By Garrett Hinners
Atlanta United vs. New York City FC
It is round one of the MLS playoffs and I could not be more excited. Playoff footy has an atmosphere unlike anything else. I have gone through every match and, honestly, the lines are pretty sharp. I do not see a ton of “value” in this round, but I have found one matchup I’m willing to pay up a little in search of a winner.
I’m targeting Sunday’s match between NYCFC and Atlanta United. Historically homefield has been king in these playoffs and I think that plays into our hand here.
For Atlanta, they are a side that really flipped the script after a coaching change and have only lost 3 matches in their last 18. A decent chunk of that form was on display on their home turf achieving seven wins, two draws, and one loss over that stretch. Their away form this season has been disappointing, however. They have an expected goals allowed (xGA) of 1.69 on the road this season seeing them to a 4-7-6 away record with a goal difference (GD) of -3. Outside of Mercedes Benz Stadium they are just a shell of themselves.
On the other hand, with NYCFC, home field advantage has been one of their calling cards. This season they were not even as dominant as usual inside the confines of Yankee Stadiumand they still closed out the regular season with a GD of +24. A big reason for this is their newly crowned golden boot winner Valentine Castellanos who finished the season with 19 goals. They average just under an expected goals (xG) total of two and they are among the best in the league with their home xGA (1.2) thanks in large part to their unique field. It is a baseball field converted into a pitch for the NYCFC matches and it is the smallest regulation field I have ever seen. Away teams just struggle there due to not playing there regularly.
I do not normally pay for juice but when lines are sharp overall sometimes it pays to pay. The banker I have for round one is the NYCFC moneyline. Too much just stacks in New York City’s favor here in a matchup of two solid clubs.
BANKER: NYCFC ML at -145 (1.69)
For a parlay I’m liking Nashville SC’s double chance (-420) in a game with Orlando City. These teams tend to draw when facing each other, but here is another example of, at least on paper, a clear advantage to the home side. Nashville at home has an xG of 1.87 and a GD of +17. Joe Willis, the Nashville keeper, was part of a three-way tie for most clean sheets this season at 13. Orlando has a road xGA of 1.7 and a GD of -9. I’m staying off of the moneyline here in case history keeps repeating but I feel really safe with the double chance as one leg.
For the second leg I am taking Sporting KC’s team total over 1.5 goals (-162) which is only a little over my personal juice limit. Not a play I would take straight up, but a play I am very high on. I almost took their moneyline as a straight bet, but one thing that really sticks out to me with their opponent in Vancouver is they are a ridiculous 23-7-4 against the spread. I do think Sporting KC will win, but Vancouver will give them trouble. KC have xG at home of 2.02 and Vancouver have a road xGA of nearly 1.9. I think KC puts in two goals win, lose, or draw and it’s my favorite play from that game.
Throw these two in a parlay and you get right at even odds. I’ll take that anyday for two plays that I believe have a high percentage chance of hitting.
Parlay: Nashville SC +0.5 + Sporting KC Total Team Over 1.5 at +100 (2.0)
Best of luck to whatever you are on this weekend!