Monday Musings – MLS Playoffs moving towards the pinnacle

MLS Conference Finals on Monday Musings

This week’s Monday Musings will take a look at the MLS Conference finals matchups.

We have two teams remaining in each conference. In the Western Conference, we have Sporting l Kansas City and the Portland Timbers. And in the Eastern Conference we have Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls. By the end of November, we’ll know the contenders for the MLS Playoffs Championship game and we’ll provide some coverage for you about what to expect from that one.

Western Conference:

  • First Leg, November 25: Sporting Kansas City v. Portland Timbers (Providence Park)
    • Sporting Kansas City: Sporting has the 3rd best away form in the League garnering almost 1.6 points per game away from Children’s Mercy Park. They trail only Atlanta and the Red Bulls in this category. Sporting has had some of the best defensive numbers in the league, their goals allowed total only 40 goals allowed (~1.18 per game). Away from home their concessions are only slightly higher at 1.35 goals/game and their goals scored have remained pretty consistent between home and away with 1.82 scored on average. Sporting will feel decent about how they come into this game having a perfect record so far this season with a 3-0 home win, and a 0-0 draw at Providence Park.
    • Portland Timbers: Although they finished substantially lower in the table than Sporting Kansas City, they secured 2 more points at home than their Western Conference foes. However, they were unable to secure a result against Sporting in their earlier matchup this season. They are averaging a full goal scored per game more than they are conceding with 1.76 scored and 0.76 conceded. Portland really need to take advantage of their first leg being at home if they want to have a good chance of finishing out this series. On the season, they are 0.6 worse per away game than Sporting, so they’ll be looking for a good home result to fuel the away leg.
  • Second Leg, November 29: Portland Timbers v. Sporting Kansas City (Children’s Mercy Park)
    • Sporting Kansas City:  Ironically, Sporting Kansas City has the worst home form of any team to make it to this point in the playoffs, by a decent margin just barely exceeding 2 points per game average. They maintain their defensive prowess at home, allowing 1 concession per game and are averaging 2 goals scored. Sporting will really want to ensure a good result at home after opening on the road and although they aren’t nearly as good at home they will run right into Portland’s weakness also (playing away from home). I think there’s a very good possibility that Sporting gets the home victory and depending on how the opening result goes they may be able to get Portland into an urgent-attacking which would allow for some counterattacking play.
    • Portland Timbers: Portland is the worst of the playoff teams in terms of away form averaging just over 1 point per game. Portland actually has a negative goal differential on the road, allowing 2.06 concessions and a mere 1.41 scored. Protecting your house is always important, but in this match up it might be more true than ever. Although Sporting’s home form has not been as good as Portland’s, their away form hasn’t been nearly as impotent either.

Eastern Conference:

  • First Leg, November 25: NY Red Bulls v. Atlanta United (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
    • New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls been substantially more vulnerable on the road (or at least as “vulnerable” as you can be and still finish with the best record in the MLS). On the road they are allowing 1.35 goals per game and scoring 1.53 per game. The league average for goals conceded away from home is 1.95, so they are a half goal better than the average and they are scoring 0.25 goals per game more than league average (1.27 goals). They have a perfect record against Atlanta United so far this season with a 2-0 home victory and a 3-1 away win (though Atlanta down a man).
    • Atlanta United: Atlanta has been the second best team for a big portion of the season behind the Red Bulls. They’ll want to hope that past results aren’t indicative of whats to come, having lost both prior matchups this season. Atlanta is averaging 2.47 goals scored at home while conceding only 1.12 goals, so this is definitely Atlanta’s opportunity to run the score up and have a nice lead heading into the away leg. Atlanta have conceded at least 1 goal in every home game this season.
  • Second Leg, November 29: Atlanta United v. NY Red Bulls (Red Bull Arena)
    • New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls have turned Red Bull Arena into a fortress, scoring 2.12 per game and right around a half goal conceded per game. The Red Bulls will be hoping to play a balanced game on the road to ensure that they can get right back in it at home. It’s likely that both teams will score at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so it may come down to goals in the second leg. The Red Bulls will be looking to score as many as possible to put them into a good position for the return leg.
    • Atlanta United: Atlanta’s away record is very similar to the Red Bulls, with the goal margin much smaller than at home. Away from the confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they are averaging 1.65 goals scored and 1.47 conceded. If they do, in fact, concede at home like we expect, they may have to attack with intensity in order to return the goal difference to a favorable one.

 

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