This article is part of our Soccer Picks series.
The MLS is Back Tournament was expected to be weird and that's kind of what's happened, the biggest outlier being Orlando City in the quarter-finals. A team that finished with the third-fewest points in the league last season, Orlando is one of the last teams remaining.
Of course, they aren't the only surprise because Portland and Cincinnati battled in the Round of 16. Portland had the same odds as Orlando entering the tournament, while Cincinnati wasn't expected to take a point in the group stage.
On the other end of that, there are the usual teams that showed up as expected like LA FC, NYC FC and Sporting KC. At this point, not many will be betting against LA FC after scoring 15 goals in four matches without Carlos Vela. They've had by far the best offense and Orlando probably isn't the team to slow them down.
Still, there's money to be won.
Sporting Kansas City (-110) v. Philadelphia Union (+270)
Kansas City have been dominant with Tim Melia in net. He's allowed just one goal in five starts this season, including stopping a couple in a penalty shootout last match. The lone goals SKC have allowed in the tournament have been with a backup in net after Melia was sent off in the opening group match. If you want to go on that stat alone, taking under 2.5 goals at +108 seems like a good bet (it opened at +143).
For some reason, the odds favor over 2.5 goals (-141) even though there have been just seven goals scored in Philly's last four matches. A lot of trends point to the over, but I'm not willing to back a trend that dates back to last season for a tournament played on a neutral field in a pandemic. The other part is that even if the match is 1-1, it won't go another 30 minutes, meaning you don't have to worry about the over hitting in the 120th minute.
If you don't want to mess with goals, you could take a chance on +265 for a draw. Philly have drawn two of their first five matches, while SKC couldn't hit the back of the net against Vancouver last match despite taking 37 shots.
This match opened SKC +114 and Philly +205 at DK Sportsbook.
Los Angeles FC (-125) v. Orlando City (+265)
If you want to believe Orlando being in this spot is an anomaly, getting LA FC at -125 to win is about as easy as it gets. Sure, nothing is easy in MLS and these teams drew in their last meeting, but Orlando just aren't as flashy. They're going to try and win by defense, similar to the recent 1-0 win against Montreal, and that's not fun to bet on.
LA FC has by far the best attack Orlando has faced and coming off the four-goal outing against Seattle, I wouldn't bet against it. If you really like Orlando but don't want to bet them to win, it makes sense to bet under 3.5 goals at -148 (opened -104) because the only way Orlando can win is if it's low scoring. For me, I'm fine taking the better team to win at almost even odds.
This match opened LA FC -112 and Orlando +240.
San Jose Earthquakes (+115) v. Minnesota United (+210)
Minnesota didn't get much respect last match as a +260 underdog against Columbus and that disrespect continues. Then again, they're underdogs for a reason. Their lone win in this tournament came after going up a man and then scoring two stoppage-time goals against Sporting KC's backup goalkeeper. The Loons know how to battle, but a lack of scoring could be an issue against the Earthquakes, who have 11 goals in their last three matches.
The biggest difference between these teams is that San Jose just beat Real Salt Lake 5-2, a team Minnesota had a scoreless draw against. Those results will likely point to more money going to the favorite, but I think making a play on Minnesota at +210 is worth a shot.
Overall, nothing stands out to me in this matchup, but if I had to pick, both teams to score at -157 is my choice. While the Quakes are running through their competition, the squad is almost the same as last season when they had a negative goal differential and didn't make the playoffs. That's why I think the Loons provide some value because they've won the last three meetings by a combined 11-3 scoreline, including a 5-2 road win in March.
New York City FC (+120) v. Portland Timbers (+205)
These odds may also be putting too much into recent contests. NYC FC beat Toronto as a small underdog last match, but earlier in the tournament, they couldn't get anything going and were barely favored over Inter Miami. As for the Timbers, they needed PKs to get past Cincinnati, so oddsmakers don't believe in them anymore.
On a neutral site, there isn't anything that really separates these teams, especially since Portland have yet to lose, dropping points only in a 2-2 draw against LA FC. Maybe NYC FC have found their form from last season when they won the Eastern Conference, but a lot of that was due to having one loss at home (11-1-5). While this match is on the East Coast, it's not a home game for NYC FC.
Similar to Minnesota, I think there's value with taking Portland to win straight up at +205. Also similar, it makes sense to back both teams to score (-180) because that's happened in every Portland match of the tournament. While guys like Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco are potent, Portland's back line continues to have issues. If you want to bet on a goal scorer, Valentin Castellanos (+180) may be the best option, producing 20 shots (nine on target) in the first four matches, albeit only one of those led to a goal.