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Pick: Los Angeles FC to win (+130)
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In the last five MLS games, Real Salt Lake have lost only once. Coming into this game, the hosts have a three-game unbeaten streak in their hands. The streak comprises a win against San Jose Earthquakes and a couple of goalless draws against Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo. Their only loss came against FC Dallas in mid-April.
Over the past few weeks, Los Angeles FC have reached the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, defeating MLS sides Vancouver Whitecaps in the quarter-final and Philadelphia Union in the semi-final. However, in the previous MLS game, the defending champions encountered their first loss of the season against San Jose Earthquakes.
A well-rested Los Angeles FC side will visit the America First Field to take on a mercurial Real Salt Lake. It is a tough encounter to call despite the one-sided history. However, it seems that Los Angeles FC will return to winning ways and close the gap to the top.
The two sides have met 12 times in the MLS. Of the 12 encounters, Los Angeles FC have won ten, and Real Salt Lake won the remaining two. The most recent Real Salt Lake victory came in the 2020 MLS season when they beat Los Angeles FC 3-0 at home.
The only other Real Salt Lake win over Los Angeles FC came in the MLS 2018 playoffs. On that fateful evening, Real Salt Lake came from 2-1 down to beat Los Angeles FC 3-2. Apart from these two wins, the club has not enjoyed playing against the defending champions.
After the 3-0 win in September 2020, Real Salt Lake have faced Los Angeles FC six times, and all six games have gone in favor of LAFC. In those six games, Los Angeles FC have scored 15 goals, while Real Salt Lake have scored just five.
The odds are stacked against Real Salt Lake as they look to end a tantalizing six-game losing streak against Los Angeles FC. If the hosts intend to do that, they will need to get off the mark in the match - a task they have failed to complete in their last two games.
Even though Real Salt Lake have lost just one out of their last five games, the club has not won all the other remaining games. The last two ended in goalless draws, meaning Real Salt Lake have fired blanks in two back-to-back games.
However, one of the goalless draws was hard-earned and must have felt like a win because it came against the current Western Division leaders Seattle Sounders FC. Pablo Ruiz was sent off in that game, and his return from suspension will give Real Salt Lake a boost.
In the dying moments of the goalless draw against Seattle Sounders FC, Pablo Ruiz was shown a second yellow and missed the match against Houston Dynamo last weekend. The midfielder has served his suspension and will return to the midfield against Los Angeles FC.
However, the other key midfielder for Real Salt Lake – Jasper Loffelsend – is out for a month due to an ankle injury. Up front, striker Anderson Julio is also out till June. Right-back Bode Davis will also be out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
Real Salt Lake have scored ten goals in ten games so far. Of these ten goals, only one has come via a striker. Four goals have come via wingers, three have come from midfielders and two have been scored by defender Justen Glad.
The only goal scored by a striker came via Anderson Julio, who is out injured for a month now. In his absence, Real Salt Lake will rely on the front two of Bertin Jacquesson and Rubio Rubin. The club will expect a decent number of goals from the duo.
After winning their first-ever MLS title last season, Los Angeles FC are one positive step away from winning their first-ever Champions League title. They will feature in the final against Liga MX side Club Leon at the end of May.
Morale is high in the Los Angeles FC camp, but last weekend's hiccup against San Jose raised some concern. The defending champions returned home with another unsatisfactory result on the road. So far, the club has played five away games, but they have won just one of those.
Their only away win this season in the MLS has come against arch-rivals LA Galaxy, who are struggling to find form in the current campaign. Los Angeles FC can work on improving their away form and could commence that procedure in the very next game.
Seattle Sounders FC are leading the Western Conference. Los Angeles FC are only two points behind them. The advantage lies with the defending champions because they still have two games in hand over the league leaders and one game over second-placed St. Louis City SC.
In the nine games Los Angeles FC have played so far, they have scored 17 goals and conceded only eight. Despite having played fewer games, they have the third-best goals-per-match average of 1.9 – a figure that could improve over the next few weeks.
Of the 17 goals Los Angeles FC have scored so far, nine were scored because of Denis Bouanga. The midfielder has scored eight and assisted one in the nine appearances he has made in the MLS this season.
The 28-year-old has scored five goals in his last five MLS appearances. He has even scored a few goals for his side in the Champions League. A brace in the next match will take his goal tally in the league to double figures as he sets his eyes on the coveted Golden Boot.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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