MLS Decision Day: Toronto FC One Point Away From MLS Record
Atlanta vs Toronto MLS Picks
Despite Toronto FC having already wrapped up their first Supporter's Shield and being guaranteed a week off in the first round of the MLS playoffs, the Reds will have plenty to play for in their upcoming match against Atlanta United.
Having already tied the record for the most points earned in a regular season along with the 1998 Los Angeles Galaxy (who benefited from a system that awarded one point for wins via penalty shootout), Toronto FC need only a draw to stand alone as the most successful team in history.
While Toronto will have plenty of motivation to pick up at least a point in Sunday's match, Atlanta will be buoyed by the fact that three points could see them move into second place in the conference, meaning they too would have a first round bye and move straight into the semi-finals.
Of course, other results will need to go their way, but with both New York City FC and the Chicago Fire involved in important fixtures there is a great chance United could sneak into the top two.
The sides have only come up against each other once previously, sharing the points in a 2-2 draw at BMO Field. This will be their first encounter in Atlanta and is expected to be in front of a crowd that will break the record for the highest-attended regular season match in MLS history; the current record of 70,245 was set earlier in the year and was also at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The key to Toronto FC's success this season has been their ability to keep key personnel on the pitch, and they will again head into a fixture with no notable absentees through injury, suspension or international duty. Jozy Altidore looked to have put his country's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup behind him when he found the back of the net in last week's match against Montreal, and he will be eager to maintain the momentum with another goal leading into the playoffs.
Meanwhile Atlanta United, who have had no problem scoring goals this season and are only second in both goals scored and overall points differential to the Reds, will possibly see a return to action for star midfielder Miguel Almiron to further bolster their attacking credentials. Almiron, who had started every match of the season, was injured in the 3-0 win over Philadelphia, and United failed to pick up a win during his absence. His return could be crucial for the home side.
So who will win this crucial Eastern Conference matchup? Which other games will have an impact on the final conference standings? Below you will find the odds followed by our fearless prediction and our analysis of all the matches that will have an impact.
This match will be one of the highlights of the round.
A record-breaking crowd and two teams with an incredible goal-scoring record will likely be the ideal recipe for a fantastic match, and it is hard to split the sides. On paper and on form, you would say that Toronto FC the favourites, however the top sportsbooks disagree and have listed Atlanta United as the most likely victor at +107.
We are concerned that Atlanta are winless in their last three matches, including a home defeat to lowly Minnesota, and for that reason we are putting our money on TFC.
They have been professional all season long and coach Greg Vanney will be keen to see his side win prior to their playoff bye. At odds of +229, they present excellent value and should help you end your weekend on a financial high.
The Eastern Conference Playoff Picture
The final round of the MLS is known as 'Decision Day' and with all 22 clubs playing at once it provides fantastic drama as the majority of matches have an impact on the final standings.
While it is already known which six clubs will be featuring in the Eastern Conference playoffs, positions two to five are still yet to be decided, and as mentioned above, the team that finishes second will be rewarded with a ticket straight to the conference semi-finals.
So which matches have an impact on the final standings?
We've listed them below along with our pick for each match.
New York City FC vs Columbus Crew
It's second against fourth in this crucial clash at Yankee Stadium, and destiny is in the hands of the home side who are currently in the driver's seat to earn a first week bye. New York have been strong all season, thanks mainly to the attacking force that is David Villa who is second on the Audi Player Index and has scored 20 goals throughout the 2017 campaign.
Columbus have an extremely slim chance at finishing second - they will need to defeat New York by five goals and hope for favourable results from both the Atlanta and Chicago fixtures - so their realistic goal will be to upset the home side and put themselves in the best possible position to earn a home elimination round match. They are a good chance too - they have not lost a match in their last nine in the MLS and are one of the form teams of the competition.
New York's last nine fixtures have yielded just nine goals, and while their defensive record is roughly the same, they come into this fixture on the back of just one win in six and plenty of drawn matches. Another draw here could be enough for FC to hold on in second position, but it definitely isn't the favoured result.
The only other match between the sides this season resulted in a 3-2 win for New York City in Ohio, although their April 29 fixture seems like an eternity ago and won't have much bearing on this match. It's a tough one to call, but we are going to put our faith in the home side to snap the Crew's unbeaten run and secure second place in the conference.
Houston Dynamo vs Chicago Fire
The only other fixture that has an impact on the final Eastern Conference standings is the match between Chicago and Western Conference hopefuls Houston, which will be played in Texas.
Chicago currently sit in third place, and can move into second spot with a win or draw depending on the result between New York and Columbus. However, a loss could see them drop to as low as fifth and miss out on a home knockout match, again all depending on other results.
Meanwhile, Houston are involved in one of the closest Western Conference Decision Days in recent history. They are guaranteed to finish in at least fifth position, where they currently sit, however if they win against Chicago and other results go their way, there is an opportunity for them to rise as high as second on the ladder. It is certainly going to be an exciting Sunday afternoon!
This will be the first and only time the two teams meet in the MLS in 2017, with Chicago's 1-0 home win back in the 2016 season pretty much irrelevant to the upcoming fixture.
Both sides are in decent form - Chicago have picked up ten points from their last five matches, while Houston have nine points and are undefeated during the same period. The Dynamo have also only lost once game at home all season.
It's a difficult result to pick, but given Houston's home dominance this season one feels that they will do enough to at least earn a point at BBVA Compass Stadium. We feel they will go one better on Decision Day and walk away with a crucial three points that will see them move up the standings and leave Chicago at the mercy of other results in the East.
With so much MLS action all at one time (4pm EDT, Sunday October 22nd), you can be sure that this weekend will be memorable, and placing a few bets will only add to the excitement. Make sure you also check out our analysis of the Western Conference playoff picture, which promises to be just as thrilling. Best of luck for the weekend!
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