The chalk held up in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs this weekend. All three home teams won to advance to the conference semifinals this week, proving the importance of home field advantage. The Eastern Conference Semifinals will start on Wednesday night with No. 1 New York City FC hosting Toronto FC at 7 p.m. ET on FS1, and defending champions Atlanta United will host the Philadelphia Union at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 this Thursday night.
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- MLS Cup Eastern Conference Semifinals Betting Odds
- New York City FC -0.5 vs. Toronto FC, O/U 3
The Bronx Blues are no stranger to the conference semifinals. New York City FC have made it to the conference semifinals for the fourth straight season, and they will be looking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in their history. NYCFC are hoping the fourth time is the charm, but this club has not had good fortune against Toronto FC this season.
Toronto FC dealt NYCFC their worst loss of the season. The Reds hammered NYCFC 4-0 in Ontario in late March with Alejandro Pozuelo’s brace flanked by goals from Jozy Altidore and Jay Chapman. NYCFC could only muster a 1-1 draw when it was their turn to host Toronto last month, and that was a fortunate result as Pozuelo missed a penalty kick in the 78th minute that would have put Toronto ahead.
The combination of Maxi Moralez and Heber has been a devastating one for NYCFC. At the start of the season, the club had difficulty scoring after all-time leading scorer David Villa moved to Vissel Kobe at the end of the 2018 campaign. Heber was signed by NYCFC in late March to provide an offensive spark, and the Brazilian forward did just that with 15 goals and four assists in 22 appearances. Moralez led the MLS with 20 assists in 29 games, and he added seven goals to make NYCFC the best team in the Eastern Conference.
The Reds will lean on Pozuelo and Altidore as both players finished the season with more than 10 goals. Jonathan Osorio could play a major factor after a brace against DC United on Saturday, and Toronto have some offensive weapons to compete.
Fatigue could be an issue for Toronto. While NYCFC received a first-round bye after finishing the regular season as the top team in the East, Toronto had to survive extra time against DC United this weekend. The two teams were tied 1-1 entering extra time before Toronto scored four goals in the added frame to cruise to a 5-1 win.
Atlanta United -0.5 and -1 vs. Philadelphia Union, O/U 3
Congratulations to the Philadelphia Union for finally winning a playoff game. It took 10 years for the Union to finally emerge victorious in the postseason, and they did it in dramatic fashion. Philadelphia battled back from a two-goal deficit on two separate occasions to force extra time against the New York Red Bulls, and Marco Fabian scored the decisive goal in a 4-3 victory.
Philadelphia must feel confident about its chances against Atlanta United this Thursday. The Union knocked off last year’s MLS Cup winners 3-1 in Philly in late August, and they played the Five Stripes to a 1-1 draw in Atlanta earlier this year.
Josef Martinez and Atlanta survived a scare from the New England Revolution last week, only knocking of the visitors 1-0 in an evenly contested match. Martinez will be out to leave little question this time though, and he has notched an incredible 58 goals over the last two seasons. Look for Atlanta to pick up the win here.
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