MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Providence Park – Sunday, March 6 – 16:30 ET (21:30 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 1) 

Match Odds: Portland 23/20 – Draw 23/10 – Columbus 12/5

Match Preview

Portland Timbers host Columbus Crew in a repeat of the 2015 MLS Cup Final on Sunday night as the 2016 MLS Season springs into life in style.

Portland enter the new campaign as MLS Cup holders for the first time and now need to cope with that pressure against the side they beat 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium in December.

Caleb Porter insists the team are preparing for this game as they do every other, but there is no question that bigger things are expected of the Timbers coming into 2016 than in any previous year.

Embed from Getty Images

They had a mixed preseason run, winning three of their eight games, but will need to improve on the back-to-back defeats that brought their preparations to a close.

Columbus didn’t win a game in any of their three preseason friendlies but will be out for revenge at Providence Park on Sunday, with the cup final defeat still at the very front of players’ minds.

Gregg Berhalter has not made many changes to the squad over the offseason and that should help the Crew maintain the same playing style from the outset here.

Embed from Getty Images

It will be intriguing to see how Kei Kamara performs after enjoying an incredible return to MLS last year. Finding the net in his first game would certainly set the tone for what could, and should be another good year for the Crew. He has just penned a new contract making him a Designated Player and will hope to deliver straight away.

Both sides are expected to be challenging at the top end of the Supporters’ Shield standings come the end of the regular season and so getting off to a good start will be important.

Team News

Portland are sweating over the fitness of defender Liam Ridgewell and winger Dairon Asprilla. Ridgewell has a tight calf but should be fit, though Asprilla might have to miss the opener with an ankle sprain. Other than that, Caleb Porter has a full squad available. New signing and former Crew man Chris Klute should start at left-back.

Columbus boss Gregg Berhalter has no injury concerns heading into the season opener and will be able to pick his strongest possible team as a result.

Key Points

Portland Timbers’ preseason form: L/D/W/W/D/W/L/L

Columbus Crew’s preseason form: D/D/L

Key Stat: Columbus have yet to win away at Portland in MLS (D2 L1).

Key Player: Diego Valeri – The Portland playmaker scored inside a minute when these sides met in last year’s MLS Cup Final. He will look to hurt Columbus yet again and is always a threat with his exceptional passing range.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 1-1 Columbus Crew – This is expected to be a tight battle between two sides desperate to avoid defeat on the opening day of the new season. Portland are the reigning champions but will need to handle the pressure of being favourites, rather than underdogs now. Columbus will be out for revenge but have yet to win in Portland and would do very well to leave with three points on Sunday.

Advertisements

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs Columbus Crew

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Eastern Conference Final Second Leg) – New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, November 29 – 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT – Monday, November 30)

Match Odds:  New York Red Bulls 4/6 – Draw 3/1 – Columbus Crew 15/4

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew clash at the Red Bull Arena for the crucial second leg of their MLS Cup playoff Eastern Conference final tie.

The Crew made the most of their home advantage in the first leg, securing a 2-0 win thanks to Justin Meram who scored the fastest goal in MLS Cup playoff history after just nine seconds of the game, before top goalscorer Kei Kamara added a vital second late on.

The New York Red Bulls will be disappointed with their performance in the first leg and know full well they’ve left themselves a monumental task to try and reach the MLS Cup final.

Embed from Getty Images

Jesse Marsch has to rally his men and draw upon their good form coming into the postseason – the defeat to Columbus ended a run of four straight victories and was only their second loss in eight games.

New York have been almost impeccable on home soil in the last few months, winning ten of their last 11 games at Red Bull Arena – in order to go through, they need to win either 2-0 or by a three goal margin should Columbus score, given the away goals rule.

Columbus Crew will be ecstatic after a quite simply magnificent performance in the first leg and they’ve given themselves an excellent chance of going all the way.

Embed from Getty Images

They came into this contest as underdogs, so it will be interesting to see how they cope with the pressure of knowing they’re now in a great position and are most definitely favourites to reach the final.

Gregg Berhalter’s side have only lost by two goals or more on one occasion in their last 14 games, so they will be confident of finishing the job on Sunday night.

The Red Bulls can’t really afford to let Columbus score if they are to have a realistic chance of progressing, as one goal for the Crew would leave them needing to score four in reply.

Embed from Getty Images

With an MLS Cup final spot at stake, one thing we can guarantee is that it promises to be another night of entertainment, excitement and drama – it’s certainly not one to miss.

Team News

New York Red Bulls will be without defensive duo Chris Duvall (broken leg) and Damien Perrinelle (knee). Ronald Zubar will partner Matt Miazga at the centre of the defence and they will need to be fully focused and organised to ensure they avoid any silly mistakes. Miazga, Zubar, Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan are all one yellow card away from missing the final should they qualify.

Columbus Crew will continue to be without midfielder Kristinn Steindorsson who is recovering from a knee injury. Harrison Afful and Tyson Wahl will be keen to avoid cautions, as one more would see them miss the final if they were to make it.

Key Points

New York Red Bulls’ last five: W/W/W/W/L

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/W/L/W/W

Key Stat: No side has ever overcome a two goal deficit from a conference final first leg to reach the MLS Cup final.

Key Player: Bradley Wright-Phillips – The English striker was isolated for large periods of the first leg in Columbus and the Red Bulls need to bring him into the game more frequently this time around to stand a chance of recovering the tie.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

New York Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew – The New York Red Bulls have left themselves with a mountain to climb but they’ll certainly give their all to turn it round. They will run Columbus close but having to come out and attack may leave the door open for the Crew to expose their defensive frailties. A narrow Red Bulls win could be on the cards, but it may not be enough to see them make the final.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Eastern Conference Final First Leg) – Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Sunday, November 22 – 17:00 ET (22:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 5/4 – Draw 12/5 – New York Red Bulls 21/20

Match Preview

Columbus Crew welcome New York Red Bulls to MAPFRE Stadium for the first leg of their Eastern Conference Final clash, with one of these sides just two games away from the 2015 MLS Cup Final.

This is a huge fixture for Crew as they can get a real feeling as to whether or not they will advance into the final if they can outplay the Red Bulls on home soil.

In the last five meetings between the sides where Columbus have been at home they’ve been extremely hard to split. Both sides have won two and the other game a draw in that time so it’s almost impossible to call which way this first leg will go.

Columbus were taken to extra time by Montreal Impact in the last round and have Kei Kamara to thank for them getting them to this match. They cannot afford to give the Red Bulls chances otherwise they will more than likely be punished and keeping a clean sheet in the home leg will be one of the priorities for Columbus on Sunday.

Embed from Getty Images

New York Red Bulls will be feeling confident heading into this tie. They have been in fantastic form but still have a lot of work to do if they are to complete a Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double.

We can expect a similar performance to that of the first leg of the semifinals against DC United, where New York were happy to sit and wait for chances to arise on the counter.

Jesse Marsch will be looking for his side to get an away goal. As we know, losing the first leg with the consolation of an away goal keeps the second leg interesting and the Red Bulls’ approach to the game will be interesting to see.

As previously mentioned, the Red Bulls travel well away to Columbus and they have only failed to score once in their last five visits.

Embed from Getty Images

Team News

Columbus Crew could be without up to three players as Kristinn Steindorsson and Mohammed Saeid are out, while Tony Tchani is a doubt. The Crew will need their top players to be on song here. Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain have 46 goals between them this season and they need to continue to provide in this one.

New York Red Bulls are expected to be without Chris Duvall, Anatole Abang and Damien Perrinelle. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam have 28 goals combined this season and their performances have been key to NYRB success. Luis Robles was awarded the Allstate goalkeeper of the season and it comes as no real surprise, he is a vital last line of defence for the Red Bulls.

Key Points

Columbus Crews’ last five: L/W/W/L/W

New York Red Bulls’ last five: L/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Columbus have scored at least two goals in eight of their last ten Major League Soccer outings. You feel they will need to score at least two in the first leg and make use of their home advantage to have to best chance of progressing.

Key Player: Kei Kamara – The Crew look a completely different side when he is playing at his best and his brace against Montreal Impact in the last round saw them progress to this stage. They will need him at his best here.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 2-1 New York Red Bulls – Crew to make home advantage count but still concede to a Red Bulls side who are very hard to stop. This will leave it perfectly poised for the second decisive leg to see who can make it to the MLS Cup Final.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Montreal Impact

Competition: Major League Soccer Eastern Conference Semi-Final – Columbus Crew vs. Montreal Impact 

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Sunday, November 8 – 17:00 EST (22:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 11/10 – Draw 13/5 – Montreal Impact 23/10

Match Preview

Columbus Crew host Montreal Impact in the second leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal on Sunday night, hoping to turn around a 2-1 deficit from the first leg.

