MLS Cup Conference Semifinals - Leg 1 Previews: Starting on Sunday with Sounders at Whitecaps

Kevin Stott

Sunday, October 29, 2017 1:40 PM UTC

Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 1:40 PM UTC

The 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs will be resuming on Sunday after five teams registered Clean Sheets in the Knockout Round last week and the Columbus Crew made it 13 straight unbeaten matches after ousting expansion side Atlanta United FC in a dramatic Penalty Kick shootout in Georgia, advancing to this Conference Semifinals round where they will now get to face David Villa and NYCFC in their two-legged Eastern Conference series.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps · BC Place · Vancouver, BC, Canada · 8:30 pm ET/5:30 pm PT

We start with a Cascadia Cup MLS Cup Conference Semifinal series Leg 1 match from the Pacific Northwest on Sunday night (ESPN, WatchESPN, TSN1, TSN4, TVAS-2) between the defending MLS champion Seattle Sounders (14-11-9, 52 GF-39 GA) and the Vancouver Whitecaps (15-7-12, 50 GF-49 GA) with Leg 2 set for Nov. 2 (Thursday) in Seattle (10:30 pm PT). The Sounders (3-6-8, 20 GF-27 GA on Road) will be without star Clint Dempsey (Red Card) for this game as he serves a 1-game Suspension but Nicolás Lodeiro and the Sounders will be fresher than the host Whitecaps (9-5-3, 30 GF-20 GA) after avoiding the Knockout Round with its 2nd-place finish in the Western Conference. A look at the L5 meetings in this series (SEA 3-0 VAN, VAN 1-1 SEA, VAN 2-1 SEA, VAN 1-2 SEA, SEA 1-0 VAN) reveals the Home club to be 3-1-1 with 2 Overs and an Under in the three previous meetings in British Columbia and the two went 1-1-1 in the three-game Regular Season series.

With stud and leader Dempsey out along with Brad Davis (Back), Jordan Morris (Hamstring) and Ozzie Alonso (Quad) and the Caps coming off a 5-0 win over in the Knockout Round, this seems like a pretty tough spot for Fredy Montero and Seattle. With Leg 2 in the forefront of both of these clubs’ minds for this match—in which Kevin Stott (not me) will be the Referee—expect a sloggy stalemate in Vancouver. Of note: The L6 Seattle matches have all resulted in Clean Sheets. The Sounders are currently priced at +650 (Intertops) to repeat as MLS champions while host Vancouver is at 9/1 odds and would be the first Canadian club to ever capture an MLS Cup, which has now been W8 straight times by a member of the Western Conference.

Final Score Prediction: Whitecaps 1 Sounders 1
Free MLS Pick: Under 2¾ -125 (Heritage)

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls · Red Bull Arena · Harrison, New Jersey · 7 pm ET/4 pm PT

This Eastern Conference Semifinal series Leg 1 sees Bradley Wright-Phillips (18 goals), Daniel Royer (13 goals) and the hot New York Red Bulls (14-8-12, 53 GF-47 GA) facing Sebastian Giovinco (16 goals), Jozy Altidore (15 goals) and top-seed Toronto FC (20-9-5, 74 GF-37 GA) on Monday night (FS1, TSN4) with Leg 2 set for BMO Field in Toronto on Nov. 5. Looking at the L5 meetings in this series (TFC 4-2 RBNY, RBNY 1-1 TFC, TFC 3-3 RBNY, RBNY 3-0 TFC, RBNY 2-0 TFC) we see that the Home side is an unbeaten 3-2-0 and the last time these two powers met on Sept. 30, TFC actually clinched the MLS Supporters’ Shield with a 4-2 victory.

This will be the first time these two have ever met in the MLS Postseason and ageless GK Luis Robles and the Red Bulls (5-2-10, 23 GF-33 GA on Road) should be riding high coming in after putting out the Fire in Chicago on Wednesday night in the Knockout Round, 4-0, and with Sacha Kljestan, Victor Vázquez and Tyler Adams, should be able to score once (and maybe twice or more) in Ontario in this leg on Monday night, even with Toronto (5/2 to win 2017 MLS Cup, Intertops) going a powerful 13-3-1 (45 GF-15 GA) this season at Home at BMO Field. And after setting an MLS record for points in a season (69), playing at Home and with two Reds expecting to score in Giovinco and Altidore, backing the Over (2¾-115, Heritage) seems like the logical look here. The Over is 3-1 the L4 meetings between the Red Bulls and Reds in matches averaging a robust 4.25 gpg.

Final Score Prediction: Toronto FC 2 Red Bulls 1
Free MLS Totals Pick: Over 2¾-115 (Heritage)

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Portland Timbers at Houston Dynamo · BBVA Compass Stadium · Houston · 9:30 pm ET/6:30 pm PT

Monday night’s second Conference Semifinal Leg 1 sees the Houston Dynamo (13-11-10, 57 GF-45 GA)—Knockout Round winners over Sporting Kansas City, 1-0—playing host to the Western Conference’s top-seeded Portland Timbers (15-8-11, 60 GF-50 GA), a team which rallied two seasons ago in 2015 to become MLS champions. The Site should help Houston (12-4-1, 43 GF-17 GA) here against the Timbers (+550 to win 2017 MLS Cup, Intertops) who were below average away from home this Regular Season (4-4-9, 22 GF-32 GA on Road) and Dynamo player DaMarcus Beasley reportedly said that his team was motivated by the MLB Houston Astros comeback win in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series. Toss that in with a city still recovering from a historic Hurricane (Harvey) and riding those strong and prideful civic emotions and you have an environment which seems like a tough one for Portland to try to come in and score and steal any Momentum whatsoever.

