Columbus Crew vs Philadelphia Union MLS Preview, Betting Picks, Predictions: Stick With Champs

Lucas ZelarayanMLS Cup holders Columbus Crew begin the defense of their crown on Sunday as they host a Philadelphia Union team that pipped The Crew to the Eastern Conference title last campaign (5.30pm ET; TV: Live on FS1). Both will be looking to start with maximum points, but will either get the job done? Read on for our Columbus Crew vs Philadelphia Union predictions and picks.

How did the pair fare last time around?

Both teams went into the off-season having enjoyed themselves last time around. Philly finished the regular season as the highest placed team in the east, though they were unable to go all the way in the post-season, which was where Columbus really came alive. Having finished in third place in the Eastern Conference, Caleb Porter’s men kicked it up a gear in the play-offs, going all the way to end, where they got their hands on an MLS Cup thanks to a 3-0 victory over Seattle Sounders.

Off season moves

The last couple of seasons saw the emergence of two excellent prospects at Philadelphia. First and foremost, the exciting Brendan Aaronson quickly showed MLS crowds what he was capable of, so much so that it wasn’t long before Europe came calling. The 20-year-old switched The Union for Red Bull Salzburg once the campaign ended. The 21-year-old defender Mark McKenzie, who became an important player for Philly last time around, has also gone to Europe having joined Belgian outfit Genk. It will be interesting to see how The Union start the campaign without these two players, who despite their age, were important parts of Jim Curtin’s set-up.

Coming in there’s Stuart Findlay, the 25-year-old central defender, who was most recently plying his trade in the top tier of Scottish football with Kilmarnock, while Leon Flach has joined from second division German side FC St. Pauli. Such transfers have made ripples in the MLS water as opposed to waves, but both could easily turn out to be shrewd recruits.

There have been moves made in the Columbus camp too. Fortunately for Caleb Porter, key players like Lucas Zelarayan, who some may feel was unlucky not to collect the MVP award last term, Gyasi Zardes, Pedro Santos, MLS legend Darlington Nagbe, captain Jonathan Mensah and midfield patroller Artur all remain. Coming in there’s Romanian attacking midfielder Alexandru Matan, who recently registered six assists in 22 league games for FC Viitorul in his homeland. Another scoop is MLS goal-scoring extraordinaire Bradley Wright-Phillips. Few require reminding of the fact that the Englishman is the sixth top scorer in MLS history with 116 goals.

Recent record points towards the hosts

In recent times, this has very much been a fixture dominated by the hosts, who have won each of the last three renewals, scoring five goals and conceding just one. When the pair met back In November, Columbus emerged victorious by two goals to one. In fact, Philadelphia haven’t won away against The Crew since 2016. Since then, they have travelled to take on Sunday’s hosts no less than six times. They have lost five of those six matches, failing to score in five of them. Recent history is very much on the side of the current MLS Cup holders.

Where’s the money?

Unsurprisingly, Columbus come into this fixture as warm favourites, though it is a little surprising that they’re not shorter. Odds of -120 certainly aren’t mouth-watering, but they are perhaps a tad generous. After all, we’re talking about the current MLS Cup holders, who’ve kept all their big hitters and recently added one of the league’s most prolific strikers ever.

Last term, Columbus won ten out of 11 regular season matches on home soil, while Philadelphia only managed to pick up maximum points in 33% of their travelling fixtures. Moreover, this is a Columbus side that posted an average expected goal difference of +0.58 on home turf, against a visiting side that recorded an average of -0.09 on the road. Combine this with Columbus’ dominant recent record in this fixture and the defending champions look worth siding with to make a winning start to the 2021 campaign.

So, coming to our Columbus Crew vs Philadelphia Union betting predictions for this preview, there is just the one pick that we advise:

  • Bet Columbus Crew to win on the moneyline @ best odds of -111 with BetOnline.