Union too Strong in the Semis

Cincinnati pulled off an impressive win in the MLS playoffs’ First Round, but Philadelphia Union look too strong to get past in the semi-finals.

Who do Bettors Favor?

According to the best-rated online sportsbooks, Philadelphia Union are the big favorite among bettors to win the first of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. They are priced at around -165 with bookmakers, while Cincinnati, who upset the odds to get to this stage, are rated at +430 to win the game, and the normal time tie can be backed at +330.

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Betting on the MLS Playoffs First Round

There are now only eight teams remaining in the MLS playoffs, four in each conference and these eight will battle to progress to the Conference Finals and then to the MLS Cup Final itself. In the East, Philadelphia finished top of the regular season standings, so it received a bye to this stage and will have home advantage in both the Semi-Finals and Final, but not in the MLS Cup Final itself if they reach it.

Philadelphia the Favorites

After missing out on the MLS Cup Final last season, Philadelphia Union have left nothing to chance this season and have been the standout team in the East from the beginning.

They won five and drew one out of their first six, and although they went through a spell of drawing too many games in May, coach Jim Curtin restored the balance between offense and defense in the summer as they won 12 out of their last 15 games to finish top of the regular standings.

Star of the show this season has been Hungarian forward Daniel Gazdag. After a quiet debut season in 2021, he scored 22 goals in the regular season, tying for second in the scoring lists, as well as contributing ten assists as the Union top scored in the East. But Philadelphia also boasted the best regular season defensive record, and it’s not hard to see why they are the favorites here.

Cincinnati Aim for an Upset

Cincinnati improved dramatically this season, eventually finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference, with an impressive 29 points more than they managed last year. They were involved in some high-scoring games this year, eventually finishing with the second-highest goal tally in the East, but their defensive struggles held them back. They conceded 56 goals, which is tied for the worst of the 14 teams in the playoffs.

Heading into the playoffs, they were big outsiders as they took on NY Red Bulls on the road, but despite going behind in that game, they showed how dangerous they could be, winning 2-1 and arguably deserving of a bigger margin as Brenner missed a clear chance and they had a goal wiped out for off-side.

They are aiming for an even bigger upset here, but their prolific goal-scoring form and the threat posed by Brenner and Brandon Vazquez means that they will always have a chance against any opponent.

Head-to-Head MLS Record

Cincinnati joined MLS in 2019 so this is a relatively recent Eastern Conference rivalry, with only eight games between them, although until this season, the head-to-head record was one-sided.

Philadelphia won that first meeting, in March 2019, and won five of their first seven games against these opponents, with two draws. However, interestingly, Cincinnati’s first win against Philadelphia was their last game, in August this year, when they beat the Union 3-1 at TQL Stadium.

Team News

Philadelphia will be more or less at full strength here. Curtin will be able to welcome back Kai Wagner, who finished the regular season with 15 assists, but was suspended for the final game against Toronto. Alejandro Bedoya may also be available after he was listed as questionable with a hip flexor strain.

Cincinnati have similarly positive team news. They are still missing goalkeeper Beckham Sunderland, and Kenneth Vermeer is still out with a torn pectoral muscle, but otherwise should be at full strength for the trip to Philadelphia.

Betting Pick for MLS Semi-Finals

In the First Round, Cincinnati faced a relatively strong defensive side in NY Red Bulls but were not up against opponents who could match them for firepower, but that is categorically not the case this time as they go east to take on the most complete team in MLS.

Philadelphia finished with the best offensive and defensive record in the league but they were particularly dominant on their home turf, and they closed out the regular season in some style. They scored 30 goals in their last seven home games across all competitions. Meanwhile, at the other end, they conceded three.

Admittedly most of those games were against teams out of playoff contention, and Cincinnati can possibly match the Union in terms of chance creation, but they are surely too open at the back to be able to withstand Philadelphia, and the home team are the pick to win this one.

PhiladelphiaTo beat Cincinnati
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Pandora Hughes

Pandora Hughes has been working in the betting industry for over 15 years and has written for some of the big players in the sector, including Betfair, ESPN and Sporting Life. She has an in-depth knowledge of sports betting and you can read her reviews, features and previews on this site.

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