Los Angeles FC forward Brian Rodriguez

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Our journey around the groups of the MLS Is Back Tournament finishes up with a look at Groups E & F.

Previously, we looked at Groups A & B and C & D here.

Group E

MLS is Back Tournament Group EMLS



Atlanta United FC

Entering their fourth season in the MLS, Atlanta United FC has taken the league by storm. Not only did Atlanta win the 2018 MLS Cup, but they are one of the most exciting teams in the league. Atlanta's fun factor did take a bit of hit earlier this year, when Josef Martinez tore his ACL in the season opener against Nashville SC.

Now Atlanta has to try and replace the production of Martinez, who scored 77 goals in his first three seasons in Atlanta, including 27 goals last year. Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco should get first cracks at trying to fill Martinez's shoes. Barco scored in each of Atlanta's first two games before the regular season was paused, while Martinez is still looking for his first goal of the year.

Atlanta's first game in the group stage left a lot to be desired. New York Red Bulls scored early on Atlanta to put the Five Stripes in a hole which they wouldn't be able to crawl out of. Frank de Boer's squad had nearly 70% of the possession in the match but they just couldn't find the back of the net, which is something they'll need to do if they want to make it to the knockout stage. Atlanta has a chance to get back on track on Thursday when they face FC Cincinnati.

FC Cincinnati

To say FC Cincinnati needs a lot of work might be an understatement. The orange and blue are just starting their second year in MLS, so it's understandable as to why they haven't seen much success yet. Last year FC Cincinnati posted a 6-22-6 record, and things haven't been any better this year, as Cincinnati has dropped their first three matches. The latest of those losses coming on Saturday night, when they were humbled 4-0 by rival Columbus in the Hell is Real derby.

It's going to take some sort of miracle for FC Cincinnati to move on to the knockout round. New head coach Jaap Stam has only been on the job since late May, so he is still trying to familiarize himself with the players he has to work with. The trip to Orlando to this tournament could bring the club together, but FC Cincinnati still has some work to do to find their identity.

New York Red Bulls

This year has already seen a bit of a changing of the guard with New York Red Bulls. Gone are the club's leading goal scorer and the starting goalkeeper from the last seven years. Bradley Wright-Phillips notched 108 MLS goals for the Metros, while Luis Robles recorded 72 clean sheets in 241 appearances. Trying to fill the scoring void left by Wright-Phillips will be Daniel Royer, Kaku, and Cristian Casseres. The trio of attackers have each scored a goal this year.

After starting the season with a win and a draw, NYRB recorded a huge victory on Saturday night, defeating Atlanta United FC 1-0. The Metros took a lead in the fourth minute thanks to a Florian Valot goal. Following the goal, New York dug in defensively, keeping the high-powered Atlanta attack off the scoresheet. With the victory, it's going to take a pretty big meltdown for NYRB to miss the knockout stage, especially with a fixture against FC Cincinnati still left on the schedule before the end of the group stage.

Columbus Crew SC

Columbus has all the makings of the most improved team in MLS this year. After finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference last year, the Crew have come out of the gates strong. Their latest win came on Saturday night, when they decimated FC Cincinnati 4-0. Lucas Zelarayan has been one of the most impactful additions so far this year. The Argentine scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over NYCFC in the season opener. Zelarayan up the scoring on Saturday night against Cincinnati with a beautiful free kick, and followed it up with an assist later in the match.

The attack of the Crew isn't just Zelarayan. Gyasi Zardes scored two goals on Saturday night after burying 13 goals last year. Darlington Nagbe has added a steadying presence to midfield after spending the last two years with Atlanta. Pedro Santos scored 11 goals last year, but wasn't even named in Saturday night's squad. All this to say, if the defense of the Crew can hold up, the offense will give them plenty of support, making Columbus a very tough team to beat.

Group F

MLS is Back Tournament Group FMLS


Los Angeles FC

Last season left Los Angeles FC with unfinished business. In just their second season in the MLS, LAFC finished with the best record in the league, amassing 72 points before being upset by Seattle in the playoffs. Carlos Vela scored 36 total goals, establishing himself as the most dangerous attacker in the MLS. Vela has decided to opt out of this tournament though, as he has elected to stay home with his pregnant wife.

