There is a place in the Eastern Conference Final up for grabs and playing for a place in that prestigious fixture will be FC Cincinnati and the Philadelphia Union, who will clash in Ohio (8pm ET Saturday). Who goes through? This preview with its betting predictions and picks has the answer.
After what was a truly fantastic campaign, their best since entering Major League Soccer in 2019, FC Cincinnati were always going to be in the playoffs. They breezed through, finishing the regular season as the top team in the Eastern Conference, finishing six points in front of their nearest pursuers. As the team to finish the regular season top of the pile in the east, they had the luxury of skipping the first playoff round, enjoying a nice rest before somewhat easily defeating the New York Red Bulls in the new best-of-three quarter-final series. They got the job done in just two games, scoring a total of five and conceding just one.
For Philly, the road to the conference semifinals hasn’t been as easy to follow. They too enjoyed a pleasing regular campaign, finishing the campaign in a lofty fourth position, which afforded them a rest while several teams battled it out in the wild card games. However, they found it harder to make it through the best-of-three series, edging out the New England Revolution in three games. Their 3-1 win on home soil cancelled out a 2-1 loss on the road, before they ground out a 0-1 win, earning a 2-1 series success.
FC Cincinnati hard to beat at home
If we know one thing about FC Cincinnati, besides the fact that they have got one of the most dangerous offensive players in the MLS in Luciano Acosta, it’s that they’re incredibly difficult to face at home. During the regular season, they lost just two matches at TQL Stadium, tying only two of their other 15. No Eastern Conference team picked up more home wins than Pat Noonan’s squad, a fact that should give the hosts lots of confidence ahead of this clash.
Last time out at home against a decent RBNY team, Saturday’s hosts really did show what they are made of in that final third. They were clinical in attack, scoring three goals, with forward Alvaro Barreal stepping up to compliment the brilliance of fellow Argentinian Acosta, while they also did a great job of keeping things tight at the back. Much has been made of their offensive efforts this season, but we should not forget that during the regular season, they did a fantastic job of keeping teams at bay, conceding the joint least number of home goals in the Eastern Conference, surrendering an average of just 0.76 goals per home game.
More needed from Philadelphia Union on the road
The Union do come into this game after fighting hard for that one-goal win at Gillette Stadium. They will almost certainly need to pull out more to repeat that trick here, especially as they profited from their opponents having a player sent off before half time.
Prior to that narrow win against the Revs, the Union were without an away win in four, as they lost to both New England and Toronto, as well as drawing away at Charlotte and the Columbus Crew. They are certainly capable of making headway in the final third on the road, as their record of scoring in each of their eight away games shows, though they have scored more than once in only three of those eight, keeping only two clean sheets, conceding two or more in four. Over the course of the regular season, they also conceded, on average, 1.64 goals per game, which does not look great when put next to Cincinnati’s average of only 0.76 goals against per game at home.
More of the same from Cincinnati?
When the teams met at this venue earlier in the campaign, back in April, Saturday’s hosts earned themselves a 1-0 victory thanks to Luciano Acosta’s second-half strike from the penalty spot, a goal that rounded off what was quite a dominant performance. They will be looking for something similar here. When the teams met later in the regular campaign, in Philadelphia, they drew 2-2, with Cincinnati fighting back from two goals down to earn a point, after again having the better of the contest in terms of high-quality chances created.
Interestingly, Saturday’s hosts have now won each of their last two home games against the Union, scoring four goals and conceding just one in the process.
Cincy hard to oppose in the betting
From a betting point of view, Cincy are hard to oppose. They have all the credentials of a team that can go all the way to MLS Cup, so it would be no surprise at all if they got the job done here in relatively straightforward fashion, though for this preview’s money, the best play is not to bet on the hosts to win, but to score at least two goals.
As touched on above, the Union haven’t covered themselves in glory defensively on their travels. Before tying the series against the Revs during the previous round, they conceded two goals on the road, surrendering a rather sizable 2.08 expected goals. If we factor in both that Noonan’s men scored an average of 1.94 goals per home game during the regular season and how they notched three at home to the Red Bulls in the previous round, the odds on offer start to look a little generous.
After all, we’re talking about a home team that has arguably the most creative and dangerous offensive player in all of MLS in their forward line. They have scored two or more in three of their last four at home, plus they scored twice when last playing the Union.
So for the betting predictions and picks for this MLS playoff preview, we stick with this one:
- FC Cincinnati to Score Over 1.5 Goals @ -115 with Bovada.