MLS Is Back Odds, Picks and Predictions: Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes, NYCFC vs. Portland Timbers
Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Anton Tinnerholm
Only two quarterfinal matches remain at the MLS is Back tournament, with both contests taking place Saturday in Orlando.
San Jose goes up against Minnesota United in the first tilt of the evening, followed by Portland squaring off against New York City FC in the nightcap. The winners join Philadelphia and Orlando City in the semifinal round of play, scheduled for next week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
San Jose Earthuakes vs. Minnesota United
|San Jose Earthquakes Odds||+112 [BET NOW]|
|Minnesota United Odds||+210 [BET NOW]|
|Draw||+270 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||3 (+108/-132) [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 8 p.m. ET|
The evening’s opener should be a doozy, with the Earthquakes facing the Loons in an extremely intriguing match.
San Jose reached this point with a 5-2 blowout win against Real Salt Lake and looked like a team ready to make a deep run toward a championship. Minnesota United got here the hard way, fighting to a 1-1 tie with unbeaten Columbus before moving on with a shootout victory.
The Earthquakes put together modest statistical numbers (+1.6 xGDiff and +0.54 xGDiff/90) that were better than the Loons (+0.3 xGDiff and +0.11 xGDiff/90) in group play, but felt this was the most even match of the quarterfinal round and features two Western Conference sides playing some really good soccer.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is an advanced statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as luck or outstanding goalkeeping.
That said, I am backing both teams to score and playing it with confidence. Minnesota and San Jose have the ability to breakdown down each other’s defenses, with neither having much desire to sit back and let the game come to it.
An early goal from either side will truly open things up and potentially lead to a back-and-forth game full of fireworks. I fully expect this play to hit, which would make it nine of the last 10 matches at the tournament where both teams will have scored at least one goal.
I am also backing these teams to combine for at least 3 goals. There have been at least three goals scored in the last six meetings between the sides, with the teams combining for a whopping 28 goals during that stretch.
Minnesota has scored at least three goals against San Jose in the last three games, winning all of them along the way and snapping a three-game losing skid against its Western Conference foe in the process.
Picks: Total Over 2.5 Goals (-155); Both Teams To Score – Yes (-182)
NYCFC vs. Portland Timbers
|Portland Timbers Odds||+215 [BET NOW]|
|Sporting KC Odds||+114 [BET NOW]|
|Draw||+260 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||3 (+115o/-137u) [BET NOW]|
|Time||Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET|
The marquee showdown on the card pits Western Conference combatant Portland against an upstart NYCFC side in what should be a wild affair.
Portland enters the match fresh off a thrilling shootout victory against FC Cincinnati in the Round of 16 at the competition. The clubs played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and went to penalty kicks, where the Timbers advanced for the right to meet NYCFC in this interesting matchup.
New York City FC has had a wild tournament thus far and was headed home after the group phase, but advanced when Houston settled for a tie against the Los Angeles Galaxy and led to an NYCFC berth in knockout round of the competition.
The Eastern Conference power is third in the FiveThirtyEight Soccer Power Index at 45.3 points, which is well ahead of Portland (38.4 points) in the overall Soccer Power Index numbers. New York City FC boasts a 59% chance of reaching the semifinal round, with Portland last out of the four remaining clubs (41%), according to FiveThirtyEight’s data.
On paper, this is a difficult match to handicap, largely in part due to NYCFC’s bizarre run of results thus far at the tournament. The club only scored two goals in its first three matches, but erupted in its 3-1 win against Toronto FC in Round of 16 play.
The Pigeons had an expected goals differential of +1.6 and xGDiff/90 minutes of +0.54, which was much better than Portland’s numbers (-1.4 xGDiff and -0.48 xGDiff/90) in the same categories.
Oddsmakers have surprisingly made NYCFC the favorite, but I am backing Portland to continue its run at the tournament. The Timbers have been the better side across all matches and never should have been forced into a shootout in the previous round.
Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark had one of the worst plays you will ever see at the position, which led to the late FC Cincinnati equalizer. The Timbers dominated the contest from the start and have been playing with a chip on their shoulder the entire way.
Add on the fact Portland has notched three consecutive shutout victories against NYCFC and you have an underdog in a great spot to advance to the semifinal round.
Pick: Portland Timbers +0.5 (-137)