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LAFC vs. Philadelphia Union MLS Cup Final Preview & Prediction: Prop Market Has Value in Season Finale

LAFC vs. Philadelphia Union MLS Cup Final Preview & Prediction: Prop Market Has Value in Season Finale article feature image
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Shaun Clark/Getty. Pictured: Carlos Vela.

  • The MLS Cup Final between LAFC and the Philadelphia Union has arrived.
  • Where is the betting value in the fixture?
  • Ian Quillen offers his thoughts on the prop market you should be betting.

LAFC vs. Philadelphia Union Odds

LAFC Odds -130
Union Odds +290
Draw +310
Over/Under 2.5 (-175 / +133)
Day | Time Saturday | 4 p.m. ET
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A new team will capture its first MLS Cup title when LAFC hosts the Philadelphia Union in Saturday’s final.

Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC enter the game as solid favorites based largely on their ability to play the final at home. Teams playing the final at their home stadiums have lifted the trophy on 9-of-13 occasions. Teams are 8-of-11 since MLS switched the championship format to the higher seed automatically hosting in 2011.

But the Union should be difficult opponents, having played LAFC to a 2-2 draw in Southern California earlier this season and finishing even on points in the table.

The Shield — and the top overall playoff seed — went to LAFC only because they edged the Union in the first tiebreak of total matches won. In leagues where goal-differential is the first tiebreak, the Union would’ve captured the top spot.

Our 2022 final is a fitting end to an unusually chalky postseason. It’s the first fixture between the top two overall playoff seeds since the 2003 final between San Jose and Chicago.

LAFC Riding Strengths of Role Players

The Black & Gold edged the Galaxy 3-2 in the Western Conference semifinal, then hammered Austin 3-0 in an anti-climactic West final.

Despite the summer signings of stars like Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini, it’s been LAFC’s lesser-known players making the big plays.

Denis Bouanga, a less-known but more impactful summer addition from St. Etienne in France, scored twice in the win over the Galaxy. This season’s team scoring leader Cristian Arango scored the winner against the Galaxy and the opener against Austin. Kwadwo Opoku added an insurance goal against Austin too.

Bale has yet to play a minute of the postseason, and that might be for the best. His new club have posted a -5 goal differential when he is on the field.

Yet, because LAFC were able to sign Bale relatively cheaply, they have still improved substantially in the summer because they had the money and Designated Player spot available for Bouanga.

In the French-born Gabon international’s eight starts, LAFC are averaging a shade under a +1.5 xGDiff per 90 minutes. They have a +2.4 xGDiff per 90 in his five home starts.

Philadelphia Union Executing In Key Spots

The Union were untouchable at home during the second half of the season, winning their last 10. However, they had to work a bit harder for the two that came in the postseason.

Goalkeeper Andre Blake made a couple key saves to preserve a 1-0 East semifinal win over FC Cincinnati. In the East final against New York City FC, Philadelphia had to fight back from a goal down in the second half. They appeared almost freed by going behind, as Julian Carranza, Daniel Gazdag and Cory Burke all scored in a 12-minute span en route to a 3-1 victory.

For Gazdag, it was the continuation of a career year after hitting the net a career-best 22 times in the regular season to fall just shy of winning the MLS Golden Boot.

Despite finishing the 2022 regular season with a solid 7-5-5 (W-L-D) away record, Philly’s away form has regressed slightly. They’re 4-4-2 since the resumption of the season following the June international window, and have created more xG than their opponents in only three of those 10 matches.

The Union are likely to be without midfield captain Alejandro Bedoya, who tried to play through injury in the East final but was removed at halftime.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Finals are governed by rules that differ from even other postseason games, let alone regular season contests. In the case of MLS Cup, history says the chance of an away victory in regulation go down considerably, while the chance of a draw goes up.

A closer study of those results reveals that what away teams have the most difficulty doing in the MLS Cup final is equalizing after falling behind. They simply haven’t done so in the 13 finals where a team was playing at its home stadium.

Bettors can take advantage of odds that don’t reflect this in a couple of ways.

The moneyline draw (+310 odds) has on 5-of-13 occasions where there’s a home team, and 11-of-26 times overall. These teams have drawn three of their previous four.

But the MLS Cup history-informed bet I like most also coincides with these teams’ tendencies to keep it close in the first half.

A wager on the first-half draw at +150 odds and an implied 40% probability backs a bet that has cashed in 7-of-13 games with a home team. It’s also landed on 18-of-36 occasions between LAFC home and Philadelphia away games.

LAFC have been a team that wears down opponents. Philadelphia don’t concede early often. Cup finals are often the kind of matches that take time to open up.

Back this market.

The Pick: First-Half Draw (+150)

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