New York City FC vs Orlando City | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: New York City FC vs Orlando City

Yankee Stadium – Saturday, March 17 2018 – 15:55 ET (19:55 GMT)

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Preview

New York City FC welcome Orlando City to Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The home side are looking to make it three wins in a row as their former coach Jason Kreis comes to town. It is the first time in their history they have won their opening two games.

Last weekend should have been a far more comfortable result for NYCFC. Their 2-1 win against the Galaxy was a solid result but there is still plenty for them to improve on.

There can be no excuses for not killing the game off this weekend if they get into a similar position. If NYCFC are looking to send out a message to the rest of the Eastern Conference, they need continue their fine start.

MLS: NYC FC vs. LA Galaxy at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y., USA, on Monday, Mar 12, 2018. Photo: Ashley Marshall

Orlando City have had a rough start to their 2018 campaign. They have been blighted with injuries and have felt the impact of missing players. Despite preseason optimism after a busy winter of re-shaping the squad, the Lions find themselves in a tough position with one point from two home games.

This weekend should mark the debut for new signing Sacha Kljestan. That will be a much needed lift to the rest of a depleted squad. The former RBNY man will be out to prove a point and continue his fine run of form against NYCFC.

Some might find the all-time series standings a surprise. Orlando have won five of the nine meetings between the two, with NYCFC winning just twice. If Orlando can pick up their first three points of the season here it should kick-start what could be a very exciting 2018.

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Team News

New York City FC

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: None

🚑 Out: None

Orlando City

❌ Suspensions: Pierre da Silva

❓ Doubts: Stefano Pinho (right ankle)

🚑 Out: Mason Stajduhar (Localized Ewing Sarcoma), Dom Dwyer (quad strain), Josue Colman (thigh bruise) and Oriol Rosell (fitness)

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Key Stats

NYCFC’s MLS form: W/W

Orlando City’s MLS form: D/L

Key stat: Sacha Kljestan is back and due to make his Orlando City debut. The creative midfielder has ten assists against NYCFC from his time with New York Red Bulls.

New York City FC vs Orlando City: Prediction

New York City FC 3-1 Orlando City: Given the key players missing for the Orlando side and how NYCFC have started the 2018 season a home win looks likely. Patrick Vieira’s side will have to be careful not to allow Orlando too much time on the ball as despite absentees, they still have players who can have a huge impact here. Goals are expected but the home side should run out winners.

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Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC

Olympic Stadium – Saturday, March 17 2018 – 15:00 ET (19:00 GMT)

Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC: Preview

It’s taken just three weeks for the first 401 Derby of the season to take place as Montreal Impact and Toronto FC go head-to-head at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The Impact will be looking forward to playing in front of their own fans for the first time this season but know Toronto arrive in incredibly high spirits.

The Impact have opened their season with back-to-back road losses, but have managed to score three goals. They fell 2-1 at Vancouver on opening weekend and were perhaps unlucky to lose 3-2 at Columbus last week. Gyasi Zardes netted a penalty in the 94th minute after Montreal had come from 2-0 down at halftime.

Photo Credit: Hazel May

Remi Garde’s men need to shore up their defence but it’s unclear if the arrival of Rod Fanni will help in that regard. The Impact need to impress on their home opener and will be desperate to get at least one point on the board.

Toronto FC travel to their Canadian rivals after their incredible CONCACAF Champions League win over Tigres on Tuesday night. The reigning MLS Cup champs advanced to the semifinals with a 4-4 away goals aggregate win, and now have a few weeks to prepare for their clash with Club America.

Their priority now needs to be getting their MLS season up and running. They haven’t played since opening weekend, when they fell 2-0 to Columbus in one of the surprise results of the season so far.

Montreal will hope to capitalise on any fatigue that may be on show but both sides will be looking to attack in what should be an entertaining battle. They both come into the game as the bottom two sides in the East, so they will be going for the win at this very early stage of the campaign.

The rivals met five times last season. Toronto beat Montreal over two legs in the Canadian Championship Final before they went head-to-head three time in MLS over the final two months of the season. The Reds won at Montreal 3-1 before the Impact got revenge with a crazy 5-3 win at BMO Field. Toronto then made amends with a 1-0 win at home on the final day of the regular season.

Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC: Team News

Montreal Impact

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: None.

