After a long and grueling season, only two teams are left standing. On December 11, Portland Timbers, bidding for their second MLS Cup will take on NYCFC who have reached the final for the first time in their history. So who will prevail? Read on for all the latest MLS betting picks.
Who do Bettors Favor?
The play-offs produced plenty of drama and more than one upset, and with two strong teams going head to head in Saturday’s final, bookmakers are understandably taking the cautious approach. Bettors checking out the top online sportsbooks ahead of the big game will find that Portland, who will have home advantage, are the +180 outsiders, while NYCFC are favorites at +165 and the draw is +225.
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How Did Portland Get to the Final?
Portland have secured home advantage for the MLS Cup, but their route to the final was a long and tortuous one. They lost three of their first four and it wasn’t until the end of August that they found any form. Between August 29 and October 3, they won seven out of eight, which was enough to propel them into the top four. A solid win against Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs was then followed by a more impressive win in Colorado before they ended Real Salt Lake’s dream run in the Conference Final.
Are NYCFC In Form?
NYCFC are playing in their first-ever MLS Cup Final but they certainly had to work hard to get there. A rollercoaster of a season was ultimately saved by a run of three wins and a draw to close out the regular campaign, leaving them fourth in the East, though level on points with Atlanta and Orlando.
That gave them home advantage in the first round of the playoffs and they saw off Atlanta 2-0 before heading to the Supporters Shield winners New England Revolution. An epic clash saw NYCFC emerge with the victory thanks to a penalty shoot-out and then they came from behind against a weakened Philadelphia side in the Conference Final, winning thanks to an 88th-minute goal from Talles Magno.
What Changes will be Made Ahead of the Cup Final?
After their dominant showing against RSL, Portland could be even stronger for the final as they have two players to return to the starting lineup who could both be match-winners.
Dairon Asprilla was sent off in the game against Colorado but will be back on Saturday and Sebastian Blanco, who was on the bench for the RSL game, should come back into the team, assuming that he is fully fit, and his presence in particular, as the team’s main playmaker and attack leader, will be vital.
NYCFC fans will also be looking forward to the return of Taty Castellanos, who was missing against Philadelphia due to a red card picked up against New England. The MLS joint top scorer, who could clinch the Golden Boot with a goal in the final, will provide a greater cutting edge for the visitors.
Best Bet for the MLS Cup Final
Portland have the versatility to play on the counter or to hurt their opponents with possession, but it is the former approach that is most deadly in the play-offs, and given the way that NYCFC tend to play, this seems the most logical gameplan, despite playing in front of their home crowd.
That crowd is another key factor. Although this is their third MLS Cup final, it will be their first at Providence Park, and if the atmosphere for this match is anything like the Conference Final against RSL, then the home side will get a major boost, while NYCFC will definitely feel like outsiders.
The visitors have plenty of class in their ranks and in Castellanos, they have a dangerous striker who will provide a far more serious threat to the Portland defense than anything they faced against RSL. And although NYCFC were fortunate to come up against a Philadelphia team missing 11 first-team players in the Conference Finals, their win over New England in the Semi-Finals was impressive.
Still, I think home advantage and play-off Final experience will be important here, along with Portland’s greater versatility in their style of play. This should be a fascinating game but the Timbers look a solid wager to lift the Cup for the second time in franchise history.
Other MLS Cup Final Bets
Big games like this can be cagey, cautious affairs, but both of these teams like to get forward and both are packed with goalscoring ability.
Portland were the second-highest scoring team in the West during the regular season, while NYCFC were the second top scorers in the East. If both teams are at their best, there could be plenty of goal action in this one, so a wager on the Over 2.5 goals option looks a good way to go.