Columbus Crew vs. FC Cincinnati MLS July 17 Betting Preview & Picks
The first version of the Hell is Real Derby takes place this weekend as the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati battle not only for bragging rights but for standing position in the Eastern Conference of MLS.
Both teams drew 2-2 on Wednesday, FCC at home against Vancouver and the Crew at D.C. United. The results leave FC Cincinnati in sixth place with 27 points while the Crew are tied for seventh, the last playoff spot, on 26 points.
Sunday’s kickoff at Lower.com Field in Columbus is set for 7:30 p.m. ET, airing nationally on FS1 and Fox Deportes. Last year the Crew won 3-2 at home in August, and the teams drew 2-2 in Cincinnati in July. Since FCC joined MLS in 2019, the teams have met eight times, with Columbus leading 4-1 and three draws.
Cucho Bags a Brace Off the Bench
Twice on Wednesday, the Crew took the lead on the road against D.C. United, but they were unable to secure the win as a stoppage-time goal resulted in the draw. New Designated Player, Cucho Hernandez, who joined the team last week, scored both goals after coming into the game at halftime. The former Watford player has been used as a sub in both appearances but already has three goals in two games this week.
Caleb Porter rotated his squad on Wednesday with superstar Lucas Zelarayan and also coming off the bench, while Jacen Russell-Rowe didn’t play at all. Cucho scored in the 62nd minute off an assist from Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe, and his goal in the 81st minute was assisted by Zelarayan and S. Moreira.
Yaw Yeboah returned from injury as well, subbing on in the 75th minute, but Nagbe left with cramping in the 82nd minute and his status for the weekend is unknown. Captain and central defender Jonathan Mensah missed the United game with yellow card accumulation but will be back to lead the defense on Sunday.
While the all-time leading scorer in the rivalry, Gyasi Zardes, is now on Colorado Rapids, Zelarayan, Pedro Santos, and Miguel Berry all have three goals against FCC. Goalkeeper Eloy Room has started six of the eight games against FCC with 13 saves, three clean sheets, and five goals allowed.
After scoring multiple goals just three times in 12 games between March 20 and June 25, the Crew have scored seven goals in the last four games. Hernandez has three of those goals, while Derrick Etienne Jr. has two. Etienne leads the team with five goals on the season, while Zelarayn has four and Nagbe has three.
Room has started all 19 games in goal this season, allowing 20 goals and making 53 saves. He has five clean sheets, including two in the last five games.
Columbus has surprisingly been better on the road this season, with 15 points on the road and just 11 from eight home games. Overall they are +3 in goal differential, with three of the five clean sheets coming at home.
Cincinnati Nearly Back to Full Strength on Sunday
The Orange and Blue had to navigate their home game against Vancouver on Wednesday without star midfielders Luciano Acosta and Allan Cruz. Both players were suspended after being sent off over the weekend against the New York Red Bulls. They will be able to return for the game in Columbus, getting Pat Noonan’s squad back to full strength.
Without Acosta and Cruz, Alvaro Barreal moved from outside midfield to the center, and Yuya Kubo started in defensive midfield with Obinna Nwobodo. Ray Gaddis and John Nelson also started in midfield, with Brenner and Brandon Vazquez up top in the 3-4-1-2 formation.
Barreal delivered with a goal in the third minute, assisted by Brenner, for a 1-0 lead. After the Whitecaps tied the game, Vazquez extended his own team record to 10 goals with a strike in the 23rd minute, again assisted by Brenner. FC Cincinnati have now scored 19 first-half goals on the season, ranking in the top four in the MLS.
However, the Orange and Blue were unable to hold on for the win as Vancouver equalized with eight minutes to play. The defense has been the main problem for FCC this season with 35 goals allowed, and they sit in sixth place despite a -3 goal differential.
Like the Crew, Cincinnati has been better on the road this season, with 15 of the 27 points coming away from TQL Stadium. Overall they have four straight draws and haven’t lost in their last six games, dating back to a 4-3 setback at Montreal on May 28. They have three wins and three draws in the last seven road games.
Newcomer Sergio Santos, acquired from Philadelphia Union this week, made his debut on Wednesday in the 74th minute. However, he left the game in the 90th minute with an undisclosed injury.
Columbus Crew (-130) moneyline
FC Cincinnati (+300) moneyline
Total Goals: 2.5. Over (-135). Under (+105).
First Goal: Columbus Crew (-150). FC Cincinnati (+140). No Goals (+1200).
This should be a hard-fought game from start to finish between two rivals who don’t like each other, and neither do their fans.
The Crew faithful will no doubt be in full voice for 90 minutes, and if Wednesday is any indication, both teams need to finish the game out as they lost late leads during the week.
Expect this one to be high-scoring as the three games last year totaled 12 goals, and the winner has scored at least two goals in every matchup except for a 0-0 draw in 2020.
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