Cincinnati are the big underdogs against NY Red Bulls in the MLS Eastern Conference playoffs but they can cause an upset in New York.
Who do Bettors Favor?
According to the best-rated online sportsbooks the first of the three Eastern Conference Round One games will be a one-sided event. The Red Bulls are favored by bettors at around -105 while the visitors can be backed at +280 and the draw is priced around +270.
|NY Red Bulls v Cincinnati|
Betting on the MLS Playoffs First Round
Philadelphia Union topped the Eastern Conference in the regular season so they will have a bye to the Conference semi-finals. The next six teams in the table at the end of the regular season will play off in three games, which take place on October 15, 16 and 17.
The winner of the first tie between NY Red Bulls and Cincinnati will take on Philadelphia in the first semi-final, while the winners of the other two ties will feature in the remaining semi-final. The two semi-final winners will then meet in the Conference final and the two Conference winners will contest the MLS Cup. Finishing position in the regular season determines home advantage throughout the playoffs until the MLS Cup final itself, when the team with the most regular season points will be at home.
NY Red Bulls v Cincinnati, 2022-10-15
New York Red Bulls are one of the most distinctive teams in MLS with their memorable style of play. Unfortunately, they also have the distinction of regularly falling short in the playoffs. Since 2003 they have made the playoffs in every year bar one. And all they have to show for it is one runners-up place in 2008. In each of the last three seasons, they’ve gone out at the first opportunity.
The Red Bulls can be irresistible, thanks to their combination of energetic youth and relentless pressing. But history suggests that you need experienced heads in the playoffs and it remains to be seen how the Red Bulls will cope with the pressure and expectation of home advantage.
It doesn’t help, either that their First Round opponents are hard to predict. Cincinnati’s defense is often fragile which means that they lack the consistency to go all the way to the MLS Cup final. But their forward line of Luciano Acosta, Brandon Vazquez and Brenner is one of the most dangerous in MLS. Only Philadelphia scored more goals in the regular season so at the current odds it is worth taking a chance on Cincinnati springing a surprise in New York.
Montreal v Orlando, 2022-10-16
Montreal finished second in the East during the regular season, surprising a few pundits and they look like a solid bet to progress to the Conference Semi-Finals at a minimum.
There are no stars in the Montreal squad and two of their main players, Djordje Mihailovic and Romell Quito, have struggled with injury, but this is a well-balanced roster with plenty of experience, which gives them a chance of progressing through the playoffs.
Their opponents cannot be underestimated, given their success in the US Open Cup, which at least demonstrated that they could handle the pressures of knock-out football. But they have lost four out of six games since the Cup final, and they finished 17 points behind Montreal in the regular season. They will put up a fight, but ultimately, Montreal will be too strong in this contest.
NYCFC v Inter Miami, 2022-10-17
The defending MLS Cup champions NYCFC were in a strong position going into August, but then suffered a nightmare run of bad form that coincided with the loss of Valentin Castellano who moved on a loan deal to Girona. They lost five from six in August, and a run of one win in nine saw them slip down the table. A run of three wins to end the regular season ensured that disaster was avoided, however, and, in the event, they qualified third in the East, edging out their city rivals.
They are up against a top-heavy Inter Miami team, which depends almost entirely on Gonzalo Higuain, with support from Alejandro Pozuelo. Like many teams in MLS, Inter are dangerous in attack but inconsistent in defense, although their run of four wins from five to close out the season saw them only concede seven goals, which suggests some moderate defensive improvement.
This game looks difficult to weigh up, as both teams have their weaknesses, and a further complicating issue is the fact that NYCFC will have to play this game at the Red Bull Arena due to the ongoing MLB Playoffs. They are the stronger team, but I can see this game ending in a normal-time draw.