Having both enjoyed themselves in front of goal to reach this stage of the MLS is Back Tournament, Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers will face each other in the first of the semi-final clashes in Florida (8pm ET Wednesday on FS1).
After a few subdued attacking efforts, Philadelphia found their stride last time out, slotting three against Sporting Kansas City, while The Timbers also shifted through the gears offensively during the quarters, finding the back of the net on three occasions against New York City. Confidence should be high in both camps.
Read on for USAbetting’s preview of this matchup along with our Philadelphia Union vs Portland Timbers predictions and concluding picks.
Do results mask defensive frailty?
Since arriving in the Sunshine State, Philly have produced results that point towards defensive security, especially in MLS terms. They have kept two clean sheets and are yet to concede more than a single goal, giving away an average of just 0.6. Such numbers make for pleasing reading. However, if we scratch beneath the surface, it is easy to think that perhaps The Union aren’t as astute as results suggest.
Against SKC last time out, Philadelphia surrendered no shortage of scoring chances, as they conceded 16 shots, seven of which troubled Andre Blake between the sticks. Had their opponents worn their shooting boots, the result may have been different. Much the same can be said for the win against The Revs, who really ought to have found the back of the net with one of the 18 efforts that Philly allowed.
Much the same can be said for Portland, who on the face of it haven’t done a bad job of keeping things reasonably tight. After all, the mighty LAFC are the only team to score more than once against Giovanni Savarese’s men, and even they only notched twice. Having said that, like Philly, the Timbers continue to be generous with the shots that they give away. For all they have not conceded a glut of goals in Florida, they are without a clean sheet and it is not tough to see why. Portland have conceded a rather alarming average of 15.6 shots per game.
Attackers licking their lips
Having witnessed defensive struggles and no shortage of shots/chances conceded in recent matches, forwards from both teams should be keen to take to the pitch in this fixture, especially after sharpening their swords in recent games.
Brazilian Sergio Santos, who didn’t have the easiest first MLS campaign in 2019, has returned from lockdown in fine form, scoring three goals in four matches. Last time out, en route to twice putting the ball in the back of the net, the forward showed an array of attacking skills that should have The Timbers’ insecure back-line worried.
Similarly, Philly’s rear-guard will be very wary of Portland’s Blanco and Valeri, who between them have notched four goals in Florida. It is not only the experienced Argentine duo that will be eyeing up profiting against what can only be described as a generous Union defence. Attacking focal point Jeremy Ebobisse has found the net three times at this tournament, while Polish striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda is another who has been among the goals of late, notching two in the last three.
Where’s the money going?
In the early betting at the American bookmakers’ online sites, the pair are closely match, which based on what we have seen in Florida, isn’t a huge surprise. A Philadelphia win is currently available at +165, while those looking to side with their opponents can do so at +150 on the moneyline.
Goals on the menu
Rather than siding with either side to come out on top, ‘Over 3.5 Goals’ at +175 is the bet worth placing. In an attacking sense, both teams warmed up nicely last time out, scoring six between them, though it is their rather poor defending that points towards goals on this occasion. Neither kept a clean sheet in their respective quarter final matches, during which they surrendered a combined total of 26 shots. When this pair last met, they shared 27 shots, 12 shots on target and four goals. It would be absolutely no surprise whatsoever if they were to produce something similar here.
Moreover, since arriving in Florida, there has been an average of 3.36 expected goals (a stat based on chances created) in Portland’s matches, which should be an appealing figure to those seeking goals in this fixture. In addition, when Philadelphia took on SKC last time out, a total of 3.8 expected goals were created.
Attractive player prop
In terms of player props, Kacper Przybylko, who has scored once in Florida, leads the ‘anytime scorer’ odds at +165. With this mind, Jeremy Ebobisse at odds of +200 is hard to ignore. The Portland hitman has not only notched three goals at the MLS is Back tournament, but he also averages an eye-catching 0.61 ‘expected goals’ per 90 minutes this term, as well as averaging 3.51 shots and 1.76 shots on target per 90.
So these are USAbetting’s Philadelphia Union vs Portland Timbers predictions and betting picks verdict for this semi-final game preview: