Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls

It’s certainly advantaged Toronto FC after the first leg. They take a 2-1 advantage to BMO Field and most people will presume this is already enough for them to secure qualification to the next round. Having scored two away goals, all they need is to avoid defeat and they would make it through. Even a 0-1 loss would be sufficient. Toronto has to be careful that they don’t play too cagey and safe, but that isn’t the natural attitude of this team. As we saw in the first leg, their willingness to attack is a massive weapon. And why wouldn’t they when having a squad containing an abundance of rich attacking talents like Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. I expect TFC to lead from the front foot here, despite being ahead on aggregate.

The only good thing for New York Red Bulls is they know what they must do in order to qualify. The simple fact is the visitors must score at least two goals to have any chance of progressing, along with winning the match. Roughly six weeks ago they managed to net a couple of goals on this ground but came up short losing 2-4 overall. I don’t doubt that the Red Bulls have the attacking potential to threaten here, the big concern is at the other end and also their game management. When things aren’t going their way, this is a team liable to panic and make silly mistakes. On a more positive note, I’m sure they will be buoyed by the excellent 4-0 playoff win away at Chicago Fire in the Wildcard Round.

Toronto is -1 Asian Handicap favorites here which are fair enough. However, I would be wary of taking this line because they don’t actually have to win the match, let alone by more than one goal. It might be that the Red Bulls self-destruct enough for this to end up a comfortable home win though. For me personally, the obvious play here is over 3 goals. The visitors simply have to attack, which should naturally lead to an open match. I think both teams will score and the potential for goals at either end is very high in this instance. Unless Toronto just opt to defend and slow the pace of the game down, which I doubt, then this should end a natural over. I could see this ending something like a 3-1 or 3-2 TFC win.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 3 goals at 1.892

New York City FC v Columbus Crew

In their fairly brief MLS history, New York City FC has clearly shown that they don’t enjoy playoff matches. Last year they got battered 0-2 and 0-5 by Toronto FC and this season things haven’t started well by losing 4-1 at Columbus in the first leg of this tie. Their capitulation has probably cost them any chance of winning the MLS Cup because the task now facing them looks huge. I have to say I think head coach Patrick Vieira got his tactics completely wrong and they left themselves way too open in the first leg. He was let down by some bad performances too, and it was an all-round shocking night for NYCFC. They were found wanting at key stages of the match in all areas and it could cost them dearly.

The Crew meanwhile, have surprised everyone in these MLS Playoffs so far. Nobody expected them to go to Atlanta and knock out a potential champion in waiting. But it seems like the momentum they gained from that penalty shootout win carried through to the first leg of this tie. Offensively, they looked excellent and could have scored even more than the four they did. The key for them now is to manage this tie and make sure they don’t blow such a huge advantage. I have seen it before when manager Gregg Berhalter tries to employ defensive tactics and it simply doesn’t work, so I would imagine he uses his head and ensures that the Crew maintains a strong level of threat, at least on the break.

New York City has no other option than to totally ‘go for it’ here. They have to score at least three goals to have a chance of progressing. The simplest way they can do this is to win 3-0, but in all reality, they might have to score 4 or more in order to make it through. It’s a tall order for the Big Apple side and I don’t think they will manage to achieve their objective. However, I’m sure they will go down with a fight and really take the attack to Columbus here. NYC is -1 Asian Handicap favorites and I think this is fair. They are likely to win the game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won by a couple of goals. However, their leaky defense will probably become a hindrance once again and the Crew should get plenty of chances. Over 3 goals is an obvious pick and this should be a frantic contest from start to finish.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 3 goals at 1.800

Portland Timbers v Houston Dynamo

The first leg of this tie surprised me. I expected a really open game, potentially full of goals, so for it to end 0-0 was certainly a shock. I think if one of the big early chances had been taken then things would’ve really opened up. But the match then stagnated a lot with free kicks, stoppages in play and loads of injuries. The shockingly poor pitch at Houston didn’t help things either and in the end, both teams were happy just to avoid defeat. I personally would’ve liked to have seen Houston ‘go for it’ a bit more though because the task facing them in this second leg is much harder. Portland generally plays very well at home and are deserving -0.75 Asian Handicap favorites for this encounter.

Of course, the one big problem for the Timbers is injuries. They lost highly influential midfielder Diego Chara to a broken boot in the first leg. Ultimately, that could cost them here, and probably in the future severely dampen their overall MLS Cup chances. The likes of Darlington Nagbe and Larrys Mabiala are both doubtful and key striker Fanendo Adi hasn’t been seen for 3 months, although there’s a chance he could feature here. Other players such as Guzman and Blanco are questionable too so they face some serious squad problems. Portland is exceptionally good at Providence Park and their fans are likely to make one hell of a noise. Maybe that could help propel them over the line.

Of course, Houston isn’t without their problems either, especially at the back. Leonardo and AJ Delagarza are both doubtful, whilst starting keeper Tyler Deric is suspended due to an off the field incident away from football. If the Timbers were at full strength then I’d have no hesitation in backing them, but the mounting list of injuries puts me off. Houston has dangerous and fast attackers who could cause problems. My preferred bet is over 2.75 goals. As soon as one goal is scored here, the other team simply has to react. There’s a danger the longer it remains 0-0, the tenser and tighter the match will become. But I think the deadlock should be broken before halftime, and if that occurs then this over should naturally land due to the sheer fact one team will have to go for broke whatever the scenario.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.75 goals at 1.910

By @Meatmansoccer.

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