After an exhilarating weekend of knockout soccer, the MLS returns midweek with the Conference Semi-Finals. El Trafico is the showpiece of this week’s games. Some of the games at the weekend were very open – there was 27 goals scored across the 6 games – not what you expect in a knockout situation.
Still though, we can hope for more of the same this week with four games on the schedule. In the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, regular season leaders New York City FC face Toronto FC and reigning champions Atlanta United host Philadelphia Union. In the West Semis we have El Trafico on Friday night and a clash between Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake.
New York City FC vs Toronto FC, Wednesday 23rd October 7PM
The first of this week’s semi-finals will take place in the unusual surroundings of Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets. A tricky one for both teams. Even in their fifth year of existence, NYCFC still usually play their home games at Yankee Stadium so they will be used to the baseball surroundings at least. Scheduling conflicts with the Yankees mean they will take to the pitch at Citi Field for only the second time.
Toronto will be high on confidence after their 5-1 victory over D.C United at the weekend. The game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes before TFC scored 4 in the first half of extra time. That makes it 11 games without defeat for Greg Vanney’s men and they will provide a tough test for NYCFC. Jozy Altidore is likely to miss out again but Alejandro Pozuelo should retain his place in the number nine spot.
This one will be close and Toronto FC (Draw No Bet) looks a good shout at +165 with CanPlay.
Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake, Wednesday 23rd October 10PM
Both of these sides were involved in thrillers at the weekend. The Sounders defeated FC Dallas 4-3 after extra time on Saturday while Salt Lake overcame a tough Portland Timbers side on Sunday with an 87th minute winner to reach this stage of the playoffs.
Clashes between these two are usually intense with the odd goal separating the sides over the last few seasons. Real Salt Lake have recent experience of winning big matches on the road and they wont be fazed by the atmosphere at Century Link Field. However, Seattle have the form player of this tie with Jordan Morris scoring a hat-trick on Saturday.
Seattle to win by one goal is priced up at +240 with CanPlay.
Atlanta United vs Philadelphia Union, Thursday 24th October 8PM
The only correct prediction we made last week was Atlanta United to win to zero. Franco Escobar duly delivered with a 70th minute winner in an evenly contested match with New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Attention returns to the Mercedes-Benz on Thursday when Philadelphia come to town. The Union were involved in another epic on Sunday, beating NY Red Bulls 4-3 after extra time. Jim Curtin’s side had a whopping 31 shots and 62% of possession but it took Marco Fabian’s deflected shot in the 106th minute to seal the win. Fabian will be required to perform again on Thursday. The Mexican is Philadelphia’s highest-paid player but he has struggled for gametime this season with Curtin preferring teenager Brenden Aaronson in the midfield position.
The performance at the weekend will have taken it out of The Union and they will struggle in the Atlanta heat. Another tight victory is predicted and Atlanta United to win at -145 is a tempting bet.
Los Angeles FC vs Los Angeles Galaxy, Thurday 24th October 10:30PM
The centerpiece of the midweek action. The City of Angels stops for El Trafico. Only two days after the city’s NBA teams, the Lakers and the Clippers, started the NBA season with a derby matchup, the footballers do likewise with the biggest game of the season taking place at the Banc of California Stadium.
MLS’ two biggest stars, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela, face off once again with a rivalry brewing between the two. Vela was the star of the MLS this season. The former Arsenal man scored 34 goals on his way to collecting the MVP award. His direct opponent Zlatan scored 30 in the regular season but proclaimed himself the best player in the league by virtue of his accomplishments in Europe.
This game promises fireworks. The two sides have faced each other five time and Galaxy have never been beaten. The teams shared eleven goals between them in their two meetings this season with the last finishing 3-3 at the BOC Stadium.
Zlatan has a reputation to live up to and we’re backing him – and the Galaxy – to upset the odds with an away win to progress to the Eastern Conference Finals. Back them to qualify at a huge +345 with CanPlay.