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MLS Playoffs Philadelphia vs. New York City FC Odds, Picks: Eastern Conference Final Betting Preview

MLS Playoffs Philadelphia vs. New York City FC Odds, Picks: Eastern Conference Final Betting Preview article feature image
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Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Maximiliano Moralez.

  • The short-handed Philadelphia Union host New York City FC in Sunday's MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference Final.
  • Things could not be going much worse for the Union, who are potentially missing 11 players, including six starters, due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Ian Quillen breaks down the matchup below and details where he's found betting value on the game total.

Philadelphia vs. NYCFC Odds

Philadelphia Odds +290
NYCFC Odds -110
Draw +230
Over/Under 2.5 (-106 / -116)
Day | Time Sunday | 3 p.m. ET
How To Watch ABC | fuboTV
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.

As the Philadelphia Union host New York City FC in the Eastern Conference final Sunday, the story is who won’t be helping each club try to reach their first MLS Cup.

Philadelphia appears to be dealing with a major COVID-19 cluster. When the club’s injury report dropped Saturday, 11 players were listed out due to MLS health and safety protocols. It included starting goalkeeper Andre Blake and captain Alejandro Bedoya.

Meanwhile, NYCFC’s availability issues are more about quality than quantity. Valentin Castellanos, the MLS Golden Boot winner, is suspended after he was sent off in the 113th minute of the club’s semifinal after his second yellow-card offense.

These teams each took four points from their three regular-season meetings. Few members of either current squad were involved in their last playoff meeting, which NYCFC won 3-1 in the 2018 knockout round.

How Will Philadelphia Manage Absences?

In addition to Blake and Bedoya, all four starting defenders from Sunday’s 1-1 semifinal draw with Nashville SC (which Philadelphia won on penalties) are among the 11 players in COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The others include Sergio Santos, who was an influential substitute against Nashville despite failing to score, and Jamaica international forward Cory Burke. Of the remaining three protocol absences, only Quinn Sullivan had a realistic chance to play.

If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Philadelphia’s starting front five from that game is mostly in tact. In essence, manager Jim Curtin will likely be sliding an entire second defensive unit with what will be close to a first-choice attack.

That might be easier — relatively speaking — than having to fill five patchwork places from back to front. It’s likely at least some of the back line that plays together will have plenty of practice reps together as the scout team for the starting XI.

However, Curtin has to decide whether he can still take the same kind of pressure-oriented approach that is the Union’s staple.

The downside of doing so is that it can at times leave defenses vulnerable in transition. And that’s a much different proposition with an inexperienced back line.

NYCFC Minus Lead Playmaker, Golden Boot Winner

With 19 goals and eight primary assists in the 2021 regular season, Castellanos was involved in nearly half of NYCFC’s 56 regular season goals.

But manager Ronny Deila has better choices than most in terms of who might replace the Argentine in Sunday’s lineup.

Brazilian veteran Heber is one option. The 30-year-old has only made seven substitute appearances in 2021 after working back from an ACL tear suffered in 2020.

However, he was a 15-goal scorer in 2019, back when Castellanos was an up-and-coming prospect struggling with consistency.

Talles Mango, a much younger Brazilian, is another option should Deila use a true striker.

If he opts for a false nine, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi or Santiago Rodriguez could play that role. While NYCFC haven’t played in that setup often, both halves of that duo have double-digit starts this year and more than 20 appearances.

There’s better news for NYCFC defensively. James Sands left last Tuesday’s semifinal with an injury, and Tayvon Gray hobbled through the last minutes of extra time with what was later revealed to be leg cramps.

Yet, both men are expected to be available, Deila said this week. That’s crucial given long-term injury absences to Keaton Parks and Anton Tinnerholm.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

On Friday, Philadelphia were roughly +130 favorites on the money line, depending where you looked. With the player availability news, they’ve sunk to become substantial home underdogs, a real rarity in the MLS postseason.

It’s possible that the public has reacted too strongly here. If you forced me to play the money line, I’d probably be on Philadelphia or the draw.

That’s mainly because I believe it’s easier to overcome absences like these in the first match than in subsequent games. Often you get exceptional — and unsustainable — efforts from the replacement players in the opening game.

However, it’s all just guesswork. I feel more comfortable using personnel changes to predict totals. And in this case, I think they point toward a lower-scoring 90 minutes.

City have talented players in other positions, but it’s hard to replace a player who is involved in half of your goals and not miss a beat.

As for Philadelphia, the fact they’re going to be playing so many inexperienced defenders leads me to believe they’ll be more conservative to try and protect them. And while most of their starting attackers will still play, their best supplemental options off the bench won’t.

The 90-minute total under 2.5 goals has hit 23 of 37 games where Philadelphia are home or NYCFC are away, or 62.2% of the time. And the trends are more pronounced in that direction recently.

However, the line is moving the other way. At -116 odds on the total staying under 2.5 goals via FanDuel, that’s an implied 53.7% probability.

Pick: Total Unde 2.5 Goals (-116)

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