MLS Betting: Best bets for all conference semi-finals first legs

Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz
Raul Ruidiaz has five goals in his last three games for Seattle Sounders
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Dave Farrar predicts the Sounders will succeed in Portland, New York Red Bulls have their day in Columbus, Atlanta are over-rated and Sporting KC the sides to watch for MLS Cup glory...

“The brutal MLS post season process continues this weekend after a midweek Knockout Round of unbelievable drama, and now the top seeded teams, fresh after a week off, join the party.”

Sounders to sweep through

Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders
Sunday, 22:30
Live on Sky Sports Football

The brutal MLS post season process continues this weekend after a midweek Knockout Round of unbelievable drama, and now the top seeded teams, fresh after a week off, join the party.

The Portland Timbers were involved in one of the ugliest post season games that I can remember as they did this column proud and went to FC Dallas and won, but it's a game that may well have taken a toll.

The Timbers relied pretty much entirely on the brilliance of Diego Valeri to get them through in Texas, and Seattle will be much better placed than FC Dallas were to deal with him, while offering a lot more going forward than the Texans.

Seattle look to have timed their tilt at the post season perfectly once again and finished the season in good form, winning their last five. They have freshness on their side, and Portland, who looked poor defensively against Dallas, will have to cope without the suspended Larry Mabiala, after his red card in that game.

Seattle have made a habit in recent Play Offs of getting the job done in the first leg and I think that they'll do that here, against a tired and dispirited Portland team who are over reliant on one player. The Timbers may have beaten the Sounders twice this season, but Seattle won their most recent meeting, here in August, and that's our best guide for this game.

Red Bulls to beat tired Crew

Columbus Crew v New York Red Bulls
Sunday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Football

The New York Red Bulls are the top seeds and they head for a Columbus Crew team who showed immense stickability in their penalty shootout win at Wayne Rooney's DC United and now have to go again, after a two-day break, against the Supporters Shield winners.

The Crew are an ageing team, and I have my doubts as to whether Federico Higuain and co can produce another stellar display, especially given the high tempo nature of the DCU game and the fact that it went to penalties.

The Red Bulls are the best team in MLS, the stats say so, and they look a big price to get this Play Off job just about done in the away leg. In the regular season, the Crew won in New York and the teams drew here, but this is now a better, more cohesive Red Bulls team, and a Columbus group which may just about out on its feet, both emotionally and physically.

The Red Bulls look a big price to go to Ohio and win, and that has to be the bet here.

Atlanta peaked too soon

NYCFC v Atlanta United
Monday, 00:30
Live on Sky Sports Football

Even though NYCFC had to play a knockout round game, and disposed of the Philadelphia Union fairly comfortably, their long break near the end of the regular season means that they're as fresh as any team in the post season. Now that they have their stars back to full fitness, and appear to be gathering momentum, they pose a serious threat to Atlanta United.

I'm surprised to see that Atlanta are still considered favourites by many layers to win MLS Cup, as they strike me as the typical MLS team that has peaked a little too soon. Their best player Miguel Almiron has been out with injury, their scoring sensation Josef Martinez has lost a bit of the spring in his step, and with news that their Coach Tata Martino will be leaving the club at the end of the season, there's a sense of vulnerability about them.

Whether NYCFC can beat them over two legs is one thing, but I believe that they have a great opportunity of winning this first leg, and giving themselves a chance. Dome Torrent's men know that they might need a two goal advantage to take to Mercedes Benz Stadium and I expect them to go for it here. There'll probably be goals, and NYCFC look well priced to win.

End of the line for Real Salt Lake

RSL v Sporting KC
Monday, 03:00
Live on Sky Sports Football

RSL pulled off an unbelievable win at LAFC in midweek and they deserve great credit to have come this far. They only made the play offs because of the LA Galaxy's implosion against the Houston Dynamo, and there are some starting to wonder if their name is on MLS Cup.

Much though I admire them, and their lunatic Coach Mike Petke, I think that this might be as far as they go. They face a Sporting KC side who many shrewd observers think will win MLS Cup, and SKC, like Seattle and the Red Bulls, have freshness on their side.

Peter Vermes knows how to win these games, and he has a talented forward line who've been getting the job done for him this season. RSL had the edge in the regular season, but SKC are peaking at the right time and, like Seattle in Portland, I think that they'll get the job done in this first leg, and that we'll be looking at a Seattle v Sporting KC in one Conference Final, and a New York derby in the other, as the fun of the MLS post season continues.

P/L 2018 Post Season

Staked: 4 Points
Returned: 8.2 Points
P/L: +4.2 points

P/L 2018 Regular Season

Staked: 96 points
Returned: 116.49 points
P/L +20.49 points

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