We’re nearly halfway through the MLS odds season and the playoff race is beginning to shape up. When NYCFC takes on the visiting Columbus Crew on Friday, it’ll be a battle of two teams with playoff ambitions and some.
NYCFC will be hoping to reverse recent trends vs Columbus and pick up an elusive win. The Boys in Blue, currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, can move as high as second with a win. NYCFC is coming off of a dominant 5-0 win over a shorthanded Orlando City.
Columbus currently occupies fifth in the East but has played one game more than NYCFC. The Crew are in good form, as they are undefeated in their last six games and are coming off of a 1-0 win vs Atlanta.
NYCFC is, somewhat surprisingly, the overwhelming soccer betting favorite to pick up its first win vs Columbus this season at -210. Columbus has long odds at +550 while a draw is +345.
Game: New York City FC vs Columbus Crew
Location: Yankee Stadium, New York, NY
Time: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus has won both of the previous meetings this season by a score of 2-1. Three of Lucas Zelarayan’s team-leading five goals have come against NYCFC this season.
Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe found themselves on the scoresheet in Columbus’ victory over NYCFC on July 17. Columbus’s road win over City on May 22 was not a traditional home game for City. It was played at Red Bull Arena and Zelarayan scored both Columbus goals. The Crew have won the last three MLS meetings and four of the last five.
NYCFC Demolished Orlando
NYCFC’s 5-0 win vs Orlando wasn’t even its first five-goal win of the season. City smashed Cincinnati by the same scoreline in April. NYCFC’s leading scorer, Jesus Medina scored in both games. Forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has scored in consecutive games, including the winner over Montreal last week and has six on the season.
NYCFC has a balanced attack and has scored 26 goals, which is second in the East and third in the MLS. Its goal difference of +11 is tied for best in the Eastern Conference. NYCFC has conceded the third-fewest goals in the East as well.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson and defender James Sands are at the Gold Cup with Team USA, where they’ll take on Qatar in the semifinal on Thursday. In Johnson’s absence, Luis Barraza has kept two clean sheets in four matches.
Columbus Often Struggles to Score
One goal was enough for Columbus over Atlanta, as Jonathan Mensah scored the winner. However, Columbus’s 16 goals are more than just two other teams in the East. It’s impressive that Columbus is in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with its offensive struggles, but it’s a real concern.
Second-leading scorer Gyasi Zardes is out on international duty with the USMNT. Outside of Zardes and Zelarayan, no other Crew player has more than one goal.
Zelarayan has been excellent vs NYCFC this season but if he gets stifled, it’s unclear where Columbus will get goals from. Although, this is still a Crew team that emphatically won the 2020 MLS Cup back in December. Even so, Columbus is not a good road team.
The Crew’s only road wins have come vs Atlanta United last weekend and vs NYCFC earlier in the season, which wasn’t even at City’s home stadium. Columbus is just 2-3-3 on the road, picking up a total of nine points out of a possible 24. The Crew do have the best defense in the league, though, conceding just 12 goals in 15 matches.
These odds are disrespectful toward a Columbus team (+575) that has beaten NYCFC in both meetings this season. Yes, Columbus has struggled on the road and doesn’t score many goals but this is the defending MLS Cup champions we’re talking about.
The odds might reflect too much weight being put on NYCFC’s 5-0 win vs a severely shorthanded Orlando City team. Outside of Zelarayan, I am concerned about Columbus’s ability to score, but I do think the defense can check City. With the goal line set at +1 for Columbus, I think Crew bettors could get a push at the very least. Take Columbus to cover.