Real Salt Lake delivered the biggest shock of the MLS playoffs First Round when they knocked out the Seattle Sounders, but they face an equally tough test on Sunday against Kansas. Meanwhile, in the East, Philadelphia will aim to continue their progress against Nashville.
Who do Bettors Favor?
None of the six playoff games so far have been won in normal time by the visiting team and MLS fans looking for the best odds available through online sportsbooks will find that the bookies are once again predicting home wins in the two big Sunday playoff games.
In the East, Philadelphia are solid favorites to beat their rivals Nashville, at -110, while the visitors are rated a +315 chance, while in the West, Kansas are priced up as big favorites at -155 to prevail over the surprise semi-finalists Real Salt Lake, who are available at around +400.
|Philadelphia v Nashville|
Philadelphia v Nashville, 11-28-2021
It was messy, it was scrappy, and coaches watching the game will have found it a bit of a horror show, but Philadelphia scraped past the Red Bulls in the First Round, thanks to a goal by Jakob Glesnes in the 102nd minute. The Union progressed despite having less than 50% of the possession and completing only 59% of their passes (though New York were not much better, on 68%).
But if Philadelphia fans thought that game was a grind, their next encounter, against a stubborn Nashville side, is going to be more of the same.
Their 3-1 victory over Orlando might suggest that Nashville have discovered a more expansive way of playing, but a closer look at that game shows they had only nine shots on goal so can be considered relatively fortunate to score three.
They did, though, come very close to another clean sheet, and it is that defensive quality that will be concerning the Philadelphia coaching team going into this one. Nashville finished the regular season with the joint-best defense in MLS. Finding a way to breach that defense without exposing their own backline will be the key for the Union, who cannot afford to overlook the threat posed by Hany Mukhtar, whose two goals settled the tie against Orlando.
Philadelphia do, however, have something in their favor. While the Nissan Stadium has been a fortress for Nashville this year, they have been less impressive on the road. Their win-loss record as the visiting team is a distinctly unimpressive 4-4, with nine draws.
The question for bettors is whether the Union can get the job done in normal time. Nashville are capable of taking this game the distance, so at the current odds, the normal time draw is the best bet.
|Kansas v Real Salt Lake|
|Real Salt Lake||+410||+360|
Kansas v Real Salt Lake, 11-28-2021
Real Salt Lake defied the odds in their First Round game, matching playoff regulars Seattle all the way to the penalty shootout, which they won 6-5 to record a famous victory.
Can they build on that and cause another shock in Kansas? The bookies appear to think not, although there seems to be less confidence in the markets about Kansas than there was for Seattle.
That seems to be the result of the way that Kansas played in their victory over Vancouver as much as it is a reflection on the underdogs RSL. Kansas emerged with a 3-1 victory over their lower-ranked rivals, and the game appeared effectively sewn up just before the hour mark, but it was far from a convincing display from the home side, who ceded most of the possession and territory to the visitors.
Still, they got the job done and in the playoffs, that is all that counts. They will once again have a home advantage here and despite what happened in Seattle, they have reason to be optimistic. Although RSL’s victory was a dramatic and memorable one, it can hardly be argued that they deserved it. They failed to register a single shot on goal in the entire game, which is a remarkable stat in its own right and even more astonishing when you remember that RSL were one of the regular season’s top scorers.
The other regular-season stat to bear in mind is the fact that RSL ranked as the third-worst in the league for shots allowed. Seattle got off 20 shots in their First Round clash and although they couldn’t find the net, that level of disparity between shots made and shots allowed will catch up with a team sooner, rather than later.
Kansas will have to work hard here against opponents who are likely to adopt the same tactics, but they have a bunch of difference makers in their team, including Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido, and Gadi Kinda and I’m backing them to find a way to end RSL’s playoff run.