NYCFC v Columbus Crew 22:00 Live on Sky Sports Football
Columbus Crew turned on the style and confirmed what many had suspected: that NYCFC had run out of steam again at the end of an MLS season. The key to success in this League is either to be utterly dominant (see LA Galaxy of old) or to time your post season run to perfection (see Portland and Seattle in the last two seasons). NYCFC have done the opposite for two campaigns: not dominant enough, and fading just when it matters.
They still have an outside chance of going through, but I can't really see it. The Crew are tailor made to counter attack and are in great form at the moment, and with NYCFC having to go all guns blazing in this second leg, I can see them being caught out and beaten again.
That makes Columbus potentially excellent value, but I'm always wary of tipping teams that don't HAVE to win (a rule that I have broken with the outstanding Toronto this week), and so I'll stick with the belief that this will be an open game, with NYCFC capable of causing problems, but vulnerable on the counter. The Crew will go through, but it could yet be exciting.
Recommended Bet Over 3.5 Goals in NYCFC v Columbus Crew @2.20
Seattle Sounders v Vancouver Whitecaps Friday, 02:30 Live on Sky Sports Football
Carl Robinson and Vancouver blew their big chance of a place in the Conference Championship with an oddly defensive display against Seattle in the first leg of their Conference Semi Final.
Seattle were without both Clint Dempsey and a fully fit Osvaldo Alonso, and yet Vancouver seemed more concerned with not conceding an away goal than with winning the game. While they may score in Seattle, I expect the home team to win.
Cristian Techera and Yordy Reyna were both left out of that first leg, and must surely play in the return. Robinson has done such a good job with Vancouver this season that it was a shame to see him apparently lose his nerve here, but if this defensive masterplan pays dividends, then I'm happy to admit that I was wrong.
I don't see it though, and Seattle are justifiably priced as favourites to win this and go through to a potential meeting against Portland. The only area that's of interest from a betting perspective (with Seattle trading at 1.6 for the win) is the Under 2.5 Goals market.
Vancouver are likely to come and defend, trying to nick an away goal, but I see a similar kind of game to the first leg. It's a long way from my most convincing tip of the weekend, but I'll take the "unders" at2.10.
Recommended Bet Back Under 2.5 Goals in Seattle Sounders v Vancouver Whitecaps @2.10
Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls Sunday, 20:00 Live on Sky Sports Red Button
It's almost impossible to see the New York Red Bulls finding a way to overturn a hefty first leg deficit against Toronto FC, and the best team in MLS looks set to march into the Conference Championship.
TFC were simply too good at Red Bull Arena, and it's getting to a point when good judges are wondering whether they can be stopped. If they get the job done here, then it looks like two legs against Columbus and a win against maybe Seattle for them to win a first ever MLS Cup.
This second leg makes little appeal as a betting heat with TFC the likely winners. Greg Vanney might rest players, but I doubt it, as there's still a job to be done, and on that basis I think that they're the bet. The Red Bulls will be dispirited, must know deep down that it's all over, and will be there for the taking.
Toronto look a little big at1.75 to come away with a win, and stride forward with confidence, and while we're in small stakes territory, I'm happy to put them up.
Recommended Bet Back Toronto FC to beat New York Red Bulls @1.75
Portland Timbers v Houston Dynamo Monday, 00:30 Live on Sky Sports Football
This is possibly the hardest of the four Conference semi-finals to call, with Houston Dynamo so dangerous on the counter attack, and Portland short of several key players for this return.
The first leg finished goalless, and Portland missed Sebastian Blanco's ability to support the outstanding Diego Valeri from wide on the right, and now seem set to be without their key midfielder Diego Chara as well.
Chara would normally be the man to break up potential Houston counter attacks, and that seems likely to be the pattern of the game, with Portland pushing to win in front of their excellent home crowd, and potentially vulnerable to a team which is built to play on the counter.
Houston may not be everyone's cup of tea, but their style of sitting and breaking has served them well this season, and there is a chance that the likely League MVP will be going out a couple of stages too early.
I'd be confident that a full-strength Portland would win, but with Darlington Nagbe also struggling, Houston come into the equation, and I think that they represent the value bet here.
I hope that Valeri gets a chance to cement his MVP status, but I worry that he won't, and head rules heart here. Portland's injuries may be too much to overcome.
Recommended Bet Back Houston Dynamo to beat Portland Timbers @ [5.25]