Toronto FC v New York City FC – BMO Field at 23:00 live on Sky Sports 5
Toronto FC preview
Finally, after years of trying, the Canadian outfit won a playoff game in midweek beating Philly 3-1. Tronto were impressive and fully deserved their success, possibly should’ve won by a bigger margin too. But let’s not forget that they faced a Union side who have really struggled recently and who came into the playoffs with much more momentum.
This clash against NYCFC and any subsequent opponents will be far more difficult. Manager Greg Vanney gambled by employing a 3-5-2 wingbacks system which worked well for them in their last regular season game against Chicago Fire. I don’t think he’ll change anything here, unless he feels the need for a more solid midfield which would include Will Johnson. Toronto must be feeling really good about themselves and this tie against NYC looks set to be an absolute cracker. TFC have some great attacking players like Giovinco & Altidore and will believe they can outscore any opponent.
New York City FC preview
In just their second season in MLS, NYC clinched second spot and will be making their playoff debut. Expectations were high in the big apple for Patrick Vieira this year. I think it’s fair to say he’s delivered in some capacity, but certainly not all. Victory in the MLS Cup would go a long way to satisfying everyone though. Despite this being their debut in the playoffs, NYC can boast wealth of experience.
David Villa & Andrea Pirlo have both won World Cups and various other trophies, whilst Frank Lampard needs no second introduction. The key will definitely be how everyone else copes in the heat of battle when the pressure is really on. This tie against TFC feels like it should be a real feast of goals. City will want to score at least once in this first leg and grab that vital away goal. Injury news is favourable ahead of the contest and Lampard should be fit to start.
Conclusion & betting analysis
Surprisingly, Toronto FC are 1.75 favourites here on a -0.5 Asian handicap. I think this is far too short and there’s no way I could go near them at that price. New York City have had a full week of rest, possess some quality stars like David Villa, Pirlo & Lampard and also have the best MLS away record in the regular season. I think the visitors deserve more respect, although I do have a feeling Toronto will edge this contest. The way both teams usually play we should be in for a really exciting match, full of goals.
Both managers have talked about the need to defend well. But I’ll believe that when I see it, and the main strength of each outfit is in attack. There should be chances galore and I’m really surprised that an over 3 goal line can be backed as big as evens. This looks a really big price and I can only presume it’s been inflated due to the fact this is a playoff match. Perhaps there might be slightly more chance of a tense encounter but there’s so much attacking quality on show I struggle to see how there isn’t at least three goals in the game. This is a clear over match in my opinion and I have no hesitation in pulling the trigger.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Over 3 goals at 2.0
Seattle Sounders v FC Dallas – Century Link Field at 01:30 live on Sky Sports 5
The Sounders progressed to this round thanks to a late 1-0 win against SKC on Thursday night. Many people would say that this was a fortunate success. SKC had the better of the game, came closest to breaking the deadlock and even had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside. But Nelson Valdez struck very late to enable Seattle to progress. The hosts looked nervous in that fixture and perhaps now with less pressure on their shoulders they might produce a better performance.
They suddenly go from being a fancied favourite, to an underdog facing the Supporters Shield and US Open Cup champions. Brian Schmetzer’s men are unlikely to make too many changes. Although centre back Romain Torres is rated questionable with a hamstring injury. I’d imagine Bad Jones will get the nod if Torres missed out, but he’s another who has been battling injuries of late. Seattle have been keeping a lot of clean sheets at home recently. I dare say they would love to travel to Dallas with another in tact, even if the match ended 0-0.
So far, FCD have achieved the double this season, winning the Supporters Shield and also the US Open Cup. Whether or not they can now go on and achieve an unprecedented treble remains to be seen. All season long they’ve been one of the most balanced and consistent outfits, that’s what makes them so good. Dallas are such a strong technical team and they have have quality all over the field.
One piece of bad news for them is that key playmaker Mauro Diaz is ruled out for the rest of the season due to a torn achilles tendon. He is so vital for them going forwards in a creative sense and will be badly missed. I expect Dallas will lean on their defensive strength in this first leg. They would be happy to go back with a 0-0 in their pocket. I think the priority will be to keep a clean sheet. The likes of Matt Hedges at the back are so solid and dependable. Dallas can make themselves really hard to break down. At the other end of the field they have strong counter attacking ability but I expect them to proceed with caution and not take too many risks.
Conclusion & betting analysis
These two teams met in the playoffs last season at the exact same stage and eventually penalties were needed to separate them. I think both teams will see this first leg as a fixture to ‘set things up’ for the return leg in Frisco. Dallas know they are so strong at home that any sort of draw, or even a narrow defeat would be an acceptable outcome. Seattle meanwhile, could be a little bit flat following an exhausting encounter with SKC just three nights ago.
I’m not sure the Sounders will be at their best physically and they themselves would probably be happy to avoid defeat. Unlike teams such as LA Galaxy or Toronto FC this weekend who probably feel that a home leg victory is essential, Seattle would probably take their chances heading into Dallas level pegging, especially as they could rest fully for a week. Of all the playoff contests this weekend I find this the most difficult to predict. The bet I am suggesting is under 2.5 goals because I think it will be tight and cagey. However, this is easily my least confident pick of the round and I would not recommend staking too heavily here, this could easily be a no bet contest. But I think a 0-0 is possible. If any team did get ahead they would more than likely just try and sit on the advantage by parking the bus.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Under 2.5 goals at 1.81
Prices correct at time of writing.
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