Quakes rumbling late in MLS season

San Jose epitomizes the fickle Major League Soccer. When the season began in August, the Earthquakes lost matches by scores of 7-1, 6-1, 5-1 and 5-0. They went 0-5-3 out of the gate and appeared to be doomed.

They have awoken, going 4-2-1 to squeeze into the eight-team Western Conference playoff picture. That turnaround can be attributed to new goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski and the aggressive style of Argentine coach Matías Almeyda.

At between 65-1 and 200-1, over the past weekend, WagerTalk soccer handicapper Carmine Bianco believed San Jose represents immense value in the MLS Cup playoffs that begin Nov. 20.

In the summertime MLS Is Back tournament, the Quakes won three group-stage matches but were bounced out of the quarterfinals by Minnesota United. They stumbled to start the 2020 campaign, as did Bianco and WagerTalk’s other three soccer cappers, he said. Bianco has turned it around lately, but he likely will register his first non-profitable soccer year in five with the company.

“I wouldn’t use the word disastrous,” he said of his prognosticating prowess, “but pretty much.”

The affable 52-year-old resident of Markham, Ontario, about 15 miles north of Toronto, is a lifelong Juventus fan. A brother favors Inter Milan, another Fiorentina. Serie A is in their DNA since Pasquale, their late father, was an AS Roma devotee born and raised in Guglionesi, Italy, on the Adriatic coast.

Bianco has held Toronto FC season tickets since 2015. He likes Almeyda’s high risk-high reward coaching style.

“All 10 players are within two yards of the guy they’re covering,” said Bianco. “It’s a high press. They get you to turn the ball over. If you aren’t precise, if you’re not playing your best game, they create a lot of turnovers.”

Almeyda plucked fellow countryman Mario Daniel Vega, 36, from between the posts due to that horrendous start. Marcinkowski, 23, is one of eight MLS keepers who yields a goal or fewer per match.

San Jose plays host to Real Salt Lake (right behind the Quakes in ninth in the West) Wednesday and LAFC on Sunday in its Avaya Stadium, where the Quakes have dropped only one of their past seven. They end their regular season Nov. 8 at Seattle.

“They didn’t look good” in Almeyda’s first season, said Bianco. “But recently, they’re winning and they’re doing it in fine fashion.”

He has additional positions on Seattle (at +550), LAFC (+600), and Columbus and Toronto (both at +750) to win the MLS Cup. But San Jose’s big payoff is the intriguing ticket.

“The quality has returned to what I think we’ve expected,” said Bianco of MLS. “Teams are playing true to form. Teams you expect to win are winning. It’s falling into place.”

Saturday

Atalanta at Crotone, Total 3 Ov -177: Crotone, yielding three goals per match, is tied with Mainz 05 of the Bundesliga for the second-worst goalkeeping in the Big Five. Atalanta, at 2.40, is only slightly better. Italy keeps raining goals. OVER

RB Leipzig +124 at Borussia MGladbach: Leipzig has never lost a Bundesliga match at Borussia-Park. Of course, this is only Leipzig’s fifth season in Germany’s top flight, but that 4-0 record looks smart. Bundesliga leader Red Bull averages 31.4 shot-creating actions, third-best in the B5 and nearly 10 more than Borussia. RB’s +1.42 expected-goals differential rates fourth. RB LEIPZIG

Atlético Madrid at Osasuna, Total 2.5 Un -159: Slovenian keeper Jan Oblak is the world’s best goalie, allowing Madrid foes a scant 0.20 goals per match. Osasuna’s Sergio Herrera (0.67) is no piker, either. UNDER

Sunday

Sassuolo at Napoli, Total 3 Ov -177: In their past four Serie A matches, 23 goals have been tallied in Sassuolo matches, 17 in Napoli contests. Napoli is second in the B5 in goal-creating actions per match, at 5.75, while Sassuolo is fifth at 4.60. OVER

Last week: 4-0

Season: 12-13-1