Toronto FC shocked soccer markets everywhere by overcoming a goal deficit and winning the Eastern Conference Final against Frank De Boer’s Atlanta side at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday.
The Canadian side had reached the Play Offs in good form, having finished the regular season in 4th place in the East, 9th in the overall table, and with an unbeaten run that stretched over the league’s last ten games. Whilst they required extra-time to run riot against D.C., Toronto’s biggest scalp of the Play Offs so far was easily against no.1 seed NYCFC in New York, where their game plan was executed perfectly on their way to a 1-2 win.
In our MLS predictions before the game, we had Toronto priced at outsider odds of +280. A tie between the two sides was ahead of a Toronto win at +270, with Atlanta’s favourite odds originally priced at -130.
Frank De Boer’s Atlanta side had also shown the resolute, steely level of composure that comes with a side stacked with as much talent as theirs for most of the season however.The current MLS Cup Champions, there was no sign of the expectation getting to them as they cruised past New England and Philadelphia, not conceding a single goal in the process.
Atlanta’s latest pricing going into this game had them stacked at +350, the second best of the four teams that were still left in the competition, for the MLS crown at the end of the season.
Similarly to Tuesday’s thrilling Western Conference Final, Atlanta made the most of their homefield advantage and romped to an early lead, thanks to a well worked goal between Pity Martinez and Julian Gressel in the fourth minute.
Things would get better for Atlanta, as Michael Bradley was judged to have brought down Pity Martinez in the Toronto penalty box, resulting in a penalty that would have made things 2-0 in just ten minutes. Usually the ever-reliable Josef Martinez stepped up but was remarkably kept out by TFC keeper Quentin Westberg.
It’s always a big deal missing out on a penalty, however this one in particular would prove costly to Atlanta as Toronto’s Nicholas Benezet’s curling effort squeezed past Brad Guzan in goal, levelling the game up at 1-1.
The game remained pretty cagey for most of the following exchanges, both sides settling down after a frantic start and looking to avoid the loss, rather than push for a win. That is until TFC substitute Nick DeLeon pummeled a golazo home from well outside the box in the 78th minute. In one kick, Toronto effectively confirmed their place as Eastern Conference champions.
Their second road win of this year’s MLS Play Offs, Toronto now find themselves up against a more than familiar team as their opponents for the MLS crown. 2019 will mark the third time in four years that the two teams have met in the Final, with the two of them splitting wins between them. Both Seattle and Toronto have shown in their games against the likes of Atlanta and LAFC that experience really does outweigh everything when it comes to tense and dramatic games like these.
You can get odds on a Toronto triumph in the MLS Cup Final at +163, with a Sounders win the favourite currently at -225.