Even though LAFC won't have Vela for this tournament, Bob Bradley has a number of options that are more than capable of making up for the loss of Vela's production. Bradley Wright-Phillips was added from New York Red Bulls, and has already paid dividends, scoring in Monday's 3-3 draw with Houston. Los Angeles also has Diego Rossi, who scored 17 goals last year.

The Black and Gold have to be disappointed by only drawing with Houston on Monday night, but at least the squad has shown they can score without Vela on the pitch. The schedule for LAFC in their final two group games isn't easy, especially with "El Trafico" agains LA Galaxy slated for Saturday night. Even though they'll be tested against their rivals and Portland, smart money is on LAFC to move on to the knockout stage.

LA Galaxy

It seems some of the biggest soccer stars in the world find their way to Los Angeles to play for the Galaxy. Zlatan Ibrahimovic spent the last two years with the club, scoring 31 goals last season. There wasn't much offense from the Galaxy aside from Zlatan, as the rest of the team only scored 32 goals. Ibrahimovic has moved back to Europe, which forced the club to bring in Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

The Galaxy are still searching for their first win this season, drawing their season opener against Houston before falling to Vancouver in March and Portland on Monday night in Orlando. Los Angeles fell behind the Timbers 2-0, but was able to pull one goal back thanks to Hernandez. Los Angeles threatened the Timbers throughout the game, but they just didn't have the finishing touch needed to earn any points.

Monday night's setback puts the Galaxy at the bottom of the group. With a huge match against rival Los Angeles FC set for Saturday night, the Galaxy are going to need to at least earn a point if they want to see the next round of the competition. Los Angeles needs to hope Hernandez can build off his goal late in the match on Monday night, or else the Galaxy could be headed home earlier than they had hoped.

Houston Dynamo

After winning the first two MLS Cup titles, Houston has really fallen on hard times. The Dynamo have now missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. The first step Houston has taken to try and right the ship was to hire Tab Ramos, who has spent the last eight seasons coaching the United States Under-20 National Team. To go along with Ramos, the Dynamo brought in Darwin Quintero to bolster the attack, while trading for Zarek Valentin to add some veteran leadership to the defense.

So far this year Houston has done everything but win. The Dynamo actually held a 3-1 lead over Los Angeles FC before blowing the lead and settling for a 3-3 draw. Memo Rodriguez scored two goals against LAFC, while Alberth Elis scored his second goal of the season. If Houston can challenge their final two opponents in the group stage like they challenged LAFC, the Dynamo could surprise many and move on to the knockout stage.

Portland Timbers FC

Round out this group is Giovanni Savarese's Portland Timbers. After falling to Minnesota in their first game of the year, the Timbers have notched wins over Nashville and LA Galaxy, who they defeated 2-1 on Monday night. After scoring 11 goals last year, Jeremy Ebobisse opened the scoring on Monday night, while Sebastian Blanco netted the game-winning goal just a few minutes later.

The most notable Timbers players is Diego Valeri, who scored eight goals and was credited with 16 assists last season. The hardest working player on the roster is Diego Chara, who is a fixture in midfield for Portland. Chara received a boost when his brother, Yimmy, was acquired in the offseason. They are just the eight pair of brothers to play together in the MLS.

Portland got a critical win in their first group stage match, which should help them in the quest to make the knockout stage. The Timbers are still looking for more consistent goal scoring after the Brian Fernandez experiment last season didn't work out, but they have the experience that should see them through to the knockout stage.

Andrew Wiggins and Jayson Tatum

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In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors defended the home floor to take a 3-2 lead in the finals over the Boston Celtics. Largely, this is because Boston was careless with the basketball. The Warriors tallied nine steals and forced 18 turnovers by the Celtics. In contrast, the Warriors only got the ball stolen twice and turned the ball over just six times Monday night. While Stephen Curry was guarded ferociously and was held to just 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting (and 0-9 from downtown), his teammates stepped up.

Andrew Wiggins had another huge double-double, scoring 26 points (12-23 FG) and hauling in 13 rebounds. Finally, if the Celtics hope to win in Game 6, they will need to stay awake in the fourth quarter. Over the last two games, Boston has fallen asleep at the end of the game while the Warriors managed to sneak away with two consecutive victories.

Let's take a look at some of tonight's best bets for this huge NBA Finals Game 6.

Please Note: All betting odds were correct today as of 2:00 pm EST from Caesars Sportsbook

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Best Bets of the Night

Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics -4 (GSW Leads 3-2)

NBA Finals Best Bet #1: Boston Celtics -4 (-110)

It’s difficult to envision the Boston Celtics collapsing in the fourth quarter in three consecutive games. The Celtics may briefly watch the tape from Game 5 but they are going to have to shake it off and move forward immediately. Boston’s carelessness with the basketball Monday night should produce a much-needed wake-up call that will allow the team to make smarter passes and take fewer risks on offense against a Golden State defense that has surged over the last two games.

While Steph will likely score more than 16 points in Game 6, Jaylen Brown must have a bounce-back performance after going 5-of-18 for 18 points in Game 5. Though the Celtics shot above 40% from the field on Monday night, they turned the ball over at an uncharacteristic rate, finishing the night with 18 turnovers. Some of those were unforced errors while the Warriors earned nine steals as well.

At home in Game 6, the Celtics will play better and bring this 2022 NBA Finals series to a blockbuster Game 7 at the Chase Center. For NBA fans wishing for a seven-game series in the 2022 Finals and bettors looking to cash in on Game 6, Boston will win by at least four points at home in a win-or-go-home scenario. Jayson Tatum has yet to play his best basketball this series with Andrew Wiggins playing lethal defense but tonight will be the night that he finally drops 30+ points. Although Steve Kerr seems to think his squad is ready to close out the series, he may have to think again given how well Boston has bounced back from losses this postseason.

Don’t forget that the Celtics were in a three-game to two-game deficit against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals yet found a way to come out victorious. They may not be able to win two straight against Golden State but it’s tough to imagine the Warriors defeating the Celtics in three consecutive matchups. Boston wins by a few possessions: 110-104.

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NBA Finals Best Bet #2: Over (O/U) 210 Total Points (-110)

Though only 204 points were scored between both teams in Game 5 (BOS 97 - 107 GSW), Game 6 will be a higher-scoring contest for multiple reasons. First, Jaylen Brown will have a bounce-back night. After being held to 18 points on 27.8% shooting from the field on Monday, Brown will almost certainly play more efficiently and score more in Game 6. Additionally, Boston had way fewer scoring opportunities due to their whopping 18 turnovers. Ima Udoke will make sure his starters take care of the ball in a game that can decide Boston’s fate. Marcus Smart and Al Horford have come up huge as role players but Tatum needs to really shift into an entirely new gear. Don’t be surprised if that happens tonight.

The story through Games 4 and 5 has been the same. Golden State has stepped it up on defense, managing to out-rebound the Celtics in both contests. Robert Williams III might have something to say about that tonight. In Game 6, the Celtics should be more cautious with the ball and therefore have more opportunities than they did over the last two contests. Meanwhile, the Warriors are always expected to drop at least 105+ points.

NBA Player Props

Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics -4 (GSW Leads 3-2)

Prop #1: Andrew Wiggins To Record a Double-Double (+225)

Throughout these NBA Finals, Andrew Wiggins has been on an absolute tear. Just over the last two contests where he finished both with double-doubles, he’s recorded 29 rebounds and 43 points. He has adapted his style of play and is spending more time down low in the post to help the Warriors out on the glass. Wiggins is putting significant pressure on Robert Williams III, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum to rebounds the ball more efficiently. Not only is Wiggins keeping his scoring numbers up, he’s drastically improved on the defensive end to record 49 rebounds (9.8 rebounds per game in the Finals) through the first five games of this series. Wiggins’ shift to focus on rebounding and keeping the pressure down low has worked brilliantly for the Warriors over the last two games, both of which they won. In Game 6, expect him to continue to do what has been working, giving him a great chance to produce a third consecutive double-double in the NBA Finals. Perhaps he can even win the NBA Finals MVP Award if he continues to play at this level. Wiggins has been the true x-factor for the Dubs in this series.