🚑 Out: Zakaria Diallo (ruptured achilles), Kyle Fisher (leg), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (hamstring).

Toronto FC

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: Justin Morrow (leg), Chris Mavinga (leg).

🚑 Out: None.

Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC: Key Stats

Montreal Impact’s MLS form: L/L

Toronto FC’s MLS form: L

Key stat: There have been 30 goals in the last six MLS clashes between these two sides (including playoffs) – an average of five per game.

Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC: Prediction

Montreal Impact 2-2 Toronto FC: It’s a tough game to call, as Toronto are expected to make some changes to the team that advanced past Tigres on Tuesday. Montreal will be ready to take advantage but the Reds still have strength in depth. Goals are expected but this one might just end in a high-scoring draw.

New York City FC vs LA Galaxy | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: New York City FC vs LA Galaxy

Yankee Stadium – Sunday, March 11 2018 – 17:00 ET (21:00 GMT)

Live on Sky Sports Football (UK)

New York City FC vs LA Galaxy: Preview

New York City FC welcome LA Galaxy to Yankee Stadium for their home opener on Sunday evening in what is probably the standout MLS fixture of Week 2. Both sides picked up wins on opening weekend and will be looking to make it two from two here.

NYCFC impressed a lot of people with the way they went about beating Sporting Kansas City last weekend. It’s not an easy place to visit by Patrick Vieira’s men countered really well and came away with all three points and a clean sheet. Jesus Medina impressed on his debut and got himself a goal too. The only negative was the late red card shown to Maxime Chanot, meaning the defender won’t be available here.

NYCFC will be expecting to make it two wins from two. The home fans will be excited for their home opener and know the squad has the quality to be one of, if not the best teams in MLS this season. Beating the Galaxy on Sunday would further emphasise that.

LA Galaxy got their season off to the right start too, as they beat Western Conference rivals Portland 2-1 at StubHub Center. That win was much needed for Sigi Schmid and his team after their disastrous 2017 campaign. Ola Kamara scored on his debut and got off to the perfect start.

The Galaxy still need time to get back to their absolute best but the early signs were promising. Defensively they looked better but NYCFC have a lot of quality for the LA defenders to deal with. The major blow for the Galaxy is the loss of Romain Alessandrini. The Frenchman picked up a hamstring injury last week and is ruled out as a result.

Sunday’s clash will be just the fourth meeting between the two sides. The only previous game at Yankee Stadium saw NYCFC run out 1-0 winners thanks to an early David Villa goal. The Spaniard also scored in last year’s clash, netting a fine left-footed strike to seal a 2-0 win at StubHub Center. This weekend’s game will be Villa’s 100th for the club. He’s scored an incredible 65 goals and added 22 assists in his 99 appearances so far.

New York City FC vs LA Galaxy: Team News

New York City FC

❌ Suspensions: Maxime Chanot (red card)

❓ Doubts: None.

🚑 Out: Jo Inge Berget (thigh)

LA Galaxy

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts:Chris Pontius (knock)

🚑 Out: Romain Alessandrini (hamstring)

New York City FC vs LA Galaxy: Key Stats

NYCFC’s MLS form: W

LA Galaxy’s MLS form: W

Key stat: New York City FC only lost two home games during the regular season last year, although one of those losses came in their final regular season game at Yankee Stadium as Portland left with a 1-0 win.

New York City FC vs LA Galaxy: Prediction

New York City FC 3-1 LA Galaxy: Both sides like to play free-flowing, attractive football and that should lead to a great spectacle. NYCFC may struggle with the absence of Chanot in defence, although LA Galaxy’s chances of capitalising on his loss have been negated by the injury to Alessandrini. Goals are expected but NYCFC look poised to make it six points as they take to the field at home for the first time this season.

Atlanta United vs DC United | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: Atlanta United vs DC United

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Sunday, March 11th 2018 – 15:00 ET (19:00 GMT)

Live on Sky Sports Football (UK)

Atlanta United vs DC United: Preview

Sunday evening sees Atlanta United lineup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for their first home game of the season as they welcome fellow Eastern Conference side DC United.

2018 started with a bang for Atlanta, although not the one they wanted. They were on the receiving end of a hammering from Houston. That 4-0 away loss was a shock to the rest of MLS as they conceded three goals in the first half hour.

A response is needed here. ‘Tata’ Martino’s side know they have to remind everyone what they are capable of. They enjoyed a very promising debut season last year and performed very well at home. So Atlanta need to make it their business to send out a message of their own here.

Standing in the way of that is DC United. They drew their season opener against Orlando so will be looking to be unbeaten at the very least after week two.

The two sides met three times last season and the record books look good for DC, who won all three. Keeping that winning run going is not going to be easy though.

Ben Olsen’s side did not travel overly well in 2017. They have failed to win in 12 of their last 13 on the road and face an Atlanta side who scored 48 goals at home last year, the most in an MLS debut campaign since 2010.

The tie also marks the return of Yamil Asad. The former Atlanta player has described returning to face his previous employers as a strange feeling. He showed the impact he can make on opening weekend, netting DC’s first goal of the 2018 campaign – just as he did for Atlanta last season.

Atlanta United vs DC United: Team News

Atlanta United

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: Leandro Gonzalez (hip)

🚑 Out: Ezequiel Barco (right quad strain) and Jon Gallagher (ankle)

DC United

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: None

🚑 Out: Russell Canouse (knee) and Taylor Kemp (groin)

Atlanta United vs DC United: Key Stats

Atlanta United’s MLS form: L

DC United’s MLS form: D

Key stat: DC United have won all three of the previous meetings between the sides.

Atlanta United vs DC United: Preview

Atlanta United 2-1 DC United – This should be a game that Atlanta go into with the belief they can win. Their confidence will have been rocked with the magnitude of that defeat last weekend but they cannot let that stop them playing the way they know they can. DC United will be looking at this one as a winnable game – but considering their inconsistency on the road weighed up against Atlanta’s home form, winning it is going to be a big ask.

Chicago Fire vs Sporting Kansas City | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: Chicago Fire vs Sporting Kansas City

Toyota Park – Saturday, March 10th 2018 – 18:00 ET (23:00 GMT)

Chicago Fire vs Sporting Kansas City: Preview

MLS is back for Chicago Fire after their week one bye. They start their 2018 campaign by welcoming Sporting Kansas City to Toyota Park.

After an impressive 2017 regular season, where they finished up third in the Eastern Conference, Chicago Fire fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs.

This season Veljko Paunović will be hoping to take his side into the playoffs again and reach the latter stages of the postseason competition. He has strengthened his squad in the hope of continuing to head his side in the right direction.

Sporting Kansas City didn’t start their 2018 campaign in the fashion they would have wanted to. They lost 2-0 to NYCFC in a surprising home defeat. Now they have to bounce back.

However, Sporting KC struggled on the road in their last eight games of 2017. They failed to pick up a win in any of those ties. The last time they made the trip to Bridgeview (2016) they lost 1-0, so the SKC faithful will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

The pressure will ramp up on Peter Vermes and his side if they fail to take a positive result this weekend. They are at the foot of the Western Conference after week one and could potentially find themselves four points adrift of the playoffs if they lose this game.

Chicago Fire vs Sporting Kansas City: Team News

Chicago Fire

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: None

🚑 Out: Djordje Mihailovic (right ACL surgery), Michael de Leeuw (left ACL surgery) and Jonathan Campbell (facial fracture)

(Take a look at all Chicago Fire’s key transfer business this winter by clicking the image above)

Sporting Kansas City

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts:  Brad Evans (lower back) and Khiry Shelton (leg bruise)

🚑 Out: None

Chicago Fire vs Sporting Kansas City: Key Stats

Chicago Fire’s MLS form: N/A

Sporting Kansas City’s MLS form: L

Key stat: Homesick – Sporting KC have not won any of their last eight MLS outings on the road.

Chicago Fire vs Sporting Kansas City: Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-1 Sporting Kansas City – Given that it is Chicago’s opening game there is going to be a buzz around Toyota Park, so the expectancy for them to deliver will be high. Sporting KC need to pick up a point at the very least here but that is by no means going to be an easy task. A draw looks a likely outcome for this one.

