Columbus Crew v Toronto FC
In what has been a torrid campaign for the current MLS Cup runners up, the Crew lost again at the weekend. This time they fell 1-3 away at New England, but have a chance to get themselves back in playoff contention with successive home matches this week facing TFC and DCU. It’s still remarkable that the Crew have only won three fixtures in 2016 though. For the majority of the campaign their identity of last season vanished. The defence pretty much stayed the same but their goal scoring ability completely diminished. However, in recent times there have been more signs of life thanks to the emergence of Ola Kamara. The ex Molde man has been in red hot form of late and looking extremely dangerous. Columbus are going to be without key playmaker Federico Higuain who is still recovering from a hernia injury. Their best defender Gaston Sauro remains out for the rest of 2016 with an ACL. Despite enduring a tough campaign, the Crew have only lost once at home and traditionally they are hard to beat here.
TFC are another team who have undergone an identity change this season. Gone are the days when they could hardly ever keep a clean sheet and were involved in constant high scoring thrillers. Instead, we’ve seen a stronger defensive unit capable of picking up 1-0 wins. Of course, matters haven’t been helped of late by the fact that Sebastian Giovinco hasn’t scored in any of his last seven games. He’s desperate to end that streak and fired in a whopping 13 shots at the weekend against Chicago, but only registered one on target. Fellow frontman Jozy Altidore has been out injured for a number of weeks but might return here, or at least take up a spot on the bench. The midfield duo of Michael Bradley & Will Johnson are both definitely out, as is number one goalkeeper Clint Irwin.TFC started the season with a ridiculous run of eight consecutive away fixtures, but have since played 7 of their last 9 at home. Maybe they’ve forgotten how to operate on the road which could confuse their minds.
TFC beat Columbus three times in 2014, but since then the Crew haven’t lost any of the last four H2Hs. The most recent meeting was a 0-0 draw in Toronto about seven weeks ago. The last time the two teams met here, TFC came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 in what was an absolute thriller. In some ways this is a difficult match to predict but my gut instinct tells me that it’ll be a more open game than some might think. I’ve seen signs in recent weeks that the ‘old style’ Crew is starting to appear again. That’s ensuring a more open style of play, some defensive mistakes but also a major threat going forwards. Ola Kamara is a massive weapon to have at the moment. Of course, TFC also have a huge weapon in Giovinco. This is a great fixture in which to end his scoring drought against a dodgy backline. I think both teams will fancy their chances of victory leading to a decent match. The goal line is set at 2.5 and this is tempting enough for me to back the overs. There’s a danger this could develop into a lacklustre midweek contest but there’s enough quality in the two frontmen to ensure this match ends over 2.5 in my opinion.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.5 goals at 1.85
Chicago Fire v Sporting Kansas City
The Fire suffered yet more away misery as they lost 0-1 at Toronto on Saturday night. It’s now been 33 games and over two years since they last tasted victory on the road. Once again though, they weren’t too bad and remained competitive for most of the contest. Chicago have only lost one match by more than a single goal margin this season and have been harder to beat. Scoring goals has been a major issue but the Fire hope that new signing Michael De Leeuw can help them out in that department. He arrived from Dutch club Groningen and had a pretty good record in the Eredivisie. He’s versatile and can play up top or in midfield. Chicago now have a trio of decent attackers; De Leeuw, Accam & Igboananike. Whether or not they’ll be able to utilise them all remains to be seen. As aforementioned, the Chicago tactics do tend to be quite negative. However, they have played well in all of their last three home matches so there’s some cause for optimism.
SKC travel here on the back of a five match unbeaten run. They had a terrible run of results a month or two ago but it seems they’ve managed to find a way to get back on track. Surprisingly, this has occurred without many key players like Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Brad Davis, and even key striker Dom Dwyer hasn’t been in the best of form. He was suspended for Sunday’s win against NYC, but they still managed to prevail 3-1. Coach Peter Vermes has vowed to keep rewarding the players who have been performing well, but on the back of a short week of rest he’ll have to surely make some changes. SKC haven’t won any of their last seven away games but will probably fancy their chances against a Fire team rock bottom of the Eastern Conference. The visitors have showed a willingness to attack more in recent weeks but whether that continues remains to be seen here.
One of the main reasons I think SKC beat New York City so easily on Sunday night was the fact their opponents had played just a few nights before. Now in this instance it’s SKC who have less than 72 hours to prepare for a game following a draining fixture in hot conditions. Chicago have had an extra day of rest, are the home team and didn’t have such a tough physical affair on Saturday night. Its obvious SKC are going to have to rotate and freshen their squad, but will that upset their recent good form? A lot of people will look at this fixture and presume an easy SKC win. But let’s not forget Chicago have played well in recent home affairs. This feels like a trap game for SKC and they might look beyond their opponents here, losing focus. I don’t think it’ll be a pretty clash but the Fire actually have a decent chance of three points here. It feels a bit risky betting on them, but taking a -0.25 handicap at juicy odds could yield some profit in this instance.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Chicago Fire -0.25 at 2.09
Prices correct at time of writing.
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