New York Red Bulls v Atlanta United
The first leg at the Mercedes Benz Arena was an absolute disaster for the New York Red Bulls. They found themselves 2-0 down late in the game and were forced to gamble in an attempt to score an away goal. Unfortunately, Atlanta went up the other end and scored themselves, hence securing a 3-0 victory which could be unassailable. To turn around such a big deficit without having scored an away goal is almost an impossible task. A 3-0 success would take the match to extra time, but if they concede just once then the Bulls are going to have to win by a huge 4 goal margin or more in order to prevail. Logically speaking they are absolutely doomed and there was little to suggest from the first leg that Atlanta will relinquish their advantage.
The Red Bulls were outplayed down in Georgia and truth be told offered very little threat. They can lean on a superb home record during the regular season (14-1-2) which was better than anyone in either conference. They also won in the last round against Columbus Crew here 3-0. This is a side that is really good at this stadium and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won on the night. The fitness of key left back Kemar Lawrence is in doubt. He missed the first leg and is rated questionable here. The Red Bulls may have to risk him in such an important fixture. Something always seems to go wrong for them in the playoffs – usually one terrible result which costs them dearly. It feels like that happened last week and will cement their doom but Chris Armas’ men won’t go down without a fight.
The Red Bulls can be backed on a -0.5 Asian Handicap around the 1.80 mark. I think they will win this match but the better selection should be over 3 goals. The problem with backing the Bulls is that as soon as they concede an away goal their heads might start to go and they totally lose focus. One thing we do know is they definitely have to score at least 3 goals if they are to stand a chance of qualifying. Everything is set up for an open an exciting match anyway and perhaps the only risk is if Atlanta score a couple early, hence effectively ending the tie. But there should be at least 3 goals scored overall so taking the over makes a lot of sense to me. I could see New York winning something like 3-1 or 3-2 overall but Atlanta should qualify for the MLS Cup final.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 3.00 goals at 2.080
Sporting Kansas City v Portland Timbers
The first leg ended 0-0 so everything is to play for here at Children’s Mercy Park. SKC are deserving favourites but their lack of an away goal could potentially hinder them. The general consensus is that Sporting have an edge on the Portland offense who have yet to score a goal against them in three meetings so far this season. It just seems like a bad matchup for the Timbers and they might have to rely on defence to help get them through here. I said in my first leg preview that I felt Portland needed to win at the weekend and I stand by that statement. I have always fancied SKC to win this second leg because they have come up big here in front of their own fans in some crucial games this year. Sometimes they have a tendency to misfire in the final third but they tend to play with such an energy drive and pace that it could be difficult for Portland to contain them.
It was during last year’s MLS Playoffs that Portland suffered some bad injuries and it sadly looks like that curse might’ve struck again here. Key defender Larrys Mabiala and also midfielder Andy Polo had to come off in the first leg and are rated very questionable to play here. On such a short turnaround of just 4four days this could really affect the Timbers in a negative fashion. Sporting have a much more favourable injury situation and should have everyone available to them, bar long term casualties.
This is a much harder match to bet on because from a 0-0 first leg, the tie can go in all sorts of directions. The longer a game continues with no goals, the more likelihood there is of the tie heading towards extra time. My preferred pick for the game is to back SKC on a -1 Asian Handicap but there is probably quite a good chance of a push with that line. I am also concerned if it’s 0-0 with say 10 or 15 mins left, then Sporting would possibly accept the prospect extra time. Remember, in MLS then away goals are wiped out after 180 mins so SKC would then play the extra time period without such a fear that conceding a goal would be so crippling. My gut feeling is that Sporting show their strength here though and win on the night. Whether they win by one goal or by more I’m not sure but I think they can grab a victory. This isn’t a great match to bet on and it could be potentially hard to make money. The 1-0 and 2-1 scorelines are very much in play and to be brutally honest SKC are priced on the skinny side. But I am confident enough they can prevail in this tie so the handicap is worth chancing.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Sporting Kansas City -1.00 at 1.952
Preview by: @meatmansoccer.
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