MLS is Back: Betting Preview for TFC-D.C., LAFC-Houston, Galaxy-Timbers

Toronto FC and D.C. United have had their MLS is Back tournament opener date changed twice. 

First, it was bounced from Friday to Sunday due to Toronto’s late arrival in the Orlando bubble, and then the possibility of positive COVID-19 tests moved it from Sunday to Monday.

If you look solely at the matchup, it is an intriguing bout between potential Eastern Conference playoff contenders in Group C. 

It carries more meaning with the New England Revolution already sitting on top of Group C with three points from their Thursday win over the Montreal Impact. 

But if you dig deeper into the circumstances around the first game of Monday’s three-match slate, it could be challenging for the players to get up for the match. 

The mental toll of preparing for a game that is on its third different date in the grueling 9 a.m. ET heat at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex could lead to a sluggish start. 

From a betting perspective, that lines up for the first-half under to cash, like it did during the first four games of the tournament. 

The only 9 a.m. ET start before Monday featured a single goal scored by the Philadelphia Union against New York City FC. 

It is not enough to form data for a trend yet, but all of the factors surrounding the match should be considered if you’re waking up early to wager on it. 

The pair of night clashes in Group F brings the pair of Los Angeles teams to the forefront, as well as the Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo.

Even without Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC is one of the most dangerous attacking teams in the tournament, and LA Galaxy, with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez up top is intriguing to say the least. 

Portland and Houston could carry good value as underdogs, and teams in that position have seen some success. After Minnesota United’s come-from-behind win over Sporting Kansas City, four underdogs won in eight games. 

As always, our odds come from the fine folks at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Toronto FC vs. D.C. United (9 a.m. ET, ESPN2)

Odds: Toronto FC (-106); D.C. United (+255); Draw (+270)

You can’t blame Toronto or D.C. if the intensity is lacking in the first half. 

The teams could also play tense in the opening 45 minutes since the opener carries so much weight when it comes to progression out of the group stage. 

A win is vital for both teams in Group C, especially with a condensed schedule in front of them. 

Three of the last four head-to-head meetings produced two goals or less, and even though TFC won the previous meeting 5-1, only one of those tallies occurred in the opening stanza. 

Best Bet: First-Half Under 0.5 (+225) 

Los Angeles FC vs. Houston Dynamo (8 p.m. ET, FS1)

Odds: LAFC (-143); Houston (+310); Draw (+335) 

Even without Vela, LAFC is the most substantial Western Conference favorite of the tournament to date. 

It is hard to argue against LAFC’s favorite status since it has three wins and a draw in four meetings with the Dynamo and has a slew of attackers ready to step up in Vela’s absence. 

Diego Rossi is the obvious candidate to thrive with more responsibility, and he carries decent value to score (+130) and score first (+500). 

While that is a fine pick, Brian Rodriguez carries more value and may receive additional chances to pounce in front of goal if the Dynamo key in on Rossi. 

If you’re looking for a Houston prop, keep an eye on Mauro Manotas, who has three straight 10-goal seasons and does not get the national attention he deserves. Houston has scored six goals versus LAFC, and the Dynamo are more accustomed to playing in the sweltering heat, which could play to their advantage for some stretches. 

Best Bet: Brian Rodriguez to score (+275) 

LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m., FS1)

Odds: LA Galaxy (+143); Portland (+160); Draw (+270)

My gut tells me that we aren’t talking enough about the Portland Timbers coming into MLS is Back.

LAFC is the favorite to win Group F and the Galaxy naturally receive buzz, no matter their place in the standings, because of their stature. 

But Portland still has midfield stalwarts Diego Chara and Diego Valeri in place, and Jeremy Ebobisse could use the tournament to prove that his 11-goal season in 2019 was just a starting point for being a consistent MLS scorer. 

The Galaxy still have Chichario and Cristian Pavon driving the attack, but lately the Galaxy have been a disjointed mess more than they have been a cohesive machine. 

I want to trust the Galaxy, but I have more faith in Chara being a menace to the Galaxy’s attackers and Valeri cooking up something special.

Best Bet: Portland (+160)

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