The Major League Soccer playoffs are getting serious, reaching the semifinal stage. On Sunday (3pm ET), Austin FC will travel to take on Los Angeles FC as the pair fight for a place in the season finale. Can the Texas side keep themselves in the hunt for MLS glory? Or will the imperious hosts confirm favoritism at Banc of California Stadium?
To answer those questions, read on for our Austin vs LAFC predictions and betting picks as part of this matchup preview.
Thanks to their excellent efforts during the regular season, where they made light work of topping the Western Conference, LAFC have had the luxury of playing just one game ahead of this semifinal clash. They were made to work in that one game, though, by none other than their city rivals LA Galaxy.
Despite having home advantage, it was anything but easy for Steve Cherundolo’s men, who were twice pegged back. Their place in the final four was eventually decided by a 93rd minute strike from Cristian Arango, who after Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond spilled, was on hand to fire in from close range. Sunday’s hosts have now won 10 of their last 11 competitive home games and are looking strong ahead of this one.
Sunday’s visitors have had a bit more to endure during the playoffs. They very nearly slipped up against Real Salt Lake first time out, going down by two goals early in the game. After just about making it through, they needed to improve against FC Dallas, and improve they did.
Fortunately, Josh Wolff’s men were much faster out of the gates last time out. They took a two-goal lead during what was a commanding first half for the green and blacks, and although their advantage was cut in half during the second 45, they stood strong. Such an effort has them much better placed ahead of this tough fixture.
There’s a handful of stadiums in MLS that are very tricky to go to, but not one presents opponents with a tough task quite like Banc of California does. At home, LAFC are incredibly strong. They create lots of scoring opportunities, score lots of goals, while they starve opponents of both possession and chances.
During the regular season, they lost just two games at home, winning 13 and tying just two of their other 15. In the process, they scored 39 goals and conceded only 15. They also recorded a very impressive average expected goal difference of +1.34.
Strong on the road, but are they strong enough?
Make no mistake about it, Sunday’s visitors performed well away from home during the regular season, so well that they ended the campaign as the joint best traveling team in the west in terms of points accumulated. They scored plenty of away goals and certainly made their presence felt at many venues, including Banc of California Stadium, but the question is, now with the pressure on, against the best team in Major League Soccer, do they have the defensive strength to stand strong?
Austin’s weak defense is worrying, there is no getting away from that. Clean sheets eluded them for most of the campaign, especially on the road, while they have not kept a team out in the playoffs yet either. Away from home during the regular campaign, the men in green and black conceded 26 goals in 17 games, and in their final four away games, they conceded ten, shipping two or more in four out of four. It is not exactly the ideal record ahead of a trip to face LAFC, that’s for sure.
Recent history favors Austin
We all know how difficult LAFC can be to face. However, for the Austin boys, this fixture yielded great joy during the regular season. First off, they got the job done at this venue in May, winning by two goals to one, while they delivered an emphatic performance when hosting Los Angeles FC in late August, winning by four goals to one.
In both of those games, they showed how effective they can be when playing on the break, which bodes well given LAFC’s tendency to dominate the ball.
Hosts to get it done
Austin have twice beaten LAFC in 2022, so there will surely be plenty of bettors tailing the visitors at sizable odds, but that bet is hard to justify, even if they do have a positive recent record in this fixture.
When all is said and done, LAFC are the strongest home team in the division, and the fact that they have home advantage here is huge. They had too much in the locker for the Galaxy last time out, and a similar story seems likely against an Austin side that simply cannot keep it tight at the back.
Those who fancy the hosts to prove their supremacy should consider ‘LAFC to Win to Nil’. Yes, the visitors scored twice at this venue earlier in the season, but they were fortunate to do so having produced just 0.7 xG. Moreover, Cherundolo’s men know how to keep teams quiet at home, winning three of their last six at home without conceding, giving away an impressive average of just 0.6 xG during that time.
Throw into the mix that Austin FC have failed to score in each of their last four on the road, each of which they’ve lost, and the hosts winning after keeping the visitors quiet starts to make plenty of appeal. So, for our LAFC vs Austin preview’s conclusion we have just one betting prediction and pick for this playoff game:
- Los Angeles FC to win to nil @ +215 with Bovada. This wager is via the following betting market: “Match Result and Both Teams to Score” – pick “LAFC and NO”.