Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo is key to the team’s playoff hopes, having scored nine goals and added 10 assists this season. Photo by @TheTorontoSun (Twitter).
- Supporters’ Shield winner Philadelphia Union begins playoff quest against New England Revolution
- 2019 finalist Toronto FC starts bid for a fourth MLS Cup final appearance in five years against Nashville
- Read on for the odds, preview and best bets for this pair of MLS playoff games
The top two teams in the Eastern Conference took their fight for the Supporters’ Shield to the final day of the MLS season, but will be two of the last teams to launch their 2020 MLS Cup playoff runs when they take the field on Tuesday, November 24.
Both had to wait until the results of Friday’s play-in round to find out who they would be playing, but the results are in: Philadelphia will be hosting New England, while Toronto FC entertains Nashville SC.
Toronto FC vs Nashville SC Odds
|Toronto FC vs Nashville SC||TOR -1 (+450) | NAS +1 (-190)||TOR +140 | NAS +190
|Ov 2.5 (+100) | Un 2.5 (-122)|
All odds taken Nov. 21 at FanDuel
Can TFC Score Enough To Win?
Jozy Altidore was a pivotal part of Toronto FC’s back-to-back MLS Cup final runs in 2016-17, and despite being injured for most of last season’s playoffs, came off the bench in the final to score.
Their goals per match were the lowest of the Vanney era pic.twitter.com/7qSw1zPllf
— Martyn Bailey (@martyn_bailey) November 19, 2020
However, he’s been injured much of this season, and Toronto’s attack has suffered as a result. The burden has fallen squarely on rookie striker Ayo Akinola and MVP candidate Alejandro Pozuelo, but the results haven’t exactly been explosive – TFC hasn’t scored more than two goals in a game since September and has done so just three times all year.
It is an honour to be named to the 2020 @MLS Best XI for the second year in a row.
This year hasn’t been easy, and we all have come together to face all the challenges we have encountered this season.
Thanks to @TorontoFC and all my teammates for making this possible. 💪🏽🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/3D3RuZwwzc
— Alejandro Pozuelo (@Pozuelo_10) November 20, 2020
But defensively they’ve been solid – last month’s 5-0 loss in Philadelphia aside – and finished with just 26 goals against (removing those five goals would bring them below five goals a game).
Nashville Playing With House Money
As an expansion team, just making the playoffs qualifies the 2020 season as a runaway success for Nashville SC. And a thoroughly dominating 3-0 win over fellow expansion side Inter Miami on Friday night is simply the icing on the cake.
But now the MLS Cup playoffs get real for Gary Smith’s team. Having won an MLS Cup with Colorado in 2010, the English coach knows all about leading an unlikely team deep into the playoffs, but Toronto FC aren’t an untested squad like Miami’s. With the likes of Michael Bradley, Altidore and Pozuelo, TFC’s roster is full of playoff experience and simply knows how to win.
Our inaugural @MLS season rolls on. #EveryoneN pic.twitter.com/2C7kO2J7Mk
— x – Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) November 21, 2020
Nashville are solid though, led by MLS defender of the year Walker Zimmerman, and gave up just 24 goals in their 23 games.
Goals will be at a premium in this first-ever matchup between the two squads on Tuesday, but look for TFC’s experience to tilt the balance in their favour.
Pick: TFC (+140)
Philadelphia Union vs New England Revolution Odds
|Philadelphia Union vs New England Revolution||PHI -1 (+250) | NE +1 (-110)||PHI -120 | NE +290 | DRAW +250||Ov 2.5 (-156) | Un 2.5 (+128)|
Can Union Make A Run?
After the best regular season in franchise history resulted in the Supporters’ Shield – the first piece of silverware in team history – the question now is whether the Philadelphia Union can be similarly dominant in the playoffs.
.@𝗠𝗟𝗦 𝗕𝗘𝗦𝗧 𝗫𝗜
🧱 Andre Blake
🛑 Mark McKenzie
⚡️ Brenden Aaronson
— X – PhilaUnion🛡 (@PhilaUnion) November 20, 2020
Before this season, Philly had just one playoff victory to their name, but the team’s run to the semi-finals of the MLS Is Back tournament in July could now be seen as a portent of better days to come. Certainly the team has all the qualities you would look for in a good playoff team, putting up the league’s best defensive record (conceding just 20 goals in 23 games), to go alongside the joint-second-best offense (44 goals).
Certainly New England and Philadelphia are no strangers to each other this year, having played each other five times already in the pandemic-shortened season. And the results were heavily tilted in favor of the Supporters’ Shield winners, with Philly taking four wins and a draw from those contests, including a 1-0 win in the round of 16 at MLS Is Back.
In fact, New England haven’t beaten their rivals to the north since July, 2017, with the Revs only picking up two draws from the 10 games they’ve played since.
To be fair, the rivalry has been pretty one-sided since the Union entered MLS for the 2010 season. In 32 total games in both the league and U.S. Open Cup, the Union have won 19, with seven going to the Revs and six draws.
Given that New England needed a 95th-minute winner just to edge past the Montreal Impact in the play-in game, and the team scored just 26 goals all season, worse than all but six teams in the 25-team league, and Philadelphia are rightly heavily favored to win here.
Pick: Philadelphia -1 (+250)
For the last 20 years, Paul Attfield has worked in sports media. Starting out in his native Britain with the likes of The Independent, he eventually switched continents, with his work appearing in the likes of the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Yahoo Sports since.