The two most recent MLS Cup champions and two teams that have never won a league title will square off in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday and Thursday. Star-crossed New York City FC will host 2017 MLS Cup winner Toronto FC this Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET on FS1, and 2018 MLS Cup champion Atlanta United will host the Philadelphia Union Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The winners of these games will square off in the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday, October 30, for a spot in the MLS Cup Final on November 10.
MLS Eastern Conference First Round Betting Odds at BookMaker.eu
New York City FC -114
Toronto FC +267
This is a familiar position for the Bronx Blues. New York City FC have been one of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference for each of the last four seasons, but they have yet to advance to the conference finals. For the first time ever, they are a No. 1 seed though, and NYCFC are optimistic that the new playoff format will be to their benefit.
Unfortunately for the hosts, Toronto FC have a great track record against them this season. The Reds dealt NYCFC their biggest defeat of the season in late March, crushing the Bronx Blues 4-0 thanks to goals from Jozy Altidore, Jay Chapman, and a brace from Alejandro Pozuelo. NYCFC could only squeak out a 1-1 draw when they met in the Big Apple last month, and they were lucky to get a point from the match as Pozuelo failed to convert a penalty late in the match.
Altidore and Pozuelo are the two main weapons for the visitors. Both players finished with double-digit goals this season, and they have played a major role in Toronto FC’s 11-match result streak. Jonathan Osorio has been sharp recently too, notching a brace in extra time in Toronto’s 5-1 win over DC United in the first round on Saturday. Osorio may need to fill Altidore’s shoes after Altidore could not play this weekend due to a quad strain. Altidore is currently listed as questionable.
Maxi Moralez and Heber have formed an excellent combination for NYCFC. There were worries that NYCFC would struggle up front without all-time leading scorer David Villa, but Heber and Moralez have linked up well since the Brazilian was brought in back in March. Moralez ended the season as the league leader in assists (20), while Heber was the second-leading scorer in the Eastern Conference with 15 goals in just 22 appearances.
NYCFC will have a rest advantage on Wednesday night, but there is a major concern for this club. Heber missed the season finale against Philadelphia Union with an injury, and manager Dome Torrent has been mum about his availability.
Atlanta United FC -142
Philadelphia Union +344
A decade-long run of postseason failures is finally over. Philadelphia won their first playoff match after a thrilling 4-3 victory over the New York Red Bulls this weekend. The Union overcame two separate two-goal deficits to secure the win, and a burden has been lifted off the shoulders of these players.
Star forward Kacper Przybylko missed that match due to a foot injury, and he is questionable ahead of Thursday’s match with Atlanta. If he is unavailable, that would rob the Union of their best goal scorer, and that would seriously hamper them against the conference’s best attack.
Philadelphia has a great history against Atlanta this season with one win and one draw against the defending champions, but Josef Martinez will be the best player on the pitch. Martinez has been unstoppable with 58 goals over the last two seasons, and he should get on the board against the Union in an Atlanta victory on Thursday.
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