MLS Picks: 2017 Conference Champions and MLS Cup

After one leg of the conference championships, all signs are pointing to a repeat of the 2016 MLS Cup final. The Seattle Sounders all but punched their ticket with a 2-0 away win over the Houston Dynamo, while Toronto FC will be big favorites at home in the second leg after drawing 0-0 away with the Columbus Crew.

The MLS Cup finalists will be decided next Wednesday and Thursday (November 29th & 30th) when the teams meet again for the second leg of their two-game aggregate goals series. Where’s the value for bettors?

Toronto FC (-165) vs Columbus Crew (+450), Draw (+265)

Wednesday, November 29th at BMO Field, Toronto

Neither Toronto nor Columbus will be happy with their 0-0 draw in the first leg. The Crew, who may have just played their final match in Columbus (#savethecrew), were hoping to land a decisive blow against a substandard TFC lineup; Toronto, meanwhile, were hoping to replicate their 5-0 thrashing against the Crew earlier this season.

Another five-goal win was, of course, a pipedream for TFC, who headed into the conference final sans their prized goal-scoring duo of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Both received one-match suspensions during a sloppy conference semifinals against the New York Red Bulls. Without them, Toronto’s attack looked lost, firing just six shots at goal and landing zero on target. Columbus keeper Zack Steffen wasn’t forced to make a single save all game.

Columbus tested TFC keeper Alexander Bono on three occasions, but their shots on target came from well outside the box and never really posed a significant threat. It was a muted affair fitting of a 0-0 scoreline.

The second leg won’t be so subdued. Toronto returns to BMO Field, where they have only lost twice this season, with their two star strikers back in uniform. If the Crew couldn’t punish an under-manned TFC in Columbus, they’ll really struggle against TFC’s best 11 at BMO Field.

Pick: Toronto FC (-165)

MLS Picks: 2017 Conference Champions and MLS Cup
Sounders win MLS Cup. Photo credit: Francoise (Flickr) CC License

Seattle Sounders (-125) vs Houston Dynamo (+310), Draw (+265)

Thursday, November 30th at CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Despite a lackluster performance by Clint Dempsey, the Sounders were able to coast to a comfortable 2-0 victory on the road in the first leg, and it would’ve been 3-0 if Nicolás Lodeiro had successfully converted his penalty.

Closing a two-goal deficit against Seattle on the road is a near-impossible task for Houston. Their away record during the regular season (1-7-9) is among the worst in the MLS. Of the 50 points they collected throughout the season, only ten came from away games. Meanwhile, the Sounders have only lost one game at CenturyLink Field this year.

The one glimmer of hope for Houston is that Roman Torres, the cornerstone of the Sounders defense, will miss the second leg after needlessly picking up a yellow card. Will they be able to capitalize on that and seal their second away win of the 2017 season? It’s extremely unlikely. While there’s a decent chance the Sounders sit back, knowing they don’t need any more goals to advance, the home team is still the play.

Pick: Seattle Sounders (-125)

2017 MLS Cup Odds

Toronto FC: -110
Seattle Sounders: +137
Columbus Crew: +500
Houston Dynamo: +5000

Though it’s hardly set in stone, fans are already preparing for another Seattle/Toronto MLS Cup final. After losing 2-0 at home to the Sounders (+137), the Dynamo (+5000) are facing extremely long odds to win the cup, and there’s no point wasting any of your pocket change there. While the Crew (+500) held Toronto (-110) to a goalless draw in the first leg, they’ll have to step up their game in order to survive against a full-strength TFC at BMO Field. The chances of the Crew beating TFC and then Seattle in the final are slim, and their +500 odds (which carry a 16.67% implied probability) overestimate their chances.

That leaves the two favorites, Toronto and Seattle.

Last year, Toronto dominated the Sounders only to lose on penalties. Through 90 minutes of regular time and 30 minutes of extra time, Seattle fumbled their chances and failed to land a single shot on goal. Toronto, on the other hand, racked up seven shots on target and were extremely unlucky to come up empty-handed.

With a record-breaking 69 points over the regular season, TFC have shown that they are a couple notches above the rest of the MLS. Their depth and consistency sets them apart from the rest of the league and, if they reach the MLS Cup final, they will once again play in front of a home crowd. With so many factors pointing toward a TFC win, our advice is to side with the favorites.

Pick: Toronto FC (-110)

Eaton Thatcher

Eaton used to write for MTS predominantly about boxing but also about soccer, football, tennis and basketball.

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