Now I don’t profess to know a huge amount about the MLS or football stateside at all but as the new season approaches it seems only right that we here at OptaJoke should share in the excitement with a special treble for this weeks selection.
With no form or great in depth knowledge to go on its a bit of a shot in the dark but it’ll be interesting to see how we do!
Vancouver Whitecaps to beat Toronto FC
Neither of these teams are well fancied for success from what I’ve read. The Whitecaps are lead by US international and ex-Watford player Jay Demerit. They are an expansion team who have looked decent in pre-season but have a lot of expectation on their shoulders because of the hefty resources at their disposal. They appear to be building from the back and the signing of the experienced Demerit is certainly a step in the right direction but their lack of attacking options could leave fans frustrated at their team’s lack of potency. This season is going to be a huge test and a step into the unknown for the Canadian side, and I for one, have my doubts over their long term credentials but they may still be able to produce some good performances.
Toronto have been touted by some corners as “the worst team in MLS history”. The press around them seems convinced that their number 1 draft pick in 2009 goalkeeper Stefan Frei will be extremely busy between the sticks over the next few months! Ex-Plymouth coach Paul Mariner joins the disgruntled side behind the scenes in an effort to improve their fortunes. However, he may have his work cut out for him already as there have already been problems with leading goalscorer Dwayne de Rasario after Celtic manager Neil Lennon was denied the opportunity to bring him to Parkhead on a short term loan deal. This fractious episode has already prompted rumours around the club that Rasario may sit out the season in defiance of head coach Aron Winter. It could be a long hard season ahead for Toronto.
FC Dallas v Chicago Fire
FC Dallas finished 3rd in last year’s Western Conference and it could have been so much better had their season not been blighted by injuries. New Columbian under 20 international Fabio Castillo may be charged with leading the line while last seasons MVP David Ferreira will marshall a four man midfield. There is strength in depth at Dallas and their fans will be hoping to go one better than last seasons MLS cup final runners up spot where they were beaten by the Colorado Rapids. I think they could well get off to a winning start when Chicago Fire visit Pizza Hut Park.
The Fire assumed an AC Milan-esque role in the league last year, boasting a number of ageing superstars including Freddie Ljungberg and ex Fulham talisman Brian McBride but this season it’s all change. Manager Carlos de Los Cobos has improved his English in an attempt to better instruct his new young squad for the upcoming season. Patrick Nyarko and new arrival Gaston Puerari have big shoes to fill if they are to match up with the recent big name departures. The jury is out on whether this promising squad can step up to the plate and produce results against well fancied sides such as Dallas.
San Jose Earthquakes to beat Real Salt Lake.
The Earthquakes made it to the play-offs last season and a huge part of that was striker Chris Wondolowski, the man was a goal machine notching 21, over half the team’s goals during the 2010 campaign. Losses in midfield may hinder the service Wondolowski receives this season but his new and improved long term contract will give fans at the Buck Shaw Stadium. Amongst a largely American squad there is also 23 year old Simon Dawkins who is on loan from San Jose’s affiliated club Tottenham Hotspur. He will be looking to impress on the big stage of the MLS and justify his contract extension to 2013 which was signed just before the loan deal was finalised. On the whole the squad hasn’t changed a huge amount and this side may well provide a stern challenge to any opponent in the Western Conference.
Real Salt Lake are another side that have bucked the trend that has seen some teams making wholesale changes in the off-season. They will be looking to replicate the 2009 season’s form which saw them beaten in the quarter finals knockout stage after an impressive league campaign. Head coach Jason Kreis has shown a huge amount of faith in completing the permanent deal of Costa Rican striker Alvaro Alvarez, he attempt to fill the shoes of one of the stars of the US World Cup campaign in the summer Robbie Findley, who left to join Nottingham Forest. Salt Lake also boast an impressive defence with ‘keeper Rimando keeping 14 clean sheets during the regular season. I think this one could be a great game for the neutral and I think honours could be even when the dust settles in California.
This treble returns a tasty 11/1 with most firms.
Ok guys, to supplement our MLS treble this week I’ve decided to also pick a longshot domestic treble so that there is something of interest come 3pm on Saturday afternoon. The three selections for this are as follows:
Middlesbrough v Watford (Away win)
Boro are a team ravaged with injuries at the moment, their physio must be a busy man at the moment as Lita (arguably their biggest goal threat) joins Jason Steele, Julio Arca, Justin Hoyte and Willow Flood amongst others on the list unavailable for Tony Mowbray to pick from. Their recent form is patchy and the Riverside has hardly been a fortress since the turn of the year. Watford are still in with a small shout of a play-off spot after their victory against Ipswich in their last game, sitting 8th they need to pick up all three points in games like this if they are to make the top 6 and I fancy them to beat a much weakened Boro side after back to back wins.
Doncaster v QPR (Away win)
Doncaster are really struggling with their league form at the moment, they’ve won only 1 of their last 10 games (v Derby) and although they are a relatively safe 10 points from the relegation places if things don’t go their way in the run in it could be a worrying time for them. Of the 10 games against teams in the top 6 they have only won once and have already been on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat to QPR. The R’s look like they are now going to claim top spot as teams around them continue to falter, with a 7 point cushion I’m sure Neil Warnock will want to further extend that lead by picking up the victory. QPR have 4 wins from their last 5 games and have only conceded 1 goal in that time. I think they could be on their way back down south with the points when this one is over.
West Brom v Arsenal (Away win)
I’ve been toying with this one all week and I’m going to take the plunge and back the Gunners. Their recent exits from several cup competitions has been well documented but I think this focus Wenger’s players to produce in the league. Manchester United are far from untouchable but Arsenal must pick up points in games like this if they are make a challenge on the Red Devils supremacy at the top. Roy Hodgson has improved West Brom, of that I don’t think there is a doubt and the decision to bring him in may well be vindicated if they stay up. That said, I don’t think they will be able to stop Arsenal getting the victory in this one.
This treble returns around 12/1!
As always, good luck and gamble responsibly.