Seattle Sounders preview
Nobody would’ve given the Sounders much of a chance of still being in the competition a few months ago when they were down and out of proceedings. The appointment of Brian Schmetzer as ‘interim’ coach has worked wonders. He re-energised the whole squad and led them on a great run towards the playoffs. In the first round they were lucky to beat SKC, but every team needs a fortunate break if they are to go on and win the MLS Cup. Their 3-0 demolition of DC Dallas in the previous round was clinical and they effectively put the tie to bed within a 10 minute period. Of course the key man is Nicolas Lodeiro. Ever since he arrived mid season he’s had a massive impact on the league. This man totally gets involved in every single aspect of Seattle’s attacking play. Most good things come through him and he’s deadly from set pieces. It looks like rookie Jordan Morris should be fit enough to play following hamstring problems. Left winger Andreas Ivanschitz is rated doubtful. Seattle have dealt with a few injuries in recent weeks but if more players are fit then Schmetzer will have a difficult task selecting the starting XI and certain guys will be disappointed to miss out.
The Rapids were dealt a huge blow during the international break by the news that goalkeeper Tim Howard will be ruled out for up four months due to injury. Howard is the best keeper in MLS and has already played a key part in their season, even though he only arrived half way through it. Colorado actually have a very good backup custodian in Zac Macmath. But he’s a downgrade and come a really crunch situation won't quite be as good as Howard. For this first leg, there’s also some doubt surrounding the fitness of key Albanian playmaker Shkelzen Gashi, although he may well suit up in time. Colorado are so strong at home that they would probably be happy losing by just one goal. They managed to overcome a 0-1 loss at LA Galaxy in the previous round, although losing by a bigger margin would be problematic for a team which lacks offensive weapons.
Conclusion & betting analysis
Seattle are -0.5 Asian handicap favourites around about the 1.80 mark, which is perfectly fair in my opinion. For all of Colorado's excellent efforts this season, it’s Seattle who are the better team and they possess extra weapons like Lodeiro which the Rapids could only dream about having. The biggest strength the visitors have is teamwork, organisation and a general ability to hang in games, very hard to beat. In many way this first leg reminds me of when Seattle were due to face Dallas. We all know what happened on that occasion and I expect something similar again. I’d be surprised if Colorado got blown out of the water so a 1-0 or 2-0 home win is probably the most likely outcome. The Rapids will keep things as close as possible and I doubt they’ll threaten too much. Under 2.25 is probably a good play for this game but my preference is to back the Sounders. They will push all night for an advantage and ultimately I think their extra class will make a big difference.
Recommended bet 1 unit: Seattle Sounders -0.5 @ 1.80