Prop #2: Jaylen Brown Over 24.5 Points (-110)

After a rough shooting night in Game 5 where Brown only converted on five of his 18 shots from the field, he should wake up and score 25+ points in Game 6 at TD Garden. While you may want to stick away from three-point shooting props involving brown right now, he’ll hit the over in points tonight at the TD Garden. Brown has only scored over 24 points in one of five games this series (27 points in Game 3) but the Celtics do much better when Brown and Tatum perform like the perennial All-Stars that they are.

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Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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In Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Finals, Stephen Curry and the Warriors executed exactly where they didn’t in Game 3 to tie up the series 2-2. Notably, Golden State dominated down low Friday night after being outrebounded and suffocated by the Celtics in Game 3. As a team, the Warriors recorded 16 offensive boards for a total of 55 rebounds for the night. For instance, Draymond Green struggled Wednesday night to finish the night with only four rebounds and three assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

In Game 4, Draymond dominated down low for eight rebounds, eight assists, and four steals without getting himself into foul trouble (only three PFs for Green in Game 4 after fouling out in Game 3).

Best Bets of the Night

Game: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors - 4 (-110)

Similar to Game 3, both teams shot the ball rather evenly. The Warriors finished the night with 44% shooting from the field, and 34.9% from downtown. The Celtics converted 40% of the field goal attempts and 39.5% of their shots from deep. One factor which helped Golden State keep up with the Celtics throughout the game was terrific rebounding. Andrew Wiggins stepped it up off the glass to produce a 17-point and 16-rebound double-double. What really caused the Celtics to lose in Game 3 was a complete offensive collapse in the fourth quarter.

With seven minutes remaining in the game, the Celtics had a 91-86 lead over Golden State. That means Boston was outscored 21-6 in the second half of the fourth quarter to lose Game 4 107-97. With Golden State back home, expect their offense to shoot better than they did on the road and secure a home victory in Game 5.

Bet: Golden State Warriors -4 (-110)

Throughout the 2022 NBA Playoffs, the Warriors shot 49.4% from the field and 40.7% from downtown in 11 games played at home. For their nine road games, the Warriors were less efficient on average averaging 47.2 FG% (2.2% less efficient from the field) and 34.9% (-5.8% less efficient from 3PT range). The numbers reveal clearly that for the 2022 NBA Playoffs, the Warriors have been more efficient scoring. With the prospect of taking a 3-2 lead over the Celtics, its likely that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have another big night in front of the home crowd.

Bet: Over (O/U) 212.5 Total Points (-110)

While only 204 points were scored in Game 4, expect Game 5 to be a much higher-scoring game. In addition to the Warriors shooting much better from the field, the team seems to have found some efficiency against the bigger Celtics down low. These two factors could push the Warriors to score 120+ points in Game 5. In turn, Jayson Tatum who scored 23 points (8-23 FG) will bounce back to have a 30+ point game. Both he and Steph are scoring big these NBA Finals.

While the defense was the main story of Games 3 and 4 at the TD Garden, scoring buckets will be the principal feature of Game 5 at the Chase Center. With him and Stephen Curry averaging more than 34 PPG through these finals, you can count on Game 5 in Golden State to be a high-scoring game.

NBA Player Props

Game: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors - 4 (-110)

Prop: Jayson Tatum, Over 26.5 Points

Jayson Tatum, like the rest of the Celtics, started hot but finished ice cold. If it wasn’t for the fourth quarter where Tatum shot the ball multiple times unsuccessfully. This negatively impacted his shooting numbers from Game 4 where he finished the night with 23 points (8-23 FG) converting only 34.9% of his shots taken. After a disappointing Friday night, Tatum will shoot more efficiently in Game 5. Since he still scored 23 points on an off-night, you can count on Tatum to score 30+ points in Game 5 even if the Warriors defeat the Celtics.