Columbus are up against it knowing that Montreal now pose a huge goal threat and are more than comfortable coming from behind to win games (as we saw in the first leg).

Having only won one of their last three at home, Columbus are worryingly underdogs to progress despite hosting this game at MAPFRE Stadium and that should make for an entertaining spectacle.

Columbus Crew’s record in MLS: P35 W15 – D8 – L12

Embed from Getty Images

A lot will be said for the fact they have the away goal, but it is important to remember that they need a win regardless and beating Montreal has proved difficult in the latter stages of the season.

Montreal Impact are arguably the best team in MLS at the moment, in terms of form, having won five on the bounce at such an important part of the season. They look unstoppable of late with Didier Drogba firing them to win after win.

Montreal looked in trouble when the Crew took the lead last weekend but showed their resilience to come from behind and win. They now enter this tie as the more confident side.

Montreal Impact’s record in MLS: P36 – W17 – D6 – L13 

With players like Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti, the Impact will pose a real threat on the Columbus goal from kickoff.

Embed from Getty Images

One worry will be the Impact’s away form. They have won their last two away from home but had failed to win in five before that and won just four road games all season.

This will be the fourth meeting of the year between these two sides, including last weekend’s first leg clash. Montreal have won all three games in 2015 and appear to have the Crew’s number.

Team News

Columbus Crew are without Kristinn Steindorsson and Mohammed Saeid through injury. Cedrick is questionable but could make an appearance from the bench.

Montreal Impact are missing Cameron Porter, Kenny Cooper and Andres Romero all through knee injuries. Justin Mapp is a doubt with a toe injury.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s last five in MLS: L/L/W/W/L

Montreal Impact’s last five in MLS: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Montreal Impact have won the last three meetings between the two sides.

Key Player: Kei Kamara – As joint top scorer in the regular season, Kamara has proven that he has an uncanny ability to score goals. And lots of them. Columbus will need him on top form if they are to progress. Montreal have kept him quiet in three previous games this year so he has a point to prove.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 1-1 Montreal Impact – This will be nervy and we can’t see many goals, it could even go right down to the wire. However, Montreal have Columbus’ number this season, coupled with winning five on the bounce. We see Montreal just nicking a place in the Eastern Conference Final.

Montreal comeback to beat Columbus in first leg of key Eastern playoff

Montreal Impact came from behind to beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal on Sunday night.

It was an open, attacking game between two sides that entered the MLS Cup Playoffs in fine form. Montreal advanced past Toronto 3-0 on Thursday night and had to make sure fatigue didn’t affect their performance too much on Sunday.

The Impact beat the Crew home and away during the regular season and used whatever mental edge followed that by putting in a confident display in front of the home crowd.

Didier Drogba looked to have opened the scoring after 15 minutes as he bundled the ball into the net but the goal was disallowed as the Ivorian was adjudged to have handled the ball as it went in.

Montreal were then stunned as Columbus took the lead on 33 minutes, grabbing an important away goal through Federico Higuain as he slotted in after Drogba’s defensive header fell straight to him.

But the Impact’s troubles didn’t last too long as Patrice Bernier levelled with a powerful header from a corner on 37 minutes, much to the delight of the home crowd. The goal was Bernier’s second in four days after not scoring during the entirety of the regular season.

The second-half saw the game tighten up a bit but Montreal then capitalised on some lacklustre Columbus defending in the 77th minute as Johan Venegas cooly slotted in after just coming off the bench.

Columbus pressed for a late equaliser but were unable to add to their single away goal and now have to make sure they win their home game next weekend.

Kei Kamara really struggled to make an impact for Columbus and the Crew will have to find a way to get him more involved for next weekend’s match if they’re to advance to the next round.

The two sides will meet at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus next Sunday for the second leg. The winner will go on to face DC United or the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Final.

What did you make of Sunday’s game in Montreal? Did the Impact deserve to win?

Getting Stuck In: The Prince of Columbus

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into Frankie Hejduk, the retired Crew SC and USMNT great, and the impact he is having on the city of Columbus.

By Dave Lewis

Remember Jeff Spicoli from the 1982 cult classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High? (Ok, you may need to Google it). Now picture him as a 140-pound (soaking wet) footballer with the aqua-lung capacity of a dolphin that can bomb up and down the right flank for 90 minutes a game. It’s Frankie Hejduk, the surfer dude from Southern California that ironically calls his adopted home Columbus, Ohio (C-Bus, as the local bearded hipsters like to call it), a land-locked capital city that is 900 miles away from the nearest beach and has more cloudy days than Seattle.

The Black and Gold of Columbus Crew Soccer Club has been coursing through Frankie’s skinny veins ever since he debuted for them in 2003. His footballing prowess took him to Germany (Bayer Leverkusen), South Korea and Japan (started four games for the US in their miracle run to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002), a quick stop in Switzerland and then on to Columbus (played 8 seasons with Columbus Crew SC, winning the MLS Cup in 2008). Not a bad run, but the second half of his career is just kicking off.

Embed from Getty Images

Walk or drive around Columbus today and you will most likely bump into Frankie. It could be a coffee shop on High Street, a bar in the Brewery District or at Fados Irish Pub. Hey, you might even pull up to a stoplight and idle next to him as he peers over the steering wheel of his black and yellow car with the Columbus Crew SC logo emblazoned on the side with Bob Marley blaring out of the windows. If you do see him, he will always take the time to talk to you, and talk some more and then talk a little bit more.

“Hey dude,” Frankie says in his best Spicoli-stoner tone as I bump into him on a chilly Tuesday morning at a local java spot last year. I say: “What up Frankie. Saw you the other day at Fourth Street. Looked like you were having a blast.” He says: “I am always having a blast man… don’t know any other way, dude.” He talks my ear off for ten minutes about everything from the Crew, Ohio State football, to the “rad” coffee this place has. In fact, Frankie is the rare athlete you have to tell, “Hey, I gotta run. No really, I gotta run”.

Frankie’s free-spirited nature is fan friendly – he once showed up in the Crew parking lot for a tailgate with fans before a game he was injured for to share a few “brewskis” – but not exactly corporate friendly. But somehow he has defied the odds, just like he did by dragging his scrawny body across pitches around the world. The Crew decided back in 2012, after he retired from MLS, to make him their brand ambassador. Some laughed at the appointment. “No way Frankie could rep the Crew in any other way than drinking some Buds and having a laugh with the fans,” the critics said. But he never changed his ways and that’s why management loves him.

Embed from Getty Images

He has embraced his U.N.-like role and is now part of the fabric of not only Crew games but the city of Columbus itself. So much so that you might be looking out of your office and see Frankie running down High Street with a huge Crew flag as he chants “we are massive” on a random Monday (saw it!). Or maybe you will hang with him at Fados as he drapes himself in Crew gear and stands behind the bar minutes before an away game, leading the supporters in voice, giving out scarves and free tickets to future games while enjoying the spirit(s). But Frankie is best known in the Nordecke, the main supporters section that is located in the northeast end of MAPFRE Stadium (it will always be Crew Stadium to me), for getting the supporters worked up into a frothy frenzy.

Frankie was so loved during his playing days that the Crew die-hards paid their respects by singing:

He chugged a beer in a fan’s truck bed, HEJDUK! HEJDUK!
“Columbus til I die” he said, HEJDUK! HEJDUK!
The black and gold’s heart and soul,
Steals the ball and stops a goal,
Frankie Hejduk, Columbus’ number two…

He adores the fans right back because he is one of them. Just a regular guy. You know, a surfer dude from Cali that feels right at home in Middle America. As the infamous Jeff Spicoli once said: “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.” Frankie would agree.


Header photo courtesy of Frankie Hejduk on Twitter: @FrankieHejduk2

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Sporting Kansas City

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs. Sporting Kansas City 

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Saturday, August 22 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST) 

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 21/20 – Draw 12/5 – Sporting Kansas City 5/2

Match Preview

It’s third in the Eastern Conference against third in the Western Conference this weekend as Columbus Crew host Sporting Kansas City at Mapfre Stadium.

Columbus Crew come into this one off the back of a 2-2 draw with New York City FC in midweek, a game they would have been hoping to win. They have a chance to make home advantage count again here against a strong SKC side.

