MLS Conference Finals Second Leg: Atlanta set up SKC showdown

Atlanta United Josef Martinez
Josef Martinez and Atlanta United are just too strong for NYRB

Dave Farrar predicts New York Red Bulls to fight back even if they can't overturn a three-goal deficit, while Sporting KC have too much for Portland Timbers...

“Tata Martino’s side come here with the best ever MLS regular season away record and they look certain to go through, and host the 2018 MLS Cup, for which they will be strong favourites.”

Red Bulls won't go without a fight

New York Red Bulls v Atlanta United
Friday, 00:00
Live on Sky Sports Football

The New York Red Bulls have to do something that no team has ever done in postseason history if they're to progress to MLS Cup, and it's hard to see them becoming the first ever MLS team to overcome a three-goal first leg deficit.

I was surprised at the way that they were dominated at the Mercedes Benz Stadium after the way that they had dealt with Atlanta in the regular season. The biggest problem that Chris Armas faces ahead of this second leg is that his team has to go for goals, and that exposes them to precisely what Atlanta are good at: positive, counter-attacking football.

Tata Martino's side come here with the best ever MLS regular season away record and they look certain to go through, and host the 2018 MLS Cup, for which they will be strong favourites.

The only hope for Armas is the fact that his team did win seven regular season home games by three or more goals, and in five of those matches, the Red Bulls actually produced a scoreline that would either win this tie, or take it to extra time. This is Atlanta, though, and it looks a game too far.

In terms of a bet, the game is likely to be wide open, and with both teams' ability in front of goal I think that there'll be chances galore, with the caveat that two early Atlanta goals could knock the stuffing out of the home team. Over 3.5 Goals seems the sensible call, though, with one team going for it, and the other more than capable of using the wide open spaces.

It'll be a game worth watching, but not necessarily one that will end with a seismic shock.

SKC will be OK

Sporting KC v Portland Timbers
Friday, 02:30
Live on Sky Sports Football

Someone told me after the first leg at Providence Park that it would be "just like Portland" to take a score draw away from SKC and scramble into MLS Cup.

I can see the argument, but all logic tells us that SKC are the best team in the West, and that they must start as strong favourites to end the run of Giovanni Savarese's team.

SKC are now unbeaten in their last five against the Timbers, and have only ever lost once at home against them back in 2013. They were outstanding towards the end of the regular season, and now rate the biggest threat to Atlanta United's dream of MLS Cup in their second campaign.

The worry for SKC fans would be that their goalkeeper Tim Melia had an excellent game in the first leg, making six saves and keeping out an inspired Diego Valeri, but can the Timbers produce another display like that at Children's Mercy Park? I'm not so sure.

The regular season game in Portland between these two finished 0-0, and I think that we might see a similar kind of mirroring here. Sporting KC won their regular season home game against the Timbers by a 3-0 scoreline, and I expect something similar. They are excellent defensively at home, and possess enough attacking weapons to get the job done against a team that looks to me as if it has peaked.

I hope too for the League that Peter Vermes' team make it through to MLS Cup, as they would give Atlanta a real challenge, whereas I could see a tired Timbers being blown away.

P/L 2018 Post Season

Staked: 13 Points
Returned: 12.3 Points
P/L: - 0.7 points

P/L 2018 Regular Season

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

Dave Farrar,

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