Montreal Impact v New York Red Bulls – Saputo Stadium at 19:00 live on Sky Sports 5
Montreal Impact preview
The Canadian outfit surprised everyone in midweek by beating DC United away from home in the knockout round 4-2. Both goals they conceded were consolations and the margin of victory should’ve been much greater. The Impact employed the perfect gameplan and counter attacked superbly. Key playmaker Ignacio Piatti was at the heart of things pulling the strings as ever.
All of the talk prior to the game was that Didier Drogba was again missing in action, but they proved they can cope without him. Matteo Mancosu played a blinder, netting twice and also nailing an assist. There are some reports that Drogba will be fit for this match but at best he would only make the bench. I would find it surprising if coach Mauro Biello disrupted their momentum and should keep an unchanged side. Montreal have only had three days of rest, but they must be buzzing after Thursday night and they have huge amounts of momentum.
New York Red Bulls preview
Jesse Marsch’s men enter the playoffs unbeaten in 16 games. They are the favourites to progress from the Eastern Conference into the MLS Cup final. It seems that the Red Bulls are the kings of the regular season, but always struggle once the nitty gritty starts. They’ve only ever made it to one MLS cup final, which they lost. I don’t think the two leg format has ever really helped them. The Bulls have always been formidable at home. But a negative result here could pile on the pressure ahead of the tie at Red Bull Arena.
The big strength of this team is in offensive areas with the likes of Bradley Wright Phillips & Sacha Kljestan. They have a very consistent XI and everyone knows each other well. I’m sure they will be positive in this match and look for at least one away goal. It’s worth noting that most of their victories during this unbeaten run have been at home. Here on the road they’ve only beaten Philly and Vancouver, two sides who have been dreadfully out of form.
Conclusion & betting analysis
Everyone is trying to work out how the Red Bulls can be knocked out of the playoffs. Well, right now everyone starts on a level playing field and this is a two legged tie. Nothing can be won or lost in this first leg, although obviously someone could put themselves in the driving seat. I feel that of all the Eastern Conference sides, Montreal are possibly the most balanced. They lack for star quality, apart from Piatti of course but work really hard together as a unit. They can mix defence with attack pretty well and simply can’t be underestimated.
With away goals important in these playoffs, I’m sure the Red Bulls will come here with an attacking gameplan. That’s their style under Jesse Marsch and he is unlikely to deviate from it. All these fixtures between the sides this season have ended in home wins. I personally think we’ll see quite an open game of football and there’s enough attacking talent from both sides for an over 2.5 goals line to cover. The Red Bulls never make life easy for themselves in these playoffs so I have a sneaky suspicion they could end up losing. But it would be too risky taking Montreal on a DNB Asian handicap, even if it’s a tempting price. I anticipate the Montreal Impact ‘North Star Bell’ to be ringing a few times today, so I’ll stick with the over pick.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Over 2.5 goals at 1.88
LA Galaxy v Colorado Rapids – StubHub Centre at 21:00 live on Sky Sports 5
LA Galaxy preview
The Galaxy beat off RSL in impressive fashion on Wednesday night (3-1) and are back where they belong in the two legged rounds. Manager Bruce Arena has won this cup on numerous occasions and knows how to get the job done. What was really noticeable about Galaxy in midweek was how much energy and drive they had. Winger Emmanuel Boateng played a blinder, netting two goals but the overall team performance was noticeably good. The Galaxy prevailed without attacker Gyasi Zardes, who is likely out for the season.
Steven Gerrard is constantly nursing an injury and it’s unclear exactly what sort of state he’s in, whilst Robbie Keane started from the bench. With Alan Gordon netting twice upfront, Arena has a big decision to make whether to stick with him or bring Keane back into the XI. My guess is that the Irishman will start in a game of this magnitude. Galaxy have only lost once at home all season but Colorado have managed to obtain two draws at the StubHub centre which is fairly impressive.
Colorado Rapids preview
The rocky mountain side were terrible last season, finishing bottom of the Western Conference. But they’ve turned things around in 2016 nearly winning the supporters shield,. In fact, failure to beat Houston last weekend (1-1) cost them a possible chance of claiming that crown. It’s the MLS Cup that everyone wants to win though and Colorado will be very dangerous in the postseason. They are the best defensive team in the whole MLS and there’s an old saying that ‘defence wins championships’ If that is the case, then look no further than the Rapids.
They’ve conceded just 32 goals which is significantly less than any other side, and racked up a whopping 13 clean sheets. Colorado will almost certainly come here playing to their strengths, looking for a 0-0. They know they are so strong at home that a draw here would put them in a very strong position. The Rapids head into the postseason in good condition injury wise. Only midfielder Dillon Serna is ruled out for the rest of the campaign. Experienced US international Jermaine Jones is recently returned and might even be in contention to start, although a bench spot is more likely.
Conclusion & betting analysis
From a personal point of view I hope LA Galaxy knock out Colorado in this round. With the Rapids out of way, two easy over bet winners would likely ensure in the Western Conference final, whoever the Galaxy met. Colorado are simply too boring and negative for my liking. Fair play to them, they are effective right from Tim Howard in goal to Kevin Doyle upfront. They get the job done and have to be respected. But this is now the playoffs when experience really counts. The Galaxy have been here and done it before and can take some confidence into the match after their midweek showing.
They have the extra classy individual players who can make a real difference. This has all the makings of a tight match. Colorado will be extremely difficult to break down and even if they go 0-1 behind they will still probably park the bus. I don’t think the Galaxy will win easily, but there should be a goal in them somewhere to take victory. The hosts can be backed at around the 1.90 mark on a -0.5 Asian handicap and this is big enough to tempt me. They know they have to take an advantage with them back to Denver and I dare say if you offered the Rapids a loss by just a one goal margin, they’d take it.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: LA Galaxy -0.5 at 1.89
Prices correct at time of writing.
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