Vancouver Whitecaps v Seattle Sounders
The MLS Wildcard round is now over, complete with a few surprises. Perhaps one of those was Vancouver beating San Jose 5-0.The shock wasn’t the fact that the Whitecaps won, but the manner in which they achieved it. To take the match by storm and be so dominant wasn’t what anyone predicted, and it feels like a real statement win for Carl Robinson’s men. Last weekend they lost out against Portland Timbers in a match which would determine who finished top of the Western Conference. The ironic thing is that Vancouver is probably now glad they lost! The sheer momentum they can take from such a fantastic midweek result can’t be underestimated, and who knows it might be the platform that launches a deep playoff run.
I said in my preview last week that the Whitecaps just don’t appear to be at the ‘top level’ compared to some teams like Portland, Seattle, Toronto, Atlanta etc. My other major criticism was that the manager doesn’t know what his best XI is. I presume he will stick with what worked in midweek, although you can never be sure with Robinson. In the past, I have seen the home team struggle in this round of matches, probably due to previous midweek excursions. However, there is more of a gap between games this year and in winning 5-0, it’s not as if the Caps were pushed too hard. Seattle will be physically fresher, but in terms of injuries and suspensions, it’s the visitors who have more problems.
Key man Clint Dempsey is banned, whilst attacker Jordan Morris is ruled out injured. A few other guys won’t be featuring either. Seattle has only lost two matches since the middle of June, which is phenomenal. However, it was in recent times when those slip-ups occurred. I feel like they blew a decent chance to win the Western Conference outright and I have personal concerns about their away form. Most of who they have beaten on the road since midseason has been poor teams. Seattle is the defending MLS Cup champions which can carry an extra weight on their shoulders too. The second leg will be a different affair, but in this fixture, I have to side with Vancouver. They seem in a better place and can use the momentum of their midweek win to propel them to victory. Taking the hosts on a -0.25 Asian Handicap around the 2.15 mark looks nice and juicy. I think something like a 1-0 or 2-0 home win here. Seattle will stay close and believe they can get the job done in the second leg, but I see the Whitecaps taking an advantage to CenturyLink Field next week.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Vancouver Whitecaps -0.25 at 2.14
New York Red Bulls v Toronto FC
Very few people would’ve foreseen New York Red Bulls hammering Chicago 4-0 in the midweek Wildcard Round. I had a gut feeling they might prevail, but certainly not in such easy fashion! Chicago played badly, but the Red Bulls were excellent, using all of their playoff experience. This is a side that has regularly featured in the postseason, so most of the players know how to handle the matches. In many ways, the boot is on the other foot this year though. Whereas in the past it would’ve been the Red Bulls winning the Eastern Conference, and even the Supporters Shield, this time around it’s Toronto who holds that accolade. They have been one of the best ever MLS teams in the regular season, but all that will count for nothing if they don’t avenge last season’s MLS Cup final loss at the hands of Seattle.
The two teams only met twice this year, the most memorable was a more recent encounter less than a month ago when Toronto won 4-2. Here at Red Bull Arena, they don’t have a great record but did win a fixture last season and Toronto are an even better team now. Sometimes in the past, teams who had a midweek bye can flatter to deceive. Toronto has looked like a machine for most of the season though and is the rightful favorites to progress over the two legs. NYRB is -0.25 Asian Handicap favorites for this first leg, which is maybe understandable considering how strong they usually are at the Red Bull Arena. Make no mistake about it though, they will have their hands full and it’s difficult to see their defense containing the likes of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.
I’m not sure who is going to win this first leg. No outcome would surprise me, but one thing I am expecting is goals. Toronto is capable of defending if they want to, but at no stage during last year’s playoffs did they show any tendency towards this. They are naturally an attack-minded side, whilst the Red Bulls aren’t really capable of anything but offense either. All things should be set for a fairly end to end game, full of action and hopefully full of goals. It’s the over 2.75 line which just stands out to me as the best bet. This goal line should be nearer 3 or even 3.25 in my opinion. There are many different ways this bet can be covered. Even if one side has a shocking night, the other is more than capable of bagging three goals on their own. Something like a 2-2 draw could actually be on the cards and I’m firmly in the overs court for this one.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.75 Goals at 1.92