A look at the L5 meetings in this series (HOU 2-2 POR, POR 4-2 HOU, HOU 3-1 POR, POR 3-2 HOU, POR 2-2) shows Goals! Goals! Goals!, Elvis, with 5 straight Overs and gaudy average of 4.6 gpg with the Both Teams To Score Prop (Yes) a perfect 5-0 over that span. And a deeper handicapping dive shows that Houston (+130 on Three-Way line, Heritage; PORT +195, DRAW +230) is an unbeaten 3-3-0 (11 GF-6 GA) against the Timbers (only 3 Losses in L13 Regular Season games) at Home and the two couldn’t be any closer statistically overall, with the series deadlocked at 4-4-4 with both scoring 19 goals in Major League Soccer play.

So what can we expect here? Probably some Tentativeness and Fear with a Leg 2 in Portland in mind with the Diego Valeri and Timbers—who have Striker Fanendo Adi listed as Questionable—trying hard to get a precious Road goal (or two) before having to return home to Oregon for Leg 2 (Sunday, Nov. 5). But facing MLS Player of the Month (GK) Tyler Deric and Houston (10/1 to win 2017 MLS Cup, Intertops) will be no easy task for the woodcutters and it seems like this one could evolve into a boring stalemate, despite the recent track record of Overs and high-scoring in the series of late. In Sports, there is a definitely distinct difference in style of play and approach and energy expended between Regular Season and the Playoffs—especially in Leg 1 of a 2-legged series in Soccer—and both will probably come out more cautious than aggressive in this spot and this place and this point in time.

Final Score Prediction: Dynamo 1 Timbers 1
MLS Totals Pick: Under 2½ +105 (BookMaker)

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

NYCFC at Columbus Crew SC · Columbus Crew Stadium · Columbus, Ohio · 8 pm ET/5 pm PT

Happy Halloween, now please provide a winner as “W”’s are the currency we crave here, my brother. You can keep your chocolate, your candy corn and your chorizos. Here, the host Columbus Crew face David Villa and visiting NYCFC on Tuesday night (ESPN) in a Leg 1 from the Ohio capital and a game in which some goals will be anticipated. Odds from Offshore sportsbook Heritage show NYCFC are +111 Road Favorites with host Columbus +220 Underdogs and a Draw in Leg 1 priced at +250 with the Total set at 3u -130. Seldom have Totals in MLS matches reached the levels sportsbooks are now setting them at, but with 2½ no longer the perfect number at which to set games, the market is evolving for linemakers, sportsbooks and bettors alike and requires diligent concentration weekly. Like the Portland-Houston series of late, this Eastern Conference series has really seem some scoring of late with a look at the L5 games showing 5 straight Overs (NYCFC 2-2 CLB, CLB 2-3 NYCFC, NYCFC 4-1 CLB, CLB 3-3 NYCFC, CLB 3-2) with each side scoring at least two goals in that span except for the Crew’s second-to-last trip to The Bronx where they lost 4-1. That’s a 5.0 gpg average with the BTTS Prop (Yes) a profitable 5-0.

—who have now gone 13 straight games without a Loss heading in here after the big Knockout Stage Shootout a franchise looking to stay in Columbus and avoid moving to Austin, Texas in 2019Columbus—the last Eastern Conference team to have actually won an MLS Cup (2008)—will be heading in on a high here after ousting host Atlanta United FC in a PK Shootout in the Knockout Round with Crew GK Zack Steffen playing brilliantly in a match that ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of Regulation and Added Extra Time (AET) in front of the largest MLS Playoff crowd ever at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as the expansion Five Stripes inaugural season came to a quick and abrupt end on Thursday. GK Sean Johnson and #2-seed NYCFC may be in a tough spot against the Crew—win at Atlanta.

The two sides played to a 2-2 Draw on Decision Day in NYC and that’s most likely the type of 90+ minutes we will see here with Villa and the hosts aiming to get a Road goal or two and Ola Kamara (18 goals), Justin Meram (13 goals) and the upstart Crew confident and now fearless after the way this club has played the L3 months. With 32 goals and No Clean Sheets in the 7 matches previously played between these two (5.0 gpg), backing the Over in what should be another wide-open meeting seems the best bet. The two clubs are 1-1-2 in their four meetings in Ohio with each scoring 10 goals. Leg 2 will be played at The House That Ruth Built (Yankee Stadium) in The Big Apple (New York City) on next Sunday (NYCFC 2-2-3, 17 GF-15 GA vs. CLB at NYC). NYCFC is currently +550 to win the 2017 MLS Cup with Kamara and the red-hot Crew at 7/1 odds Offshore right now (Intertops).

Final Score Prediction: Crew 2 NYCFC 2
Free MLS Totals Pick: Over 3 +110 (Heritage)

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