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Hell is Real: FC Cincinnati v. Columbus Crew Preview, Betting Odds
Before the MLS takes a one-week break as the CONCACAF Gold Cup begins, FC Cincinnati hosts rival Columbus Crew in the Hell is Real Derby Friday night. Columbus holds a 3-2-1 (W-D-L) advantage since FCC joined the league in 2019, and this will be the first of two scheduled meetings in 2021. Kickoff at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN+.
Crew Short Handed as They Head to Cincinnati
Things have not gone according to plan for the defending champions this season, and they enter Friday’s game in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. In the first 11 games, the Crew have four wins and four draws while scoring just 11 goals. Last season en route to the title, they scored 36 goals in 23 regular-season games and nine more in four playoff games.
The Crew haven’t won in three games with a loss and two draws. They head down I-71 short-handed this week with six players called up for the Gold Cup and five others out through injury. The starting lineup will be missing at least five regulars, and coach Caleb Porter will see his depth tested against a team playing their best soccer of the season.
The Crew will be without leading scorer Gyasi Zardes and starting goalie Eloy Room who will be in the Gold Cup for the USA and Curacao, respectively. Forwards Luis Diaz (Costa Rica) and Derrick Etienne Jr. (Haiti) are also expected to be gone, as are midfielders Liam Fraser (Canada) and Kevin Molina (Trinidad and Tobago). Their absences will give players like Miguel Barry, Alexandru Matan, Isaiah Parente, and Saad Abdul-Salaam the opportunity to step up.
The good news for the Crew is they still have playmaker Lucas Zelarayan with three goals on the season. Captain Jonathan Mensah anchors the back line with Harrison Afful, Vito Wormgoor and Milton Valenzuela. Look for Evan Bush to start in goal as he got a clean sheet filling in while Room was in quarantine last month.
Cincinnati Headed in Right Direction
Despite turning things around under Jaap Stam in the last month, the Orange and Blue are still looking for their first home win of the season. They lost the TQL Stadium opener 3-2 to Inter Miami and were shutout 1-0 and 2-0 by New England and Colorado Rapids, respectively. The latter game was the first with full capacity and drew just over 25,00 boisterous fans who would love nothing better than knocking off the Crew.
Since moving to a 4-3-3 formation after the international break, FCC is 2-1-1 (W-D-L) with four goals scored. They will be without Allan Cruz and Ronald Matarrita, who will both play for Costa Rica in the Gold Cup. Other than that, the Orange and Blue are at full strength, with Brenner, Luciano Acosta, and Geoff Cameron among those making their rivalry debuts.
FC Cincinnati scored just 12 goals last season, and they already have 10 this season. A win against the Crew could move FCC to as high as 10th in the standings depending on Atlanta United’s result this week.
Alvaro Barreal scored in last week’s win and led FCC with three goals on the season. He and Brenner will need to put pressure on the Crew defense for the hosts to grab their first home win. With all of Zelarayan’s goals coming on free kicks, it is also imperative that FCC not commit fouls and give the Crew set pieces.
With the Crew shorthanded, FC Cincinnati is a favorite at +140 while the visitors are +205. A draw is +246. The total is 2.5 goals, with the over at +100 and the under at -110.
This is the first even matchup between the two teams at TQL Stadium, though FCC got a win and a draw last year at Nippert Stadium. Columbus won at home and in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando in 2020. When at full strength, the Crew have 11 goals in the last five games against FCC, but that won’t be the case on Friday, so give the under a strong look.
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