New York Red Bulls vs Portland Timbers | 2018 MLS Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: New York Red Bulls vs Portland Timbers

Red Bull Arena – Saturday, March 10 2018 – 19:00 ET (00:00 GMT)

New York Red Bulls vs Portland Timbers: Preview

New York Red Bulls begin their 2018 MLS season at home to Portland Timbers on Saturday evening and should be in high spirits following their historic midweek win away at Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Red Bulls didn’t play on MLS opening weekend but they begin at home here and will be looking to get off to the best possible start. The squad will be high in confidence following that 2-0 CCL win on the road in Mexico on Tuesday but all focus now needs to be on the upcoming game.

Jesse Marsch will no doubt have one eye on the second-leg clash with Tijuana at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday and so some changes are expected to be made to the squad. Major offseason signing Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra could make his first start although the likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer could be rested.

Portland will be looking to capitalise on a weakened Red Bulls side as they look to bounce back following their opening weekend loss at LA Galaxy. The Timbers fell 2-1 and will be disappointed with the way they defended over the course of that match.

New Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese’s will be in familiar territory for his second MLS game, having joined Portland from New York Cosmos, where he won three NASL league titles in five years. Savarese is expecting to have plenty of friends and family inside Red Bull Arena, so he’ll be desperate to get a result.

This will be the second of five-straight away games for Portland as a result of ongoing construction work to Providence Park. The Timbers will be boosted by the fact they’ve not lost either of their last two trips to Red Bull Arena (1W 1D). They also won the only meeting last season, picking up a 2-0 home win back in August.

New York Red Bulls vs Portland Timbers: Team News

New York Red Bulls

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: None.

🚑 Out: None.

[Check out all of the Red Bulls’ key transfer business ahead of their 2018 season opener by clicking the image above]

Portland Timbers

❌ Suspensions: None.

❓ Doubts: Diego Chara (foot).

🚑 Out: Vytas (thigh), Jeff Attinella (thigh), Roy Miller (achilles).

New York Red Bulls vs Portland Timbers: Key Stats

New York Red Bulls’ MLS form: N/A

Portland Timbers’ MLS form: L

Key stat: The New York Red Bulls are unbeaten in their last eight regular season home games, last losing to NYCFC in June. Since then, they have won four and drawn four at Red Bull Arena, keeping a clean sheet in half those games.

 New York Red Bulls vs Portland Timbers: Prediction

New York Red Bulls 1-1 Portland Timbers: A full strength Red Bulls side would probably run out winners here for their opening game of the season. But with changes expected to be made ahead of their Champions League second-leg, Portland will expect to get a result themselves. The Timbers struggled defensively at LA Galaxy last weekend and must improve here, but they have goals in them and will be expecting to cause the Red Bulls trouble. New York still have enough depth to cope with a busy early season schedule but they might have to settle for a point on Saturday.

Sporting Kansas City vs New York City FC | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: Sporting Kansas City vs New York City FC

Children’s Mercy Park – Sunday, March 4th 2018 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

Sporting Kansas City vs New York City FC: Preview

Sunday evening sees two sides tipped for big things this season start their 2018 campaign. Sporting Kansas City wouldn’t have placed New York City FC too high in the list for teams they wanted to face on opening weekend.

Sporting KC had the best MLS defence of 2017, but ultimately didn’t have the firepower in attack to lead them to glory.

In an ever competitive Western Conference, Peter Vermes and his side will have to be at it from the off to ensure they don’t get left behind in the race for top spot. They have made some high quality signings but have also seen some key players depart, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they line up come Sunday.

New York City FC need this to be a big season. It’s their fourth MLS campaign and last season was the first time they really started to look a classy outfit on a consistent basis.

Patrick Vieira has done a good job as NYCFC head coach so far, helped in part by his big names performing – but now they need to step up and make it their business to top the Eastern Conference.

Key faces like Andrea Pirlo and Jack Harrison have departed through retirement and transfers respectively but with some youthful attacking additions, along with talisman and consistent performer David Villa, they should be a force to be reckoned with.

Sporting Kansas City vs New York City FC: Team News

Sporting Kansas City

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: None

🚑 Out: None

(Take a look at all Sporting Kansas City’s key transfer business this winter by clicking the image above)

New York City FC

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: None

🚑 Out: Jo Inge Berget (right quad strain)

(Take a look at all New York City’s key transfer business this winter by clicking the image above)

Sporting Kansas City vs New York City FC: Key Stats

Sporting Kansas City’s MLS form: N/A

New York City FC’s MLS form: N/A

Key stat: Fortress – SKC are unbeaten in 16 of their last 17 home games.

