MLS expansion side Nashville SC look to keep their dream first season alive today as they travel to Connecticut, the interim home for league veterans and 2017 MLS Cup winners Toronto FC (6pm ET Tuesday; TV: Live on Fox).
Will it be the experienced side that emerges victorious? Or can the new boys continue to impress? Read USAbetting’s TFC vs Nashville predictions, MLS playoff betting preview and picks.
It’s been an excellent first season in Major League Soccer for Nashville, who had previously played in USL. Gary Smith’s men made light work of securing a play-off space, finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference, which doesn’t sound like much, though since they were eight points clear of the final play-off spot, it’s fair to say that the boys in yellow were never really in danger of failing to make the post season at the first attempt.
Last time out, they came up against fellow expansion side Inter Miami, a game where they were considered red-hot favourites. However, a skinny pre-match price-tag was made to look on the large side at full time, as Nashville brushed their opponents aside, winning by three goals to nil. What was particularly impressive on that occasion was how Smith’s side nullified their opponents before profiting at the other end. They’ll need to bottle such solidity and showcase it in Connecticut.
While Nashville are experiencing MLS play-off football for the first time, Toronto are back where they belong. Making it to the post season has become something of a habit for the Canadians, who not only have made it out of the Eastern Conference with regularity in recent times, but have featured in three of the last four MLS Cup finals. In 2017, they lifted the coveted trophy thanks to a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. Boss Greg Vanney will be hoping that their previous experience can hold his side in good stead against a side that is fast becoming highly competitive at this level.
A game of firsts
Not only will this be the first time that Nashville have played away from the comforts of home in the play-offs, but it will be the first time that this pair have locked horns. Thanks to the restructuring in fixtures after the resumption of the campaign, Nashville and Toronto didn’t get to meet during the regular season. Unfortunately, this leaves us with head-to-head form to peruse.
Growing in confidence
Playing away from home had created many a problem for lots of expansion sides, and that is what happened to Nashville initially, as they won just one out of nine away matches after the regular season resumed. That said, things have improved in recent times. Prior to reaching the play-offs, Nashville won three away games on the bounce, beating Houston, Montreal and Orlando, two of which made the post season.
For most of the campaign, scoring goals in any great number wasn’t something that Nashville were known for, though again, things have changed of late. Their last three away matches of the regular season yielded seven goals for the men in yellow, while they continued their purple patch in front of goal against Miami less than a week ago, smashing in another three. If the lively Hany Mukhtar, who has scored two in two since returning to fitness, can keep up his good form, then Nashville are likely to continue hurting teams in the final third.
Connecticut no easy place to go
Toronto are no slouches at their home from home, where they have been located since mid-September. Vanney’s side finished the regular season with the fourth best home record in the division, while they also had the third best defensive record having conceded just eight goals in 12 matches, which by the rather generous standards of MLS’ rear-guards is impressive. However, they have tended to slip up here and there. New York City recently gained maximum points, while Montreal also won during regular season play.
Who to bet on?
The early betting with the USA bookmakers ahead of this fixture suggests that Toronto are warm favorites, which given the home advantage and extra experience of playing in the heat of the play-off battle, makes sense. However, as we saw last time out and in recent away games, Nashville are no pushovers. Those out there who do fancy the team from Tennessee to prevail can back their instincts at reasonably appealing odds of +245. However, there does appear to be a safer option, one that appears to represent better value than a bet on either side to come out on top.
Goals to arrive
Over the weekend, we saw no shortage of goals fly in as teams fought to keep themselves in the hunt for the trophy. The revised format, whereby the play-offs are now just a single game, as opposed to two-legged affairs, certainly seems to have sparked an increase in attacking action. Teams know that it is now or never, all or nothing, or at least it seemed that way on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The first seven play-off fixtures produced a total of 24 goals (before extra-time). Five of those seven games saw at least three goals go in.
Add to this the fact that Nashville have been involved in plenty of high-scoring fixtures of late and a bet on ‘over 2.5 goals’ at odds of +110 is appealing. At least three goals have been scored in each of Nashville’s last two games, as well as in three of their last four on the road. 3+ goals have been scored in three of Toronto’s last four too.
Moreover, the recent shot stats for both appears to lend itself to a high-scoring fixture. In their last three on the road, Nashville have conjured 44 shots, while Toronto have managed to fire off 50 in their last three at home. In those six matches, the pair have registered a combined total of 39 shots on target. If they can continue to produce such numbers, then goal bettors should be in luck today. So our Toronto vs Nashville predictions and sole betting pick for this preview is: