When soccer returned last month, Orlando City and Minnesota United weren’t exactly seen as chief challengers for this MLS Is Back tournament, but it is they who have carved themselves a route to the last four. On Thursday evening (8pm ET), The Lions will take on The Loons in semi-final number two.
USAbetting analyzes the captivating matchup in this preview before giving our picks and concluding Orlando vs Minnesota predictions.
Loons deadly on the break
If there is one team that has played to its strengths at this tournament then it is Minnesota, who have taken a somewhat devastating counter-attacking stance. The Loons have been more than happy to let teams dictate the play, dominating possession in only one of their five matches in Florida, and that was against a weak Colorado team. When sitting back and playing on the break, Adrian Heath’s men have looked strong. Not only did a counter-attacking approach allow them to get the better of SKC on match-day one, but they have since seen off a very strong Columbus side, while they hit new levels last time out, as they obliterated San Jose on the break, scoring four goals in the process.
Orlando’s approach could be a problem
In contrast, Orlando come into this match having found success when dominating matches. They did an excellent job of controlling possession and thus nullifying the threat of Montreal in first knockout match, while they somehow managed to dictate play against LAFC last time out. However, getting on the front foot against Minnesota could cause all manner of problems for Óscar Pareja and his side. If they are to continue pressing forward, then it is tough to see how they will guard against the fearsome forward line of their opposition.
Since 2017, when Minnesota first joined MLS, the two teams have faced each other on three occasions. The Loons have won two of those three, while Orlando are still searching for a first win against Thursday’s opponents. It is safe to say that this has been Minnesota’s fixture thus far. Minnesota also have a 100% record against Orlando when playing away from the comforts of home.
Numbers slightly in Orlando’s favor
With their fast-paced, sweeping attacks, Minnesota have been pleasing on the eye in Florida, but have their efforts stood up well when it comes to the numbers? Only twice have The Loons been bettered in terms of shots on target, while they have bettered their opponents in terms of expected goals in three of their last four. They have created an average of 1.74xG at this tournament, though their average expected goal difference is only +0.06, which while quietly respectable, isn’t overly impressive. Orlando average 1.84xG and have a more pleasing average expected goal difference of +0.48.
Where’s the money?
As can often be expected ahead of a semi-final, the pair are reasonably closely matched in the early betting. Orlando are slight favourites at +150, while Minnesota can be supported at odds of +175. If you are after betting on the winner, then it really depends on what stands out more. Are Orlando’s slightly superior numbers enough to warrant narrow favoritism and thus make them a good bet? Or does the fact that The Loons have thrived when playing on the break against dominant teams make them a decent wager?
To my eyes, Minnesota are ever so slightly overpriced by the American-friendly offshore sports betting companies. Orlando did an excellent job in beating LAFC, but that game took an awful lot out of them, especially with the extra 30 mins (plus penalties). Moreover, it is tough to see how they are going to get away with adopting a similar style against a Minnesota side that has countered teams for fun at this tournament.
Tasty player prop
In terms of end-product, it did take Minnesota forward Luis Amarilla a little while to get up to speed in Florida, but he broke his duck last time out with a sweet finish against San Jose. The efforts of the Paraguayan on that occasion point towards more joy against an Orlando City rear-guard that really is likely to leave space in behind. Furthermore, when we dig deeper into the striker’s numbers, +185 on the ‘Anytime Scorer’ line with the bookies appeals. This term, Amarilla is averaging 3.74 shot per 90, as well as 1.36 shots on target per 90. Add into this an excellent average of 0.77 expected goals per 90 and the 24-year-old looks an attractive bet to keep his scoring run going.
So these are USAbetting’s Orlando vs Minnesota predictions against the oddsmakers for this MLS semi-final preview: