Chicago Fire FC will look to pick up where they left off last time out on Sunday (6pm ET), as they play host to Columbus Crew SC at Soldier Field. Can they hosts make it two wins from two? Or will the visitors bag themselves a much-needed three points? Read on for our analysis, predictions and picks as part of this MLS matchup preview.
The Chicago Fire have improved of late, make no mistake about it. They are now losing far less frequently, scoring more goals and, crucially, are picking up consistent points. Sunday’s hosts have lost none of their last three, while they’ve lost only two of their last eight. Their win against New York Red Bulls last time out was their first in five matches, but they’d only lost one in four prior to that, so it’s probably fair to say that they’ve toughened up.
While the hosts seem to be improving, Columbus slide in the wrong direction. The current MLS Cup holders are without a win in three, all of which they have lost. Such form just won’t do for a side that wants to be challenging towards the top of the Eastern Conference, and as they currently sit in seventh, they are not doing that right now.
Goals flowing at home
Scoring goals hasn’t always come easy for the Fire this season, but at home of late, they have impressed. Raphaël Wicky’s side notched twice en route to victory against the Red Bulls last weekend, while they’ve now scored multiple goals in five of their last seven at Soldier Field. That is pleasing, especially since they had scored just one goal in four home matches prior to that.
Chicago’s increased productivity at home could have something to do with Serbian Luka Stojanovic, who after a period of adaptation, is really starting to find his feet in Major League Soccer. The midfield man was instrumental last time out, scoring both goals. Fire fans will be hoping that similar performances follow.
Columbus Crew are Leaking goals
As the Fire improve offensively, scoring no shortage of goals at home in recent times, Columbus leak goals. Poor defending certainly wasn’t something that we associated with the Crew last season, as they impressed en route to lifting the MLS Cup. Caleb Porter’s men had the second-best defensive record in the east at the end of the regular season last time around, but that’s probably not going to be the case this time.
After surrendering no less than 11 (yes 11!) goals in their last three, Sunday’s visitors have now conceded more goals than they have scored this season, shipping 23, scoring 21. At home, the Crew have conceded 12, but they have had the firepower to match such defensive frailties. The same cannot be said for their efforts on the road, where they’ve conceded 11 goals, replying with only six at the other end.
Side with home goals in the betting
Chicago’s recent upturn in goals for, combined with Columbus’ downturn in defensive resistance, points towards home goals, which at the current odds, appeals from a betting point of view with the U.S. online sports wagering sites on the web. Specifically, ‘Chicago to score over 1.5 goals’ catches the eye.
Since the end of June, Chicago Fire have averaged exactly two goals per game at Soldier Field, while this season, they average a respectable 1.5 ‘expected goals for’ per 90 minutes on home soil, which is not something to be sneezed at. Interestingly, only two teams in the east have produced better than Chicago in terms of ‘expected goals for’. Only two teams have scored more home goals as well.
Add into the melting pot that Columbus have been struggling to contain teams, both in general of late and on the road and goals for the home side really start to standout as a viable option.
The visitors have been conceding goals aplenty in recent weeks, keeping a clean sheet in none of their last three. They have conceded two or more in each of those three. They also conceded four goals in their most recent road fixture. It’s not just goals that they’ve conceded, but Columbus have been generous with the number of scoring opportunities that they’ve presented their opponents in recent times when playing away from the comforts of home. Porter’s men have surrendered an average of 2.2 expected goals in their last three on the road, surrendering xG figures of 3.8, 1.7 and 2.5 in their last three overall. Such numbers certainly don’t scream defensive solidity.
If you’re looking for a betting option here, then all things considered, with the hosts moving in the right direction offensively, and the visitors floundering somewhat defensively, a bet on Chicago to notch a couple of goals ticks plenty of boxes. So, as the conclusion of these predictions, this is the betting pick for this MLS game preview: