Thanks for joining us here at i80 Sports for another week of our "Toll Booth" articles- covering the best bets of the week in Major League Soccer. We have had a great season together- 169.5 units wagered and a 43.62 unit return!
For those new to sportsbook picks, that means If you used a $10 per unit bet, we would have placed $1,695 in wagers and WON $436.20!
Now- let's take a look into the MLS Cup Playoff's first round.
Match- Philadelphia Union host Red Bull NY
Pick- Union +110
The Philadelphia Union are 4w-2d-0l in their last 6 meetings with Red Bull and are playing great at home. In fact, their 11-3-3 home record is second best in the league. They are also in great form- losing only one of their last 11 games- their loss to Minnesota United.
Red Bull, on the other hand, are in a surprising form of their own- losing only one of their last 12 games (a 1-0 loss to DC United). However, they have drawn their last two matches- games where they could secure the playoff trip with a victory.
RBNY has strength in tactics and formation- playing a high press and looking to force errors. Not only does Philadelphia employ a similar tactic, but I think their narrow formation and superior midfield (Flach, Bedoya, and Martinez) will give them more than just a home-field advantage.
Key to the Match-
Philadelphia's key will be scoring against a tough backline- RBNY has allowed a league leading 33 goals in 34 games this season.
While this is a tough task, a large attacker like Kacper Przybylko is just the man for the job. Last time these teams matched up Przybylko hit the post MULTIPLE times on headers- and I think he can find the back of the net in a close game.
Match- Sporting KC host Vancouver Whitecaps
Pick- Whitecaps +380
Earlier this month Sporting KC needed only one win in their last three matches to secure the second seed in the west. They secured zero points- dropping each game. They get a home match here but they also have one of the smallest home-field advantages in the league- playing only 13% better at home through the 2021 season.
Whitecaps, however, have finished strong. They are unbeaten in six and are poised to make an improbable playoff run.
Key to the Match-
Sporting has some injuries they are dealing with- Gadi Kinda, Johnny Russell, and Ilie Sanchez are all dealing with knocks, and forward Alan Pulido looks to be making a long awaited return. This, for me, leaves some question marks as far as team chemistry and fitness.
Vancouver is on the other side of the chemistry and fitness coin- Lucas Cavallini must still be walking on could nine a successful stint with the Canadian National Team (including beating Mexico), and Brian White has 6 goals and 4 assists in his last 8 games.
I will bet on recent form and take the heavy +380 on a Whitecaps bet with great risk-reward potential.
Match- New York City FC host Atlanta United
Pick- NYCFC -155
New York has some roster concerns heading into this game- Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is out with an injury, Gedion Zelalem is out with a red card, and perhaps most concerning is Keaton Parks out for the postseason after having surgery on a blood clot.
Atlanta United looks to see Santiago Sosa and Marcelino Morena return from injuries this week, but we will see if their game-time fitness allows them to play a full match OR to step right back in where they left off.
NYCFC does have a great home-field advantage- they are averaging 2.0 point per game at home and have 53% of their home games as clean sheets. This is no surprised due to the dimensions of the under-sized Yankee Stadium Field which is unwelcoming to opponents.
Key to the Match-
The key to this match is fire-power.
A home playoff game gives players like Valentin Castellanos an advantage- the fan favorite attacker scored 19 goals and 8 assists on his way to leading NYCFC to a playoff berth.
His opposite-team counterpart, Josef Martinez of Atlanta, should find Yankee Stadium as unwelcoming as they come. He has not looked the same since his return from injury and the once-elite striker will be on the losing side of this duel.
Match- Portland Timbers host Minnesota United
Pick- Timbers -115
Portland has looked great lately, including an easy win last week vs Austin- one they did NOT have to win. That match marked their third straight win and their fifth straight contest scoring 2 or more goals. Portland is also 3rd in MLS with 2.09 points per game at home- a calculated 21% advantage over their away games.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has had an on-and-off season- starting with four straight losses before additions like Honou and Fragapane inspired a summer surge. While I love watching Minnesota play, I can not trust them in a Portland away playoff game and will be on the opposing side here.
Key to the Match-
Minnesota United looked poised to have a great season after the magical playoff run of Reynoso during the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. That has come to an end- Reynoso has only 5 goals and 4 assists in his 28 appearances this year.
On the other hand, it seems EVERYONE on this Portland roster is contributing- Mora and Asprilla with 11 and 10 goals respectively and the recent return of Jaroslaw Niezgoda adding another piece to the Timbers' attack. I will take the home team at -115 here.
Match- Nashville SC hosts Orlando City
Pick- Orlando City +300
Nashville and Orlando are each 1w-4d-1l in their previous six matchups, and their four ties show no distinctive historical advantage. This may be the toughest game of the week for me, so it should be no surprise that I am taking the team with the best odds.
Nashville has had a great season with a 12w-18d-4l record, but recently had two chances to secure the 2nd seed in the east. Predictably they tied both (against RBNY and Orlando) in matches they would have loved to walk away with three points.
Orlando, on the other hand, has just one loss in their last 8 games and have had some good results- getting a point each against Nashville and New England. This game can't end in a tie, and I think Orlando can get Nashville to fold under pressure.
Key to the Match-
Nashville has the best player on the field in this game- Hany Mukhtar has been stellar but leads an otherwise weak attack. Randal Leal can play exceptionally but pulls a vanishing act (sometimes for a month at a time) that I can't trust with a serious sportsbook pick.
When we look at Orlando we see a team with more attacking options. Daryl Dike is on a hot streak- scoring in 7 of his last 9 matches. Superstar Nani has gotten some much needed rest with 18 days passing since his last competitive game. Along with Chris Mueller I see an attacking trio poised for a long MLS Playoff run. At +300 Orlando is a bargain this week.
Match- Seattle Sounders host Real Salt Lake
Pick- Real Salt Lake +350
Both teams in this matchup are in questionable form- RSL has lost three straight while Seattle has gone winless in their last six. Seattle will get Roldan and Ruidiaz back from their international duty AND have a great coach in Brian Schmetzer who has done it all before.
On the RSL side of the ball I see both positives and negatives. Damir Kreilach and Rubio Rubin both peaked just a bit too soon and have cooled off from their earlier hot streaks. Both have had good seasons but will look to reignite their fire this postseason. You also have Albert Rusnak with 6 goals in his last 5 games including scoring a brace for Slovakia in the recent World Cup Qualifiers.
Key to the Game-
It is always hard to bet against Seattle in the playoffs, and I would need to see +300 odds for me to even consider taking a wager on the visiting team. Luckily, RSL are at +350 and with three great odds-bets in my portfolio this week, I am CONFIDENT that if even one hits it will cover the rest of my sportsbook picks.
Sometimes in this game it is not about picking the winner but playing the odds. Seattle SHOULD win, but winning $35 on a $10 bet (and cashing out at $45) is exactly the price I am willing to pay for that information.
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