The Major League Playoffs begin on Wednesday night with the first two knockout MLS matches being played out in what is the early hours of Thursday morning in the UK. Places in the Conference semi-finals are up for grabs in the two fixtures which will have extra time and penalties if there is no result after 90 minutes.
Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls
The playoffs begin in Chicago where the Fire will embark on their first postseason campaign in five years when they host a side familiar with getting this far but perhaps not so acclimatised to going too much further in the form of the New York Red Bulls.
The two have met twice this season already with a 1-1 draw in Chicago and the Red Bulls winning 2-1 in New York. I think the Fire will fancy their chances here though. They have the second best home record in the Eastern Conference with one of their two defeats coming at the hands of Toronto FC who were clearly the best side in the regular season.
To be fair to the Red Bulls they arrive here unbeaten in three matches but prior to their win against DC United at the weekend they had gone six matches without a win on the road. Current form might not be a factor in the postseason but home form and road form may well be and that combined with the quality of Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic means I’m with Chicago Fire here.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes
The first postseason game in the Western Conference involves the side who topped the table until the final day in Vancouver Whitecaps, and the side who only made it into the playoffs in injury time on the last day in San Jose Earthquakes. A Vancouver win sends them into the semi-finals against Seattle Sounders while San Jose would set up a tie with Portland Timbers if they win.
You have to go back to 2015 for the last time that the Whitecaps beat the Earthquakes and given the obvious disappointment they will have felt having surrendered the initiative in the division on the final day they will need a big effort to get past San Jose here.
Given how close San Jose were to missing out on the playoffs completely I would imagine there will be an air of freerolling about the campaign for the Earthquakes now which could make them very dangerous.
I certainly don’t see Vancouver running away with this match even if they were to win it. All the pressure is on them but no side in the playoffs have fewer home wins in the regular season than they do. San Jose can play with more freedom and I fancy they can push the Whitecaps all the way if not nick this tie.
Back Chicago Fire (-0.25AH) to beat New York Red Bulls for a 4/10 stake at 1.85 with BetVictor
Back San Jose Earthquakes (+0.75AH) to beat Vancouver Whitecaps for a 4/10 stake at 1.88 with BetVictor