Only four teams remain in the hunt for the MLS Cup and for the first-time ever there is none of the founding members of the MLS in the Conference Finals.
LAFC face Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Finals while last year’s winner Atlanta United defeated Philadelphia to set-up an Eastern Conference decider with Toronto FC. This makes for two really interesting encounters with the last 3 MLS Cup winners and this year’s regular season’s standouts – LAFC – still involved.
Los Angeles FC vs Seattle Sounders, Tuesday 29th October 9PM
LAFC outgunned Los Angeles Galaxy during Thursday night’s El Trafico. The final score in that one was 5-3 and we can expect plenty more goals tonight. Their opponents in tonight’s Western Conference Finals – Seattle Sounders – had one of the leakiest defenses in the MLS. However, they did manage to keep Real Salt Lake scoreless on Wednesday night in their Conference semi-final.
On regular season form the pick for this one is a no-brainer. LAFC finished 16 points ahead of 2nd-placed Seattle and finished with a whopping +48 goal difference. The single-knockout form of this game brings an extra element of doubt into the outcome but this should still be a step too far for Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders squad.
LAFC part-owner Earvin Johnson played the part of honorary falconer during the pre-game festivities last week but who will provide the Magic on the pitch?
Well, Carlos Vela has been doing it for most of the season. The Mexican has scored 36 goals in 32 appearances this season, including two against the Galaxy in the Conference semi-finals. A Vela goal on the way to a LAFC victory is today’s prediction. You can also take a look at the returning Adama Diomande. The Norwegian notched two late goals in the semi-finals in what was his comeback game after a month out to deal with personal issues.
If you have your eyes on a Seattle upset then you can back them at +600 while Seattle Sounders (+2) comes in at an appealing -130 with CanPlay.
Atlanta United vs Toronto FC, Wednesday 30th October 7PM
We predicted last week that both of these teams would squeeze in to the MLS Conference Finals and they have obliged. Alejandro Pozuelo secured Toronto’s progression with a 90th-minute penalty at Citi Field while Julian Gressel and Josef Martinez scored for Atlanta to secure a place in the Eastern Conference Final for the second year running.
Frank De Boer has come in for some criticism in his first year in Georgia and it’s fair to say that Atlanta haven’t played the expansive attacking football that the fans were accustomed to under Tata Martino. However, you can’t argue with his results. United have already won the Campeones Cup and the U.S Open Cup this season and the MLS Cup is well within their reach.
They have been reliant on last-season’s MVP Josef Martinez to deliver the goals once again. Thankfully for De Boer he usually delivers. The Venezuelan has scored 88 goals in 99 appearances in the Red & Black. He will be asked to provide the goods once again on Wednesday night.
Toronto caused the biggest upset of the Conference semi-finals by going to New York and defeating Eastern Conference leaders NYCFC. Alejandro Pozuelo was the difference maker last week with two goals for the Reds. Coach Greg Vanney will most likely be without star man Jozy Altidore once again and Pozuelo will have to step-up and fill that void.
Fans are in for a treat with this one but what will the outcome be? TFC came to town for Decision Day last season and defeated Atlanta 4-1 in a game played in a hostile Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The atmosphere will be much the same on Wednesday but the result should be much different. Our prediction is a 2-0 victory for Atlanta and you can back that at +1125 with CanPlay while Josef Martinez is an interestingly priced +180 to score first.