Toronto FC v Columbus Crew

For Toronto FC to come out of the first leg with a 0-0 draw was a definitely good result for the Canadian outfit. They travelled without key strike duo Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore and the expectation was that they would struggle to score. In actual fact, they were probably more dangerous than many foresaw, but the fact they kept a clean sheet was a huge bonus. Toronto has been able to rely on their defence at key times in the last couple of seasons and it once again demonstrated their strength in depth in the first leg. All they need to do now is win the match on the night to progress into the MLS Cup final, which would be hosted here at BMO Field, probably in a repeat of last year’s spectacle against Seattle Sounders.

The general consensus was that Columbus Crew missed a trick in the first leg by not winning. It was the ideal chance to take the game to Toronto, but some poor negative tactics for the first hour or so ensured they were never much of a threat. It was only in the last 20 mins they actually attacked more and created opportunities. I really think Greg Berhalter’s men will regret not gambling more in that first leg, because this will now be a much more difficult task. Of course, the Crew will counter argue that they are actually in a decent position. Any victory or scoring draw would see them progress, after either 90 mins or extra time. However, that is easier said than done, especially as they miss influential midfielder Artur to suspension. The dangling carrot is the prospect of an MLS Cup final, which would be hosted at their own MAPFRE Stadium.

I’m a firm believer that Columbus Crew blew their chance in the first leg. They had to take some sort of an advantage to BMO Field, but now they leave themselves exposed because any Toronto victory would see the Canadians progress into the final. There is an outside chance this could be a tense contest and end 0-0 again, but honestly, I don’t see that happening. Something will ultimately have to give and Toronto have the extra quality weapons to make it count here. It’s hard to believe that a fully rested Giovinco and Altidore will be kept quiet for 90 mins and at some stage, both are sure to make an impression on the game. Should TFC get ahead then Columbus would have to attack, thus probably leaving themselves vulnerable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game end over 2.5, but my preferred bet is Toronto -0.75 on the Asian Handicap. If they win 1-0 or 2-0, then this bet will prevail and the longer the game goes on they would be happy with any sort of victory, so playing -0.75 instead of -1 is more sensible. The home team are the better outfit and they can demonstrate their overall class here in my opinion.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Toronto FC -0.75 at 1.790

Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo

It looks like this tie is over, with Seattle claiming a 2-0 win in the first leg down in Texas. In many ways, they might possibly regret not winning by more than a two-goal, margin, such was their dominance, and also the fact they played against 10 men for the majority of the match. However, the fact they have won 2-0 in the road puts them in an incredibly dominant position. Seattle can now control the game and they are so strong at home, few people would give Houston any sort of prayer here. One crumb of comfort for the visitors is that key defender Romain Torres is ruled out for Seattle, and first choice keeper Stefan Frei is rated doubtful again. To counteract that though, the Dynamo have two suspensions of their own, defender Jalil Anibaba and winger Alberth Elis.

A lot is mentioned about Seattle’s home record. They have always been strong at CenturyLink field and their regular season record of 11-5-1 here was absolutely superb. Since head coach Brian Schmetzer took over as head coach midway through last season he has only lost one match at home in 27 attempts! This place is a complete fortress and it would be hard to see Houston winning on the night, let alone by the two-goal margin required to give them a chance! During the regular season, the Dynamo possessed the second worst away record in the Western Conference, with horrible 1-7-9 statistics. However, they shocked the Portland Timbers on the road in the last playoff round, winning 2-1 on the night, so perhaps that can give them some belief.

It would be the shock of all shocks should Houston manage to prevail and make it through to the MLS Cup final. Based on statistics, the sheer fact that Seattle is a -0.5 Asian Handicap favourite around the 1.75 mark actually looks decent value. However, I have seen teams who ‘don’t have’ to win fail before in this sort of situation so I would be cautious if backing the hosts. Any draw or even a one-goal defeat would be enough for Seattle to progress. I expect Houston to go down, but not without a fight. They simply have to attack here and realistically they are probably going to have to score a minimum of three goals on the night. That is why over 2.5 goals catch my eye around the even-money mark. This fixture has a long history of Unders, but in this instance, I think it could become a frantic affair. Houston have to ‘go for it’ so something will give, either they manage to score a few or they leave gaps at the back for Seattle to take advantage of. It wouldn’t totally surprise me if this ended something like a 2-2 draw, although a 2-1 or 3-1 Seattle home win is probably more likely.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.5 goals at 2.010

By @Meatmansoccer

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