Prop: Andrew Wiggins, Over 6.5 Rebounds

One of the major adjustments made by the Warriors in Game 4 was boosting their presence off the glass. Andrew Wiggins recorded 16 of Golden State’s 55 rebounds Friday night.

Through the first four games of the NBA Finals, Wiggins has recorded a total of 34 rebounds. That means Wiggins is averaging 8.5 rebounds per game in the 2022 NBA Finals. Especially because the Warriors know how effective he was producing much-needed rebounds in Game 4, Wiggins will look to have a similar presence down-low in Game 5.

Boston Celtics, NBA Finals Game 3

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In Game 3, both teams shot almost equally well from the field and from downtown. However, Boston took more shots from the field and dominated off the glass to take Game 3 116-100. Boston’s defensive energy was on full display Wednesday night as they outrebounded and drew countless fouls from the Warriors. Boston’s defense was the story of Game 3. Will Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry overwhelm the Celtics in Game 4?

Let’s take a look at some of tonight’s best bets for Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Finals.

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Best Bets of the Night

Game: Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics Game 4 (BOS Leads 2-1)

In Game 3, both teams shot virtually as efficiently from the field. The Celtics converted 48.3% of their shots (43-89 FG) from the field and went 37.1% from downtown. Golden State finished the night with a 46.2 FG% (36-78 FG) as a team, converting 37.5% from beyond the arc. The main reason for the Celtics’ victory was fantastic defense. For instance, Robert Williams III who isn’t 100% healthy, played 26 minutes to produce 10 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks. The Celtics dominated the Warriors off the glass to record 47 rebounds as a team with 15 of them recorded on the offensive end. In contrast, the Warriors totaled 31 rebounds on the game and only had six offensive rebounds. In addition, the Warriors committed 23 personal fouls allowing the Celtics to go to the line 24 times (Celtics were 17-24 FT) and had 16 turnovers as a team. For the Warriors to bounce back in Game 4, they will need to be more aggressive down low and less sloppy on the floor.

Bet #1: Golden State Warriors, +4 (-110)

The Warriors shot the ball well in Game 3, but were simply overwhelmed by the Celtics defense and the energy at the TD Garden Wednesday night. Golden State recorded 39 combined turnovers (16) and personal fouls (23) which demonstrates how sloppy they were with the basketball. This gave Boston a possession advantage throughout the game, ultimately allowing the Celtics to take 11 more field goal attempts and finish the night with seven more made FGs than the Warriors. Offensive efficiency is not the issue for the Warriors. Rather, they will need to ramp it up on defense in Game 4 to make the game interesting. Draymond Green fouled out of the contest after being shut down all night. Green was held to just two points, four rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers in 35 minutes on the floor before getting a sixth personal foul in Game 3.

Bet #2: Over (O/U) 215 Total Points (-110)

Though the Warriors were held to 100 points of offense on Wednesday night, they shot the ball well. Golden State was limited as a team for FGAs as a result of Boston’s defense. In Game 4, Golden State will have an answer to put up more points on the board than they did in Game 3. In turn, the Celtics will keep things interesting. Expect this Game 4 to be a high-scoring contest. Both teams have been scoring big throughout these playoffs, and that doesn't seem to be changing right now during the Finals.

NBA Player Props

Game: Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics Game 4 (BOS Leads 2-1)

Prop #1: Klay Thompson, Over 19.5 Points

Klay Thompson started the night shooting very well but cooled down towards the end. He went five for a whopping 13 attempts from downtown Wednesday night. He finished the night 7-of-17 from the field for 25 points. This comes after a terrible Game 2 performance where Klay went 4-of-19 from the field and only one-of-eight from beyond-the-arc. Tonight, Klay will shoot better tonight after an average Game 3 performance and bad Games 1 and 2.

Prop #2: Jaylen Brown, Over 2.5 Threes

Jaylen Brown has been knocking his shots from downtown as of late. In the last two games, he’s recorded at least three threes. He’s gone 7-of-17 (41.1%) from downtown through Games 2 and 3 combined. In the second of two home games at the TD Garden, it’s likely that Brown knocks down at least three buckets from beyond-the-arc tonight in Game 4.

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