with all you saying bout Atalanta, even before it got to where you blamed manager I was saying in my head “it the manager”, lol. Isn’t the line where it is tho and my concern would be Columbus has nothing to play for in this one, much like the uninspired effort we saw from Orlando and philly tonight with both already through and seemingly happy with the draw! That might not prevent Columbus from winning but tough to take a side I think will be more worried about the next round and could just go thru the motions here which I could see leading to a low scoring draw. Atlanta’s style has certainly been conducive for such a result. The price def right to take a shot but I am tempted by the same under and sprinkle the draw I played in tonight’s match!!

With you all the way on the early start under. I’m on it straight. I’ll decide what to do with the Atlanta/Columbus match later in the day and maybe after I see Columbus lineup.


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Yeah i'm hoping Columbus will want to keep momentum going. But i'm not trying to contradict your worry in the least. The kicker for me was that Columbus seems to possess really good depth so maybe some guys would relish the opportunity for more playing time. I hope they care enough to win. But yeah, it's a worry.