Atlanta United, Sporting KC To Secure Spots in MLS Cup

Kevin Stott

Monday, November 26, 2018 4:06 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 4:06 PM UTC

Atlanta United FC kept its roll going in Leg 1 against the New York Red Bulls, while SKC and Portland played to a draw. Let's size up the rematches for your soccer picks, and bet confidently with SBRpicks.com.

Atlanta United FC (24-6-7) at New York Red Bulls (23-5-9)Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1)Free MLS Pick: 'Under'Best Line Offered: Bovada

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Golden Boot winner Josef Martínez (34 goals, 10 GWG), Miguel Almirón (14 goals, 14 assists) and Atlanta United FC won Leg 1 at home Sunday by a sexy 3-0 scoreline, the Five Stripes' first win ever against Bradley Wright-Phillips (20 goals) and the Red Bulls, who will host this Leg 2 and in a spot where they need to try to play the clock as much as the Red Bulls (3-1-1, 7 GF/4 GA lifetime vs ATL), who have made the playoffs 19 times in 23 seasons but advanced to the MLS Cup only once.

  • ATLANTA UNITED had never beaten RBNY before Sunday
  • ATLANTA UNITED 4-0-0 lifetime in postseason (7 GF/1 GA)
  • ATLANTA UNITED an MLS-best 10-2-5 on the road
  • ATLANTA UNITED 19-3-1 when it scores first

Looking at all five of the meetings now between Atlanta and NY (ATL 3-0 RBNY, RBNY 2-0 ATL, ATL 1-3 RBNY, RBNY 0-0 ATL, ATL 1-2 RBNY) we see that aforementioned first win ever and a loose trend toward higher-scoring games in Georgia and lower-scoring ones in New Jersey, although the sample size is small with Atlanta United still a recently new club in the ever-expanding MLS, enjoying one of its best seasons ever.

Behind iconic GK Luis Robles, the host Red Bulls are No. 1 in GAA but will have their hands full with maybe the best duo in MLS history in Martínez and Almirón, although neither player had scored vs. RBNY into Leg 1 before Martínez (3 goals playoffs) tallied in the first half (Almirón got his first against RBNY late in the second half).

So with the confident Five Stripes (+265, Bovada) now able to sit back and concentrate expending energy on defense in front of GK Brad Guzan, the onus will be on Wright-Phillips (1 goal L7 games), Daniel Royer (13 goals) and the Red Bulls' attack to try to score first and somewhat early and put some needed pressure on the visitors and try to steal the positive mindset for this 90-plus minutes of crucial play, which will determine who heads to -- and who will host -- the 23rd MLS Cup Final on Dec. 8 (7:30 p.m. ET; Fox).

  • RED BULLS are 14-1-2 at home (W-D-L)
  • RED BULLS (1-1-0) has never allowed ATL UNITED a goal at home (GF 2-0 GA)
  • RED BULLS have advanced to one MLS Cup (2008)

With this defensive mentality from Atlanta United and the 3-goal edge on aggregate, finding a 3 and backing the "under" in the totals market seems to make the most sense in this leg, although the Five Stripes going to Red Bull Arena and winning anyway makes sense and has value but too hard to recommend to the world with the visitors not caring about actually outscoring the hosts in this unique postseason spot.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Red Bulls 1, Atlanta United FC 1

Portland Timbers (17-10-11) at Sporting Kansas City (19-10-8)Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)Free MLS Pick: Sporting Kansas City MLBest Line Offered: Bovada

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Diego Valeri (13 goals) Sebastián Blanco (13 goals) and the Timbers (WWLWWLD) head two time zones and 1,795 miles east to face Dániel Sallói (13 goals), Johnny Russell (10 goals), Diego Rubio (10 goals) and Western Division and Supporters’ Shield winners Sporting Kansas City (DWWWDWD), who have only lost two games in the last 3½ years at Children’s Mercy Park. And sitting on a 0-0 aggregate scoreline from Leg 1 on Sunday, that has to be a scary thought for the Timbers.

Looking at the last six meetings in this Western Conference series (POR 0-0 SKC, SKC 3-0 POR, POR 0-0 SKC, SKC 1-1 POR, POR 0-1 SKC, POR 3-0 SKC), the Wiz are 2-3-1 against Portland with the Timbers' last goal vs. SKC eons ago with four "unders" in the last five meetings.

  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY 3-3-1 L7 vs. TIMBERS (6 GF/4 GA)
  • SPORTING KANSAS CITY is 10-5-2 at home
  • TIMBERS haven’t scored in 338+ minutes in MLS play vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY

So this sets up pretty well for GK Tim Melia (14 clean sheets), Graham Zusi and the hosts, unless, of course, the Timbers can somehow score first or force the match past its 90-minute regulation time parameter. SKC is tied for allowing the least number of set-piece goals this season (3), so Portland will need Dairon Asprilla to create on the attack -- and maybe a little luck.

And although perceived as a scary spot for Portland, a road goal and some possible nervousness means this will be a tough one mentally for SKC. But that home crowd, the expectations and realization it left the Rose City 0-0 on aggregate makes the hosts the pick in what may be a low-scoring and physical game. The "under" also may be worth a look.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Sporting Kansas City 2, Timbers 0

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