MLS Cup Conference Finals Preview

Going off of the beaten path here even though I am an avid MLS watcher and bettor. This season’s MLS Cup Playoffs has been some of the best entertainment in any sports this fall. In the first round, 5 of the 6 matches had at least 3 goals and there were multiple extra time matches. The league’s switch from two-legged ties to a winner-takes-all format has been a smashing success and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Hell, it’s so noticed that I even took what was supposed to be my week off of writing and decided to write previews for the Conference Finals. But before we dive into Tuesday and Wednesday’s matchups, let’s go into my weekend,

This Season: 68-61-30 (+6.3 Units)
Matchweek 10: 6-2-3 (+4.4 Units)

On the verge of being in the negative in a season for the first time in over 1,100 picks, I stepped up and had a phenomenal weekend. If it wasn’t for a last second own goal in the Everton/Brighton game, I would’ve gone +7.7 units since I had the Draw.

Now let’s dive into the Conference Finals for the most fun, best/worst league on Earth, Major League Soccer.

MLS Cup Western Conference Final
Tuesday, October 29th
10:00 pm EST

Seattle Sounders @ LAFC (TV: ESPN) – Everyone knows LAFC have been the best team this season and maybe of all time, but you shouldn’t overlook this Sounders team. They only had two losses in their final eleven matches and four of their last six matches included clean sheets from their defense. Their win against Real Salt Lake was unconventional in the fact that they had 40% possession but outshot RSL almost 3/1 and had nine more shots on target. They’re a team that’s comfortable playing with less than the majority of the ball but taking advantage of the counter attack and/or set piece opportunities. They will need to channel that philosophy into this match since they will likely not have the majority of possession and are playing an LAFC team who are vulnerable on the counter.

LAFC are the clear favorites to not only win this match but also MLS Cup as a whole. They’re the best team in the league with the best player in the league, but they do have their flaws. In their last nine matches they only have three wins. Yes, those three wins have come in their last four matches but those three teams they beat aren’t as good as this Seattle team. LAFC drew against Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia, Orlando and the Galaxy and lost to Minnesota one more time for good measure in that nine-match span. Their only wins came against a battered Houston team, a horrendous Colorado team and in El Trafico last Thursday against the Galaxy. That win against the Galaxy included conceding 3 goals though and felt like a Cup Final win for them, forcing them to refocus for this match against a much better team defensively.

I think this match will catch LAFC by surprise here and they’ll realize that the Sounders might be the best team they’ve played against (with the possible exception of Minnesota) in months. I’m going to take the points especially with the hefty spread of 1.5. Seattle Sounders +1.5 (-120).

Eastern Conference Final
Wednesday, October 30th
8:00 pm EST

Toronto FC @ Atlanta United (TV: FS1) – Atlanta had a very impressive win against a Philadelphia team who just wouldn’t die last week. They went up 1-0 on Thursday, a situation where most clubs seem to fall apart against Atlanta, but Philly kept themselves in it and even had more of the ball in the 2nd half. But what impressed me the most is that they kept their defensive discipline even with a ragtag backline and earned a clean sheet. Not only are they the only club to earn a clean sheet in these playoffs, but they now have two to their name. Their home field advantage is also something to not look past. They were 2nd in points at home this season in the league and had the 2nd best goals against tally at the fortress that is Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Toronto meanwhile has had an interesting road to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. In the first round, they took DC United to extra time after conceding in the 90th but then scored four goals in that overtime period to win 5-1. In the next round at NYCFC, they didn’t play all that well and scraped by due to a 90th minute penalty scored by Pozuelo. They’ve only had one clean sheet in their last sixteen matches and lost 2-0 when they went to Atlanta back in May. Altidore will be a game time decision and will likely only be available off the bench, giving me less confidence in Toronto on Wednesday. They will need to limit Atlanta’s potent attack, a tall order for a team who was tied for 9th in the East in goals against.

I feel like Atlanta are way more equipped at home to take on this Toronto team, especially if Toronto has trouble keeping a clean sheet. The energy of likely 60-70,000 people will be too much for Toronto and I love Atlanta United to cruise to the MLS Cup Final. Atlanta United -0.5 (-120).

As I said before, this league is one of the most entertaining sports leagues in the world. It never settles down, there are 900 turnovers a game, the refs are laughably bad and the games are high scoring. In the playoffs, all of these are accentuated and the quality is a bit better than usual. I hope you can enjoy!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Nico

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