Sporting Kansas City vs New York City FC: Prediction

Sporting Kansas City 1-1 New York City FC: This is a difficult one to call. Given SKC’s defensive solidarity and NYCFC’s attacking prowess it may be a case of the two powers meeting their match. Neither side will be happy starting their campaign without a win, but given the magnitude of this fixture, avoiding defeat in week one would be a welcomed outcome. Definitely a game to watch.

Seattle Sounders vs LAFC | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: Seattle Sounders vs Los Angeles FC

CenturyLink Field – Sunday, March 4th 2018 – 17:00 ET (22:00 GMT)

Seattle Sounders vs LAFC: Preview

Seattle Sounders will welcome Major League Soccer’s newest club to CenturyLink Field on Sunday night, where all eyes will be on expansion side Los Angeles FC. You only get one chance at a first impression and LAFC will want to make their mark against the 2017 MLS Cup runners-up here.

The Sounders are rightly favourites though. They have set the bar for all expansion sides since joining the league in 2009. They have done most things the right way, from incredible and consistent attendances, to developing a play style and an identity in an ever-changing league. They have made the playoffs every year and hold the longest current streak of playoff appearances amongst MLS sides.

Seattle also have the bonus of having two competitive games under the belt. They beat Santa Tecla 5-2 on aggregate in their CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 clash. They tore the El Salvadoran side apart in the second-half at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night, winning 4-0. If they are in that mood on Sunday, LAFC will struggle to cope.

Seattle Sounders players celebrate during their 4-0 win over Santa Tecla in the CONCACAF Champions League/Photo: Denise McCooey

This is the moment LAFC have been waiting for. They have a star-studded list of names on and off the field, with the likes of Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi expected to lead them to success in their debut season.

They have the perfect manager for the job too in Bob Bradley. He’s experienced, he knows the league and he knows how to work with an expansion franchise, as he proved only too well with Chicago Fire in 1998. The aim here will be to prove they can cope with an MLS heavyweight and try and get at least a point on the board at the first time of asking.

This is the first ever meeting between the two sides and LAFC’s first-ever MLS game. It’s impossible to predict exactly how the game will pan out but it’s not one you want to miss.

Seattle Sounders vs LAFC: Team News

Seattle Sounders

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: Osvaldo Alonso (quad strain), Kelvin Leerdam (ankle), Victor Rodriguez (quad strain)

🚑 Out: Jordan Morris (torn ACL)

(Take a look at all Seattle Sounders’ key transfer business this winter by clicking the image above)

LAFC

❌ Suspensions: None

❓ Doubts: Laurent Ciman (knee), Omar Gaber (groin)

🚑 Out: None

(Take a look at all LAFC’s key signings this winter by clicking the image above)

Seattle Sounders vs LAFC: Key Stats

Seattle Sounders’ MLS form: N/A

LAFC’s MLS form: N/A

Key stat: Seattle Sounders haven’t conceded a goal in their last 525 minutes of MLS action at CenturyLink Field – the longest streak in team history.

Seattle Sounders vs LAFC: Prediction

Seattle Sounders 3-1 LAFC: It’s always difficult for expansion franchises in their opening game, especially when it comes on the road. The players will be excited to get out and show they can deliver what’s expected of them but the fact is Seattle are a very tough opponent. The Sounders really impressed in the second-half against Santa Tecla on Thursday and as long as fatigue doesn’t set in from that game, they should be too strong for the newcomers. Home win.

Orlando City vs DC United | 2018 MLS Match Preview and Prediction

Major League Soccer: Orlando City vs DC United

Orlando City Stadium – Saturday, March 3rd 2018 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

Orlando City vs DC United: Preview

The opening game of Orlando City’s 2018 MLS season is to be played at home. They welcome fellow Eastern Conference side DC United to Orlando City Stadium as both sides kick off the new season with reason for optimism.

There have been some major changes to the Orlando roster during the offseason. Kaka has retired after his contract ended, which is a huge blow for the Lions. However, they have acted quickly to bring in a quality replacement in the form of Sacha Kljestan.

Orlando are yet to make it to the playoffs since their inception into MLS three years ago. The pressure is on them to make that happen this season. Jason Kreis has revamped his midfield and knows his side need to be more consistent. A home win in their season opener would go a long way to giving his new look side, and the fans, confidence.

DC United are in a similar position to Orlando for the start of the new season. They too have made improvements to their roster in the offseason. These were the bottom two sides in the East last season and will both be eager to show they are going to have a better 2018.

Making the playoffs will be the main aim for DC this campaign. They won’t want to make it two on the bounce where they fail to make the post season competition.

Ben Olsen will be expecting his side to show what they can do in this tie. However, DC have only won once in Orlando and they’re going to need to make a vast improvement on their away form from last season, where they came away with all three points on just three occasions.

Orlando City vs DC United: Team News

Orlando City

❌ Suspensions: Sacha Kljestan (Red Card) – following his red card for his altercation with Jozy Altidore in the Eastern Conference semifinal, Kljestan serves the first of his two match ban.

❓ Doubts: None

🚑 Out: Uri Rosell (fitness), Dillon Powers (ankle), Josue Colman (thigh bruise) and Dom Dwyer (quad strain)

(Take a look at all Orlando City’s key transfer business this winter by clicking the image above)

DC United

❌ Suspensions: Luciano Acosta (Red Card)

❓ Doubts: Darren Mattocks (Calf)

🚑 Out: Russell Canouse (knee sprain) and Taylor Kemp (sports hernia surgery)

(Take a look at all DC United’s key transfer business this winter by clicking the image above)

Orlando City vs DC United: Key Stats

Orlando City’s MLS form: N/A

DC United’s MLS form: N/A

Key stat: Orlando City have won their last three home games against DC United.

Orlando City vs DC United: Prediction

Orlando City 2-1 DC United: An opening weekend win for Orlando looks a likely outcome for this one. Both sides are missing key playmakers through suspension but given DC’s poor away record last season and their inability, so far, to cause Orlando major problems, this is a game may well follow suit.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew

2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Eastern Conference Final (2nd Leg): Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew

BMO Field – Wednesday, November 29 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

Match Odds: Toronto 4/7 – Draw 4/1 – Columbus 3/1

Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew: Preview

The Eastern Conference Final second leg is finely poised as Toronto FC welcome Columbus Crew to BMO Field. The scoreless draw at MAPFRE Stadium a week ago means there has to be a goal for this one to be settled in normal time.

Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney has been named MLS coach of the year. He will be looking for his side to progress here. But as the first leg proved, the two can be difficult to separate.

Their effective performance in the first leg has given them the ideal platform ahead of this game. Toronto are favourites to reach the MLS Cup Final, but they cannot take that for granted.

Embed from Getty Images

Columbus Crew struggled to break Toronto down and were frustrated in the first leg. By failing to score they have missed a good opportunity to put TFC on the back foot.

But Crew SC know that they can actually reach the final without winning the game. A score draw will be enough to take them through.

Gregg Berhalter will need to have his side well drilled and prepared to deal with a much stronger Toronto. They cannot afford to try and sit back too much, but by the same token they cannot play with an overly expansive style.

Embed from Getty Images

Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew: Team News

TFC welcome back Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore for the second leg. The squad is fresh with no injuries, so this should be Toronto in full force.

Columbus are with midfielder Artur through suspension. Connor Maloney, Gaston Sauro and Ben Swanson are all out, while Alex Crognale is a doubt.

Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew: Key Points

Toronto’s last five: W/D/W/L/D

Columbus Crew’s last five: D/W/W/L/D

Key Stat: 32 goals return – The return of Giovinco and Altidore means Toronto are in a strong position to advance to the MLS Cup Final. Their goal machines were missed last time out but considering their absentees the TFC side that drew the first leg did very well.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco  – Greg Vanney has called for the MLS MVP to come from his record-breaking Toronto side and it would be a surprise to see Giovinco honoured with the award. The Atomic Ant has had an extraordinary season and he will surely be key if his side are to progress to their second final in as many seasons.

Embed from Getty Images

Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew: Prediction

Toronto FC 3-1 Columbus Crew – The Eastern Conference Final second leg is finely balanced. TFC’s returning duo will be expected to provide the goods and prove too much to handle for Columbus.