MLS Playoffs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake Betting Preview (Dec. 4)

MLS Playoffs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake Betting Preview (Dec. 4) article feature image

Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Felipe Mora.

Portland vs. Real Salt Lake Odds

Portland Odds-115
Real Salt Lake Odds+280
Over/Under2.5 (-160 / +115)
Day | TimeSaturday | 6:30 p.m. ET
How To WatchFS1 | fuboTV
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.

The Portland Timbers host Real Salt Lake on Saturday night in a Western Conference final few predicted when the MLS Cup Playoffs began.

Portland aren't a huge surprise despite being seeded fourth, having won 10 of their last 14 regular-season matches.

Salt Lake, however, only reached the playoffs on the final day of the regular season with a dramatic late 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.

The Timbers won all three previous meetings against Salt Lake, but regular-season trends often go out the window this time of year.

Portland Could Be Missing Two Key Players

Portland got here with a comfortable home win over fifth-seeded Minnesota United in the first round, followed by a dramatic 1-0 victory at the Colorado Rapids on Thanksgiving Day in a West semifinal.

But the Timbers paid a dear cost for the latter result. They lost 2020 MLS is Back Tournament MVP Sebastian Blanco to a leg injury early in the second half, and they lost Dairon Asprilla to a red card in second-half stoppage time.

Blanco's return from a long ACL-tear recovery improved Portland immensely down the stretch. His seven goals and six primary assists only paint part of the picture.

Manager Giovanni Savarese on Thursday suggested there's an outside chance Blanco plays, but it appears unlikely he'll start.

And Asprilla — who will serve a one-match suspension — has been nearly as important with his career-high 10 goals and three primary assists. Much of that came earlier in the season when the Timbers were fighting a rash of injuries.

The good news for Savarese is his options are better now than in the first half of the year.

He could go with two forwards and start team-leading scorer Felipe Mora and Jaroslaw Niezgoda together.

Or he could give a spot start to 35-year-old Diego Valeri — primarily used as a substitute this season — in Blanco's playmaking role.

While Real Salt Lake Welcome Back Key Player

Meanwhile, The Claret-and-Cobalt will see playmaker Albert Rusnak return. The Slovakian international missed RSL's first two playoff matches in MLS health and safety protocols.

After a slow start to the campaign, Rusnak broke out for a career-best 11 goals and added seven primary assists during 2021.

He and 16-goal-scorer Damir Kreilach have been arguably the most underrated attacking duo in MLS this year.

Interim manager Pablo Mastroeni also has more attacking depth on his bench than you might expect for a club of RSL's relatively light spending.

Two of those substitutes — Anderson Julio and Bobby Wood — scored the tying and winning goals in RSL's 2-1 comeback victory against Sporting Kansas City in Sunday's West semifinal.

Defensively, Salt Lake have not given up a non-penalty goal in the last 315 minutes, with SKC's only goal coming from the spot before halftime.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Following MLS through the summer — when players are in and out for international duty — is a good learning experience for a match like this.

What you often learn is the match results often aren't as predictable as squad absences suggest.

If you forced me to play a three-way line bet, I'd take Salt Lake as a solid underdog because of the personnel issues we've discussed. But the impact of Portland's absences is too unpredictable for me to do so willingly.

Instead, I go with what I'm more sure of. That includes a trend toward both teams scoring in Portland's home games and in RSL's road contests.

Including the postseason, both teams have found the net in 25 of 37 games in those matches, a 67.5% return on a bet with -165 odds and an implied 62.3% probability.

It also hit in all three of these teams' previous meetings — in which they scored a combined 16 goals and 11.0 expected goals.

Additionally, Rusnak's return gives RSL even a bit more bench depth, and if Blanco plays, it's likely to be late. Plus, these teams and their opponents have averaged 1.75 second-half goals this season. So, I'm also backing more than two second-half goals scored at -115 odds and a 53.5% probability.

Picks: Both Teams To Score — Yes (-165) | Two Or More Goals Scored in Second Half — Yes (-115)

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