Columbus Crew v. NYCFC Betting Preview
Two teams that were expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title meet up on Saturday as the defending MLS Cup champions host NYCFC. Instead of battling for the top spot, though, both teams find themselves in a three-way tie for sixth place. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio, and the contest will be televised on ESPN+.
Columbus hasn’t won in their last four outings, while NYCFC has won three of their last five MLS games. The Crew went on the road and beat the Pigeons 2-1 on May 22 as Lucas Zelarayan netted a pair of goals on free kicks. The hosts are slight favorites on Saturday at +160 with NYCFC at +170, and a draw is +260.
Zelarayan Leads Crew Attack
The Crew will head into this contest without striker Gyasi Zardes who scored in the USMNT Gold Cup opener on Sunday. They are also missing midfielders Liam Fraser (Canada), Kevin Molina (Trinidad and Tobago), and Derrick Etienne Jr. (Haiti). Goalkeeper Eloy Room has returned after Curacao withdrew from the Gold Cup with COVID-19 concerns, but his status for Saturday is unknown.
Zelarayan leads the available Crew members with four goals, the same tally as Zardes. He also has one assist on the year and turned in the MLS Goal of the Week in last Friday’s 2-2 draw at FC Cincinnati. He started up top in place of Zardes in that game, with Darlington Nagbe sliding into the attacking midfield role.
Youngster Miguel Barry scored his first Crew goal at Cincinnati coming off the bench. He could get a start on Saturday instead of Alexandru Matan, opposite winger Pedro Santos. Defender Harrison Afful is unavailable Saturday after picking up a red card against FCC.
If Room is unavailable, Evan Bush will get a second straight start in goal. He has allowed two goals in two starts this season, while Room has allowed nine in his 10 starts.
Pigeons Struggling on Defense.
NYCFC will be without goalkeeper Sean Johnson (United States) and defender James Sands (USA) as they are in the Gold Cup. The defense has allowed at least two goals in all four losses this season and has only posted one clean sheet in their last eight games.
Luis Barraza started in goal in the last NYCFC game while Sebastiaen Ibeagha started in place of Sands. In that 2-1 road loss to CF Montreal, NYCFC switched to a 3-4-3 starting formation for the first time this season. Barraza allowed two goals on three shots while center back Maxime Chanot filled in as captain for Johnson.
The Pigeons have a balanced attack with 19 goals on the season. Jesus Medina leads the way with five goals, while both Valentin Castellanos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi have four. Tajouri-Shradi scored in the first game against Columbus, and three different Pigeons have three assists on the season.
Crew ML +160. -0.5 (+130)
NYCFC ML +170. +0.5 (-190)
Total Goals 2.5. O -115. U -105
First to score: Crew -105. NYCFC -105. No Goals +600
The Crew are 17-1-2 in their last 20 home games and haven’t had consecutive winless games in Columbus since August 2019. This will be their second-ever game at the new stadium following a 2-2 draw against New England on July 3. The key for NYCFC is to not let the Crew get free-kicks in scoring position, and they also need an early goal to keep the boisterous Columbus crowd out of the game.
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