Atlanta United went into the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals with MLS betting favoring them at roughly -150 favorites to qualify for the MLS Cup. They go into the second leg as -2000 favorites.
The Five Stripes demolished the New York Red Bulls to the tune of 3-0 on Sunday night in front of 70,000 fans. Now leading 3-0 on aggregate, the Red Bulls have a mountain to climb if they want to reach the MLS Cup on Thursday.
The First Victory
Even more remarkable about Atlanta’s 3-0 victory is the fact it was their first time ever defeating the Red Bulls. It’s a slightly less impressive streak than it sounds because Atlanta United has only been playing in the MLS since 2017, but that only makes reaching the Eastern Conference Final more impressive.
Josef Martinez opened the scoring in the 32nd minute for his 34th goal of the season. The Red Bulls seemed to have equalized in the 53rd minute from Bradley Wright-Phillips, but the goal was later waved off when VAR determined that Red Bulls Alex Muyl was offsides and screening Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan.
That was the turning point of the match. The Red Bulls weren’t able to rebound from seeing their goal wiped away, and capitulated in the 71st when Franco Escobar scored Atlanta’s second. Hector Villalba drove home what might be the dagger in New York in the 5th minute of stoppage.
While a 3-0 deficit is a mountain to overcome, it’s not impossible. Barcelona famously defeated PSG 6-1 in the UEFA Champions League to overcome a 4-0 aggregate deficit and conceding an away goal with less than 30 minutes to play. However, the Red Bulls would need to play one of their best games of the year to defeat Atlanta.
Earlier in the season, the Red Bulls defeated Atlanta 3-1 and 2-0. To at least force extra time on Thursday, the Red Bulls will need to reach the end of regulation 3-0. A goal by Atlanta would force New York to score 5 to overcome the away-goal rule.
Effects on Betting
The massive result from the first game might have killed a lot of interest in betting on the result of the second leg. With Atlanta in commanding control, the Red Bulls are being offered at +800 to make the MLS Cup while Atlanta sits at -2000.
Being able to sit on a 3 goal lead, Atlanta will be able to drop into a defensive mode from the opening kick and simply defend. At least that’s what bookmakers are banking on, offering Atlanta at roughly +300 odds to win the second leg outright. New York opened at -125, and a draw opened at +270
The over/under, however, is set at an intriguing 2.5. The big money will likely be on the over/under, if punters think that the Red Bulls will manage to get the 3 goals necessary to force extra time. Either way, the 2.5 point over/under line is expecting more fireworks, regardless of what team it’s coming from.