MLS play-offs continue on Thursday night. Will Dyer (@w2Dyer) takes a look at two more games from across the pond.
Montreal Impact v Toronto FC | Thursday 23.00 | Sky Sports 2
Well Wednesday night had its drama as was to be expected. A referee with double standards, some inspired goalkeeping, a wonder goal from Juan Agudelo, DC United coming from behind to win and another home win in Seattle v LA Galaxy. That pretty much sums up Major League Soccer in one night.
The third knockout clash is a Canadian derby at the Stade Saputo between Montreal and Toronto. These two cities don’t get on when it comes to sports; Toronto’s soccer and ice hockey teams both lost in Montreal at the weekend and now the Reds must retrace their steps to their neighbours home again, this time for the biggest match in their club’s short history.
Will Toronto have learnt their lesson from the weekend? I think even if they have it doesn’t mean they’ve got much chance of winning this tie. Didier Drogba has scored 11 goals in as many games since joining Impact in July and Josh Williams and Ahmen Kantari admitted they struggled against the powerful Ivorian.
Drogba’s been around the block a bit. He scored a late equaliser in the Champions League final against Bayern in 2012 and then held his nerve to score the penalty to win the Champions League trophy; arguably the club’s greatest night ever. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.
It’s vital to have players around with this experience in knockout games and it’s not just Drogba that can call on that experience. Montreal’s impressive run to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League saw them navigate many tricky ties and also play in front of 100,000 at the Azteca.
It’s a shame Impact can’t call on Andres Romero, the midfielder has a long term ACL injury but Ignacio Piatti has done just fine creating chances for Drogba without him.
The Reds ended the regular season with back-to-back defeats and have conceded two or more in all of their last eight road games. Whereas, Montreal finished with three wins on the spin and five in a row at home, scoring two or more in every game. Impact have also won five of their last six home games against tonight’s opposition.
Toronto are very weak at the back. They get disorganised quite quickly and don’t close the ball don’t quickly enough. If that reoccurs tonight they will get punished. Sebastian Giovinco is a big danger, the joint top scorer in Major League Soccer and with The Reds at full power in midfield he should get some good service so I do envisage Toronto scoring.
But Montreal have the second best home defensive record in the Conference conceding exactly one goal-per-game. Toronto on the other hand have the second worst away defensive record; conceding just over two goals-per-game.
I like Montreal to win this but also expect the game to have a few goals in it. Eight of Impact’s 11 home wins this season saw the game have three or more goals and 10 of Toronto’s 14 away losses followed that trend to so it makes sense. Montreal to win and Over 2.5 Goals is 11/5 with Bet365.
Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City | Friday 02.00 | Sky Sports 2
This is the toughest of all of the knockout fixtures to call, for me. Portland are the lowest scorers of the 12 qualifying teams but they come into this off the back of nine goals scored in their last two games. SKC make the post-season for the fifth consecutive year.
In the four meetings between the teams since June 2014 the Timbers have failed to score a single goal. Sporting have won two of their last three trips to Oregon; both coming as 1-0 wins. The most recent of them just three-and-a-half weeks ago when Krizstian Nemeth’s late goal secured a crucial three points for the visitors. That was a typical smash and grab away victory for SKC, however.
So, just two goals scored between these sides in the last four head-to-heads points to a low scoring game. Fanendo Adi and Darlington Nagbe have found their shooting boots lately and Sporting will feel a little more confident after scoring twice for the first time in seven matches so I can see why money is coming for Overs but I believe it’s a knee-jerk reaction to last night’s goal-laden games.
Kansas City have only scored more than once in three of their 17 road games this season and the times they did were against some of the worst defences in MLS; at Columbus, Houston and Toronto. Up against one of the sternest defences in Major League Soccer I can’t back them, even at quotes of 7/2.
I think this game will be tight, probably decided by one-goal but the safest bet for me is a play on Under 2.5 Goals (20/23 BetVictor). It would have banked in 12 of Timber’s 17 home games this season and four of Sporting’s last five away games.
We should see the infamous chainsaw celebration at Providence Park tonight but I wouldn’t bank on it. I expect Portland to dominate possession but toil in front of goal. They have done so all year, their 477 chances created and 486 total shots are both league highs but they have a very poor conversion ratio.
Another key stat is Portland’s dominance if they score first. They were undefeated with a W14-D2-L0 record after scoring the first goal in games in the regular season. Sporting will know this and therefore look to notch early on but I expect their chances to be limited. Portland kept a league high 13 clean sheets this season and have kept 35 in total over the last three seasons; another league high. Under 2.5 goals looks a good bet to me.
Montreal Impact v Toronto FC – Montreal Impact to win & Over 2.5 goals (11/5 Bet365)
Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City – Under 2.5 goals (20/23 BetVictor)
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