MLS Playoffs – Toronto FC v Philadelphia Union Preview (26/10/16)

Toronto FC preview

The Canadians snapped a five game winless streak by beating Chicago Fire 3-2 on Sunday in what was a thrilling match. Manager Greg Vanney said he wanted to take some momentum into the playoffs and they certainly achieved that. Of course, the big difference for TFC recently has been the return of star man Sebastian Giovinco. He missed all of their matches during the aforementioned five game winless run and they badly missed his presence upfront. He is capable of of beating any side on his own and is a total class act. Toronto fielded a full strength side at the weekend so there will be a strong sense of continuity heading into the playoffs. They could opt to line up in a 5-3-2 (wingbacks) formation again, but a more probable scenario is that midfielder Will Johnson returns and they opt for their more common 4-4-2 narrow diamond. TFC have a good overall defensive record in 2016, but have only kept 1 clean sheet in their last 12 games. In recent months they’ve looked more their old usual attack minded self..

Philadelphia preview

With the exception of RSL, no team enters the playoffs in worse form than the Union. For most of the season they punched above their weight, even looking like possible challengers to win the Eastern Conference in the middle of the summer. However, they’ve only won three times since early July and two of the teams they beat were Chicago & Columbus, who finished as the bottom sides in the east. Philly have failed to win any of their last seven games heading into the playoffs, five of which ended in defeats. Quite simply, they have absolutely no momentum and whilst everyone now starts afresh in the playoffs, they would need to dramatically turn around their form to make a deep run. The Union bench rested key players like Barnetta, Sapong & fellow starter Ilsinho at the weeknd. All three of them had been carrying minor injuries. Centre back Joshua Yaro is ruled out which means the slow Kenny Tribbett will once again be the starter in defence.

Conclusion & betting analysis

Neither of these teams have ever won a playoff match, so history will be made at the end of the evening. Toronto aren't setting the world on fire right now but they are clear favourites to win the game, around the 1.60 mark on a -0.5 Asian handicap. Philly are in terrible form and look a spent force. Historically, sides who enter the playoffs in this sort of form don’t last long. Of course, there is a lot of pressure on Toronto to deliver, but when you have proven experienced players like Michael Bradley, Altidore and Giovinco in your side, I have to believe they will do enough to get the job done. Toronto have won 4 of the last 5 meetings between the two teams and I think it’s fair to say they have the wood on Philly. The most recent meeting between the sides was here at BMO Field in September which ended 1-1. But Giovinco didn’t play that day and he’s a massive player for TFC who should made a huge difference here.  I think Toronto will win the game comfortably, so taking them on a -0.75 Asian  handicap makes sense. Over 2.75 is also worth taking due to the poor nature of both defences in recent weeks. There’s a slight doubt if Philly will score here, but even if they don’t the likes of Giovinco & company could cover this line on their own.

Prediction: 3-1

Recommended bets both 1 unit: Toronto FC -0.75 @ 1.77 & Over 2.75 goals @ 1.93