Columbus Crew face Minnesota United in the first knockout round of the MLS is Back Tournament on Tuesday (8pm ET). Can the Crew continue their excellent run of form or will Minnesota become the first team to hand Caleb Porter’s men a defeat in 2020?
USAbetting analyzes the game with a full preview before offering our Columbus Crew vs Minnesota predictions and betting picks in conclusion.
Crew continue to impress
If Columbus’ wins against both Cincinnati and New York Red Bulls weren’t enough to get fans excited, their composed victory against Atlanta United certainly was. For the third time since touching down in Florida, The Crew showed that they are an incredibly tough side to face, especially when they go in front. As was the case against Red Bulls, Porter’s men scored early before controlling the game. It is something of a rarity to see an MLS side to defend with confidence, but that is exactly what we have seen from Columbus since the restart.
United hanging in there
While Columbus have generally been firing on all cylinders at both ends of the pitch, Minnesota have quietly gone about their business in Florida. Without turning many heads, The Loons won one and drew two en route to leaving the group stages behind, scoring four and conceding three. So far, United have hung in there and kept themselves in games without really impressing but doing so against a side of Columbus’ quality won’t be easy.
On the face of it, Adrian Heath’s men have done well, though if we scratch beneath the surface, then it is not too difficult to pick holes in their game. For starters, Minnesota had a relatively easy run in the groups. Only one of their opponents finished inside the play-off places in the Western Conference last term. Moreover, if we look at each game, it is easy to say that they have had luck on their side. They were trailing against SKC, before a 74th minute red card allowed them to turn the tide, while some would say that they were a tad fortunate to take a point from Real Salt Lake. Last time out against Colorado, while they did offer a threat going forward, defensive weaknesses were evident, which isn’t ideal ahead of a match against The Crew, who if shown the door, will absolutely walk through.
Recent record favours one team only
Minnesota came out on top when the pair last met, winning by a goal to nil, but the overall head-to-head record shows that this has generally been Columbus’ game. The Crew have won three of the four renewals of this fixture. Since entering MLS in 2017, Minnesota are yet to do anything other than lose against Columbus when playing away from the comforts of home.
Defence the key
As touched on in this preview above, Minnesota looked shaky at the back against a Colorado side that is average at best, while Columbus have looked defensively sound throughout this tournament. Since arriving in Florida, The Crew have not only done an excellent job of resisting opposition attacks, conceding zero goals in 270+ minutes of soccer, but they have also done a solid job of preventing teams from getting serious in the first place. At this tournament, Columbus have only conceded more than ten shots on one occasion, while they have conceded three or less shots on target in two out of three as well. Minnesota have surrendered 10+ shots in each of their three matches.
Tempting player prop
For those interested in player props action, Columbus’ Lucas Zelarayan may just be the answer. The Argentine has been something of a revelation since linking up with Caleb Porter’s men. In just five matches for The Crew, the 28-year-old has notched four goals, two of which have come in Florida.
The dynamic, attack-minded midfielder, who averages 0.83 goals per 90 in a Columbus shirt, is no stranger to finding himself in strong shooting positions, averaging two shots per start since the restart. At the current odds with the recommended United States offshore oddsmakers, based on what has been seen so far, the no. 10, who has been described as the “difference maker” by coach Porter, looks a good bet to get on the scoresheet against a Minnesota defence that appeared to be anything but sturdy last time out.
Stick with Columbus on moneyline
If you want to back the winner on this occasion, then look no further than Caleb Porter’s men. Columbus come into this match off the back of beating two top Eastern Conference sides and have done so in good fashion.
In contrast, Minnesota come into this fixture having stumbled their way to a draw against a relatively weak Colorado side. Their defensive efforts on that occasion don’t exactly suggest that they will be able to fight off a team that has already notched seven goals since MLS returned. Moreover, in their toughest group match, Minnesota drew a blank against Real Salt Lake, registering just three shots on target in the process. Again, such form doesn’t exactly point towards The Loons doing the business offensively against a top defensive outfit.
In conclusion, we have opted for the following two Columbus Crew vs Minnesota predictions for this knockout MLS Is Back tournament game: