Montreal are favorites to beat NYCFC in their Eastern Conference semi-final but they should be a shorter price and are underrated against the defending champions.
Who do Bettors Favor?
According to the best-rated online sportsbooks Montreal is the favorite among bettors to win their Eastern Conference semi-finals against NYCFC. The Canadian team are rated as +102 to come out on top, with the visitors priced at +270 and the draw around +255.
|Montreal v NYCFC|
Betting on the MLS Playoffs First Round
There are just eight teams still standing in the MLS playoffs, with four from each conference and these eight will play out four semi-finals, with the winners going on to the Conference Finals, which will decide the MLS Cup finalistsf. In the East, Montreal finished second in the regular season standings, so have home advantage here against NYCFC who finished third. If either team make it to the MLS Cup Final, however, home advantage will be determined by points gained during the regular season.
Montreal Look Underrated
Montreal have not been given the credit they deserve for their strong finish to the regular season, and they once again look underrated as they prepare for their semi-final date with NYCFC.
They only lost one of their last 15 games and finished second in the Eastern Conference, behind only Philadelphia, who they may meet in the Conference Final. That performance was due to being strong with and without the ball. They had the third-best offense in the East and the fifth-best defense, but their consistency enabled them to outperform all but one of their rivals and they finished ten points clear of NYCFC and just two points behind Philadelphia.
There are few stars in the Montreal squad, but they have depth in all areas and crucial experience, so are well-equipped to handle the stresses of the playoffs.
Title Defense Tough for NYCFC
Defending an MLS Cup championship is tough, and getting tougher. Only two teams have ever managed it: Houston and LA Galaxy, and none have done it since 2012, since when further expansion of the league has made it even tougher to defend a title.
It is no surprise, therefore, to find that NYCFC are finding their defense tough, but they have at least been able to dig deep to secure a playoff spot and then reach the semi-final, after a dramatic season that was largely defined by the departure of Taty Castellanos for Girona on loan.
Prior to his departure on July 25, they had only lost one of their previous 16 games, but they won just one of their next ten before eventually salvaging their playoff hopes with three narrow wins to close out the season. A 3-0 win over Inter Miami in the First Round was an improvement, although they left it late in that game, with all three of their goals coming in the last half an hour.
Head-to-Head MLS Record
NYCFC joined MLS in 2015 and since then, have met Montreal on 18 occasions. The New York side have dominated the head-to-head record, winning ten times, while Montreal have only two wins to show from this rivalry, along with six tied games.
They have met twice this season. In March, NYCFC ran out as comfortable winners 4-1 in New York, but the reverse fixture was a lot closer and saw Montreal hold their opponents to a 0-0 draw.
The team news for Montreal is largely unchanged since the First Round win over Inter Miami and Wilfried Nancy has a mostly fit squad to choose from. The exceptions are Tomas Giraldo, who is out with a foot injury and Ahmed Hamdi who is on the injury list after suffering a knock to his right leg.
Going into the playoff First Round game, NYCFC were without three first team players and all three are doubtful for the semi-final. Midfielder Alfredo Morales is still struggling with a calf problem, while striker Talles Magno and defender Tayvon Gray are also questionable ahead of this game.
Betting Pick for MLS Semi Finals
Regular season form is sometimes overturned in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean it is not a good guide to the overall ability of a team. In fact, surprise playoff results are often the result of teams struggling with the additional pressure, often due to lack of experience.
There will be plenty of fans who will be picking NYCFC here on the grounds that they have now won their last four games, but Montreal also finished the season strongly, and ten points ahead of NYCFC.
One factor that might be in the New Yorkers’ favor here is the relatively poor record that Montreal have established at home. Of their nine regular-season defeats, five came on their own patch. In fact, had the regular season standings been based on home form alone, Montreal would have been fourth.
Unfortunately for NYCFC, had the regular season been based on away form, they would have finished fifth in the East, indicating that they have struggled slightly more on the road. Montreal are the better team, they have home advantage and they look undervalued in the betting markets so they are a clear betting pick to win this one.