Sunday MLS Playoffs Odds, Pick, Prediction: Portland vs. Minnesota United Betting Preview

Sunday MLS Playoffs Odds, Pick, Prediction: Portland vs. Minnesota United Betting Preview article feature image
Credit:

Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dairon Asprilla

  • Portland hosts Minnesota United in the Sunday's MLS Playoffs action at Providence Park.
  • The Loons, who are road underdogs, earned a regular-season sweep against the Timbers.
  • Ian Quillen breaks down the matchup below and unveils his top selection.

Portland vs. Minnesota Odds

Portland Odds -105
Minnesota Odds +240
Draw +270
Over/Under 2.5 (-175 / +125)
Day | Time Sunday | 5:30 p.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN | fuboTV
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.

Portland hosts Minnesota United on Sunday in the opening round of the MLS Cup Playoffs in a clash where the visitor might have the mental edge.

Fourth-seeded Portland enter the playoffs, winners of three in a row, but they lost both previous meetings to No. 5 seed Minnesota.

The visitors might also come in with more intrinsic motivation following how the 2020 postseason ended. Minnesota played nearly the perfect Western Conference final for more than an hour, only to give back a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders.

The Timbers were dumped out in the opening round last season on penalties after a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas. However, they did win the MLS is Back Tournament in the summer of 2020 in a competition that helped the league resume play after the start of the global pandemic.

Portland Continues to Improve With Health

For the Timbers, the early half of the 2021 campaign was just about grinding out what points they could while getting healthy.

2020 MLS is Back MVP Sebastian Blanco missed most of it as he continued to work back from a torn ACL sustained in September of that year. Forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda is still working back to 90-minute fitness following the same injury last November.

It’s hard to imagine where Portland would be without a breakout campaign from Dairon Asprilla.

His 10 goals are three more than he scored in total in six previous MLS seasons. And his early season efficiency helped the Timbers stay afloat during a season when their expected goals (xG) difference finished at -8.0 overall.

However, Portland’s run of eight wins in its last 14 games coincides with the final stage of Blanco’s return, when he began making regular starts.

Niezgoda has yet to play a full 90. The Polish forward made his second and third starts during the final week of the regular season after his own recovery from an ACL tear.

Niezgoda gives manager Giovanni Savarese the flexibility at forward he lost when the club traded Jeremy Ebobisse to the San Jose Earthquakes. And so far he is averaging more than a goal per 90 minutes — with three total — after producing at nearly the same ratio in 2020.

Center back Bill Tuiloma is questionable with a leg injury.

Minnesota Should Be Scoring More Often

As fortunate as the Loons may feel to reach the postseason after opening the season with four straight losses, there is still a sense of unfulfilled potential.

In particular, manager Adrian Heath’s squad should be scoring more often than it is.

Minnesota’s -2 goal differential sits in stark contrast to their xG difference of 5.6, and a lot of that can be attached to the wastefulness of their forwards.

Adrien Hunou (seven goals) and Franco Fragapane (five goals) have both lagged their respective xG in falling more than four goals short of their combined 16.2 xG total.

And while playmaker Emanuel Reynoso has four assists, the xG model suggests he would have at least twice as many with average finishing.

There’s two bright spots here, though.

The first is the idea a regression in a positive scoring direction could come just in time for a Loons playoff run. As for the second, last year at this time Reynoso went on a run that proved he could carry a team by himself for a month.

The former Boca Juniors man had two goals and an astounding 10 assists in his first six games in a Minnesota Jersey. The run culminated with one of each in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the West final.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

In our playoff preview picks, I selected this match as the game with the most upset potential in the Western Conference.

However, I also said I didn’t love any of the underdogs in the West, and the more I examine this one, the more value I see on the home side.

This price isn’t available everywhere, but at +115 odds on DraftKings, the Timbers are a weaker favorite than you’d expect for a team playing at home that finished the regular season six points and four wins clear of their opposition.

The implied probability of that wager at 46.5% is basically level with the MLS home-win ratio of about 48%, implying this would be a truly even match on a neutral field.

Only it wouldn’t. Portland’s roster is much better now than when it previously played Minnesota with the returns of Blanco and Niezgoda.

Objectively speaking, both Niezgoda and Felipe Mora — whose 11 goals lead Portland — would start at striker over anyone the Loons have.

The Timbers’ overall xG difference is negative, but they’ve outperformed it by roughly the same ratio steadily over the entire season, and it’s positive since Blanco’s return.

That suggests something structural leading the Timbers to be more efficient in attack — perhaps just a depth in quality finishers.

Then there’s the fact Portland was the West’s best home team, winning 11 of 17 matches. Minnesota is the second-worst road team in the playoff field, with only three wins and 16 points from 17 away games.

The Loons aren’t a bad team. However, despite Minnesota manager Adrian Heath’s consistent schtick, it’s actually the Timbers who are underrated.

Pick: Portland ML (-105)

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