After an interrupted and altogether unusual campaign, we have reached the MLS Cup Final 2020. As they look to retain their title, Seattle Sounders travel to take on the 2008 winners Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium today (8.30pm ET Saturday; TV: Live on Fox).
Will it be the hosts who crown what has been an excellent campaign by lifting silverware? Or can the visitors make it three MLS Cup wins in five years? Here USAbetting gives our MLS Cup Final, Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders predictions, betting picks and full preview.
Been there and done it
MLS Cup is massive, and the pressure is on, no matter who you are, though if any team is unlikely to be overawed by the occasion, then it’s Seattle, who will feature in the final game of the post season for the fourth time in four years. The holders, who beat Toronto by three goals to one in this game last season, will go to MAPFRE Stadium full of confidence. They have been here before and they’ve got the t-shirt. Such experience could prove to be vital when both teams enter the high-pressure environment of MLS’ showpiece fixture this evening.
Seattle have the recent experience of playing at this level, and they have the experience of winning MLS Cup, not once but twice in the last five years. The record of the visitors in recent years is not exactly easy to look past, though the hosts have something to shout about too. They’ve not reached this stage of the campaign since 2015, when beaten by Portland Timbers at this venue, but The Crew do have an outstanding home record this term, which should stand them in good stead.
During the regular season, Caleb Porter’s men went unbeaten on home soil, winning nine and drawing just one, scoring 22 goals and conceding just six in the process. Interestingly, not a single team in MLS finished the regular season with a better defensive record at home than Columbus, who conceded an average of just 0.60 goals per home game.
Sounders shaky on the road
Brian Schmetzer’s visitors are by far the more experienced side when it comes to competing for the MLS Cup at the very end of the campaign, especially in recent times, though their recent travelling record is something of a concern. The Sounders have done what they usually do by winning play-off games, but they’ve not played away from home in the post season yet, which is a big thing. It’s one thing getting the job done surrounded by the comforts of Lumen Field.
Prior to the end of the regular season, Seattle were having a tough time of it away from home. They ended the campaign having won just three of their nine travelling matches, winning just one of their final four, two of which they lost. Among those in the Western Conference, in terms of goals conceded, Schmetzer’s side were the second-best team defensively, though they still shipped an average of 1.44, which doesn’t exactly point towards complete solidity.
Comparing Columbus at home to Seattle away
If we break things down and focus on the numbers, one side stands out massively. Let’s start with the hosts, who’ve enjoyed a dominant season at MAPFRE Stadium. On their own patch, Columbus scored 22 times in 10 regular season matches. They’ve since scored four goals (inside 90 minutes) in three play-off home games. In contrast, Seattle ended the regular campaign having scored 14 goals in nine travelling matches. At home, Columbus conceded an average of 0.60 per 90, while Seattle shipped an average of 1.44.
If we move on to expected goals (xG), then the pair are quite evenly balanced. The Crew ended the regular campaign with an average of 1.71 expected goals for per 90, as well as an average of 1.21 against, leaving them with an average expected goal difference of +0.50. The Sounders were by no means poor in terms of xG on their travels, but their numbers don’t quite match up to those of Columbus, or at least not offensively, what with the visitors averaging 1.42 expected goals for per 90. At the other end, they did post an average of just 0.93 xG against, leaving them with a reasonably healthy expected goal difference of +0.49.
When it comes to shots, the pair once again measure up closely. In terms of average shots for, Seattle performed ever so marginally better on the road than Columbus did at home during the regular season, averaging 11.88. Columbus averaged 11.6. In terms of shots on target, The Crew performed better, averaging 4.8 for. On their travels, The Sounders averaged 3.77 for. Against, as far as general shots go, Columbus surrendered an average of 11.6 at home during the regular season, while Seattle gave up 10.66. Today’s hosts conceded an average of 3.4 shots on target per 90 at home, which is only slightly better than Seattle’s away average of 4.0 against per 90.
Bet on goals
As something of an MLS Cup specialist side, there will be those who will be keen to pounce all over the visitors ahead of today’s big game, while plenty will side with the hosts who’ve won with regularity at this venue. However, looking at the early odds, neither side appeal much at the prices. When we break it down, there doesn’t seem to be much between the pair, so much so that the fact that the two are reasonably closely matched on the moneyline seems fair.
One bet that does stand out with the best gambling operators is ‘over 2.5 goals’ at -115. We know full well that both teams have a couple of rather special attacking players, what with Lucas Zelarayan and Gyasi Zardes lining up for the hosts, and Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro for the visitors. Moreover, in their respective home and away matches, the pair averaged 3.13 expected goals for, while three or more goals have been scored in six of the last eight matches played at MAPFRE Stadium. Add in that Seattle have seen three or more hit the net in three of their four play-off matches, as well as a ‘combined goals for’ average of 3.6, and a bet on the goals to arrive in no small number this evening starts to look very appealing. So the betting pick this USAbetting preview is going for with these MLS Cup Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders predictions is: