The American Major League Soccer is nearing its pinnacle with four teams remaining in the contest. Two of the previous champions, Atlanta United and Toronto FC will take on each other in the eastern conference finals, with newcomers Los Angeles FC and champions from three years ago, Seattle Sounders going head-to-head in the western final.
There were no major surprises in the playoffs, except for one. Regular season’s number one in the east and second overall, New York City crashed out against Toronto in the conference semi-finals. Toronto had hard time in the first round against DC United already, needing an overtime to crush their opponents after conceding late in the regular time. The quarter-final game seemed all even for a long time, until Alejandro Pozuelo sent Toronto to the semis from a penalty spot on the 90th minute. The Canadians missed playoffs altogether last season, after winning the MLS Cup the year before and they’re now ready for more.
The only team having not yet won the MLS Cup in the top-4 is Los Angeles FC – and of course they are the most likely to win now. They had the best regular season in MLS history by taking 72 points and they beat their local rivals Los Angeles Galaxy in a fireworks display quarter-final 5-3. They have a talented squad and an excellent head coach, who can tinker his way through any opponent in Bob Bradley and they have the best player in the league in Carlos Vela – who sent Zlatan and his Galaxy packing. Los Angeles is the biggest favourite and for a reason, they’ve looked utterly indestructible so far.
Seattle Sounders have the ungrateful task to try and stop LAFC, but they just might be able to do that. It’s a team relying on defence and hitting back when occasion rises. They’re not very flashy, but they work hard and are tough to play against, with one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Stefan Frei. In the first round they were out of their element and allowed three goals by Dallas and only went through after the overtime. In the second round Real Salt Lake was a piece of cake: after watching, waiting and sitting back for some 45 minutes, Seattle struck twice to take 2-0 victory without raising any headlines. Similar approach just might be the only way of beating LAFC, but you shouldn’t hold your breath.
Last season’s champions Atlanta United are in contest once again and they’ve been impressive throughout the season. They’ve been able to keep their offensive style solid enough and especially grown better in defence towards the end of the season. Beating Philadelphia Union in the quarter-final was not too tall task and Atlanta handed it coolly. Toronto is another story and better team than Union and Atlanta will have to bring their A-game in order to win it.
MLS Playoffs are available for betting all the way to the season finale: