MLS Conference Finals preview and predictions

Nicholas Mendola

Can I interest you in a well-worn MLS Cup Final pairing?

Away sides Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC enter the conference finals as significant underdogs against LAFC and Atlanta United, but they won’t be too worried about that.

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[ MORE: Dest a win for Berhalter ]

Greg Vanney and Brian Schmetzer’s sides each won a title against each other in 2016 and 2017 at BMO Field in Toronto, and won’t be too worried about the pressure in Georgia and California, respectively.

What odds do they have of springing the upsets? It’s not great, to be honest — LAFC and Atlanta are a combined 27W-3L-6T this season — but you wouldn’t be surprised if MLS was denied the all-golden match-up it so desperately desires.

And, hey, we could get a Bradley v. Bradley final. Do we deserve any less, or any more?

LAFC v. Seattle Sounders — 10 p.m. ET Tuesday

A quirk of scheduling means these sides are meeting for the first time since April, when LAFC took four of six points in an 8-day stretch.

Here’s what I love about LA: They kill you everywhere. Thirty-three percent of their attack comes from the right, another 33 from the left, and 35 right up the middle. There’s no lack of courage from Bob Bradley‘s side, and no other side in MLS can claim the same level of guts (Portland was second at 31% heading up the center of the defense).

Here’s another crazy stat for you: LAFC has five of the top 19 players this season when it comes to the amount of successful dribbles (Carlos Vela, Latif Blessing, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta, Diego Rossi).

Nicolas Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, and Jordan Morris can bring plenty of creativity, too, and the Sounders have the ability to challenge for an upset, but we’re thinking LAFC guarantee’s one more loud day in California.

Atlanta United v. Toronto FC — 8 p.m. ET Wednesday

TFC took points in 11 of 17 away matches this season, but lost 2-0 to Atlanta early in the season at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The Reds did, however, outlast the Five Stripes in the reverse fixture, which came in late June.

Atlanta has the best possession number of any home team this season, holding the ball 57.7 percent of the time. Remarkably, though, TFC managed the fifth best possession number away from home this season and will like the idea of Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, and Jonathan Osorio keeping hold of the ball.

I think TFC has the physical defenders to flummox Atlanta’s attack in Chris Mavinga and Omar Gonzalez, but the biggest question is how much if anything Jozy Altidore will be able to contribute at the other end. Alejandro Pozuelo is wonderful but the Reds need their powerful striker to have hope of an upset. Since we can’t be sure he’ll be ready to go, we’ll peg Atlanta to return to the MLS Cup Final.

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