Four "official"selections today, one each in Serie A and La Liga and two for the PGA event.


The visitors can claim the SPL title in the home stadium of their greatest rival today, which after the trials and tribulations suffered by the Gers this season, might be too much to bear for the long suffering home fans and the local police are very worried about this game, which can easily boil over at the best of times.

The hosts have never in their history lost four home games in a row at Ibrox ( they have lost their last three) and that is further incentive for them to put in a massive effort to delay the Celtic celebrations for one more week. Rangers will have more defensive options today and will have Dorin Goian and Carlos Bocanegra back from suspension, but remain very short of offensive options. However, they will lack nothing in effort and might be capable of holding on for a point which they would view as a moral victory. The draw is priced at circa 3.70 and looks the best value in what will be a very tense encounter and a stalemate is a result which might suit all parties including the local constabulary.


Just a few words about this match, we discussed Rapids in some detail last week and that preview is reproduced at the foot of the email. They won 2-1 despite being reduced to ten men andthat leaves them a perfect two from two for the season, today they travel back to the East Coast to meet the big spending Red Bulls who are a disappointing nil from two, having lost both opening road games. When I first saw Rapids with the half ball start and 2.04 quote, I got very excited, but that passed somewhat after I looked a little deeper.

Rapids are without two midfielders in Jeff Larentowicz, who was their MVP in 2011 and who has played an incredible 73 straight MLS games and Pablo Mastroeniwho has been suffering headaches all week, that would have been manageable, but Martin Rivero's international clearance ( again, see below) has still not come through and they have had to send back to Colorado for versatile defender Hunter Freeman, who can fill in at a pinch in midfield to cover. They were confident that Rivero would be available and it is a big blow.

Bulls are a strong home side and are 5-3-0 in their season opener in the last eight seasons and are very motivated to kick start their season today and they have a big boost with the addition for the first time this season of vastly experienced midfielder Rafael Marquez and his comeback is key according to Thierry Henry, as they have missed his ability to start attacks from the back and obviously he will fancy his chances in the centre of the park with the visitors so weakened in this area.

Teams in the West have started stronger this season, with only Chivas failing to post a win, in the East, only Sporting KC and Houston have won coming into this third weekend of the new season, but Colorado are short of options, meeting a motivated opponent and have travelled East- West- East in the last 8-9 days after flying home following the match in Philly last week. I am loathe to oppose Colorado after last week, but all the advantages appear with New York ahead of this game.







-8 ELS
-6 NA
-6 WI


Good Luck.


Long term readers will know that MLS is a summer staple, we did not get overly involved last year, with a lot of other distractions, but we will definitely be back to covering games on a very regular basis in the coming weeks.

Opening round last week saw five of the eight matches end in home wins, with no draws, that is typical of the first week and similar numbers occured last year on matchday 1, but there have been a year on year decline in the number of home wins in the MLS, down to 43% in 2011, some 4% less than in the two previous seasons and a whopping 7% down on 2008. I expect that trend to continue with teams getting better at finding ways to cope with the demands of coast to coast travel in the US. Having said that, Philly went to Portland and back last week and played on Monday night, which on the back of pre season training is limited recovery time and a tough way to start the season. Colorado were at home on Saturday, so two days extra to recharge batteries and coming into the game will only have clocked up 2,500 KM in the air, less than a third of the air miles the Union have collected. This is Philly's third year in the MLS and in four meetings with the Rapids, they have yet to register a win ( 0-2-2)

It is all change at Colorado under new boss Oscar Pareja and the Rapids were wildly excited after their opening day 2-0 win over Columbus Crew. “The coach is great,” said Conor Casey, who plans to return from an Achilles tear in a month. “He has implemented his philosophy, and I think everyone has really bought into it, trying to play, get the ball on the ground. We made some real good additions. It seems we have adapted to the formation change well. We are all just really excited about the season now.”

Scorer of the first goal Drew Moor said
"We all wanted to score an early goal to calm the nerves. He means so much to us. He's come in and made some great changes, and everybody just loves that he's here. To be able to celebrate that first goal with him was pretty special. ... We just wanted to let him know, 'Hey, we're here with you, all the way.' "

Pareja said “I am proud of the coaching staff that has done a tremendous job with this group, preparing them for the starting of the season,” Pareja said. “Kudos to them and obviously to the players. We always will be waiting for more, and demanding more, but what I saw today was great.”

The new Columbian coach has introduced some South American flair into the team and midfielder Jaime Castrillon and LB Luis Zapata were instant hits, especially Castrillon who is so comfortable on the ball and made time and space for his team mates. Pareja also likes to get his full backs heavily involved offensively and Kosuke Kimura who has been at the club for five years, quickly bought into this assisting for both goals.
"No one likes to chase me, especially a left wing," Kimura said. "He can't even attack, because he has to defend all the time. My first job is defending. If I defend first, I can go up. I can defend at the same time by attacking." Added Quincy Amarikwa: "Kosuke will always tell you he could be a winger if he wants to be. And he's got an engine; he runs for days."

The players were all buzzing after the game, you can tell that just by the quotes and the whole club has been lifted, not just by the win, but by the entire pre season campaign and build up . They love the new 4-3-3 formation and Pareja wants to see a creative, free-flowing team that is good at maintaining possession and attacking, as an opposing coach (he was with Dallas last year) he thought the Rapids had become predictable and that opponents had learnt how to deal with them. He is still waiting for International clearance for playmaker Martin Rivero, it might come through in time for him to play, but when it finally does and Casey also returns, Rapids are only going to get better and better. The team is going to be built around him and Castrillon, but in the meantime, they still look pretty good !

Union also made a lot of changes in the off season and fielded four newcomers in the opening day 3-1 loss to Portland, all were in key positions LB, two midfielders and their lone striker, they tend to play 4-5-1 and the midfield is going to be further disjointed today with Amobi Okugo and Freddy Adu away on international duty. Not such a buoyant feeling at Philly and they got into a nasty habit of drawing too many home games last season ( 53%), I expect Rapids to boss the midfield and getting a start is a bonus. 1.75 units Colorado Rapids +0.25 ball 2.06 asian line.