Gregg Berhalter will be disappointed that his side could not make up any ground on the Eastern Conference leaders DC United. They remain nine points behind with one more game in hand.

Embed from Getty Images

Sporting Kansas City come into this one off the back of a 5-0 thumping in midweek at the hands of San Jose Earthquakes. Playmaker Benny Feilhaber saw red in the latter stages of the game, he will be a huge miss for this tie.

Peter Vermes will not be happy with that result as it was a great opportunity to close the gap on Western Conference leaders LA Galaxy. SKC could have potentially gone above the leaders but still remain three points behind. The saving grace for Vermes is that his side still have three games in hand on Galaxy, but will not want a repeat performance of the midweek tie.

Sporting Kansas City are in a great position despite that loss, they have lost the least amount of regular season games out of any other side and stand a good chance of winning the Supporter’s Shield if they can take positive results from their games in hand.

Embed from Getty Images

This will be a test for the sides who are both having good seasons, SKC came out on top in this fixture last season, winning 2-1 at Mapfre Stadium, and will be hoping for a repeat of that victory.

Team News

Columbus Crew have four injury concerns. Sergio Campbell is set to miss out while there are doubts about Harrison Afful, Emanuel Pogatetz and Ben Swanson. Kei Kamara, Federico Higuain and Jack McInerney are all one booking away from suspension.

Sporting Kansas City could be without up to seven players. Ike Opara, Bernardo Anor and Roger Espinoza are set to miss out. Jalil Anibaba, Graham Zusi, Soni Mustivar and Seth Sinovic are all doubts. Kevin Ellis is one booking away from suspension.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/D/L/W/D

Sporting Kansas City’s last five: L/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: Columbus are unbeaten in nine of their last ten home matches in MLS.

Key Player: Kei Kamara – Crew’s main man has been in inspired form this season. He has netted six in his last six outings and has an impressive tally of 18 so far this campaign.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 2-1 Sporting Kansas City – Crew to edge a close tie as they come into this one in better shape than SKC.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew 

Venue: Citrus Bowl – Saturday, August 1 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: Orlando City 6/5 – Draw 13/5 – Columbus Crew 19/10

Match Preview

Orlando City host Columbus Crew this weekend in the third regular season meeting between the sides this term. The home side are yet to beat the Crew in a regular season game but were victorious in their meeting in the US Open Cup.

Adrian Heath’s side have lost their last three games on the bounce and this will be a real test for the eighth placed Orlando City.

Orlando have struggled to find home form this season, having won just three of their 11 ties at the Citrus Bowl and that is affecting their playoff chances.

Despite being six places behind the Crew in the league, Orlando are only seven points worse off than their opponents. Heath will be expecting his side to finish in the playoff spots and victory here would be a welcome result to end their four-game winless run.

Embed from Getty Images

Columbus Crew are sitting in a respectable second place in the Eastern Conference and know they cannot afford any slip-ups in the coming games as they will risk dropping down the table.

Crew SC have been in good form of late, losing just once in their last eight outings. Worryingly though, they have only won one regular season away game this campaign.

Gregg Berhalter’s side come into the game off the back of the 3-3 draw with Toronto last weekend, in which they squandered a 3-0 lead and so the players will need to respond immediately to keep the pressure on DC United at the top of the Eastern.

Embed from Getty Images

The MLS game between the two at the Citrus Bowl back in May ended in a 2-2 draw, while Columbus beat the Lions 3-0 at MAPFRE Stadium in April.

Team News

Orlando City will be without Kevin Molino, Tony Cascio, Brek Shea and Harrison Heath. Carlos Rivas is one caution away from suspension.

Columbus Crew have no injury concerns but do have three players one caution away from suspension. Mohammed Saeid, Kei Kamara and Waylon Francis are all treading on thin ice. Kamara suffered a knock in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday night but should be fit to start here.

Key Points

Orlando City’s last five in MLS: W/D/L/L/L

Columbus Crew’s last five in MLS: W/L/W/W/D

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have won just once away from home this season in MLS.

Key Player: Kaka – The midfield maestro played and scored in the midweek MLS All-Stars clash against Tottenham Hotspur and is unplayable when in the mood. Expect him to impress in front of his own fans on Saturday evening.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Orlando City 1-2 Columbus Crew – Columbus Crew to take all three points with their second away win on the bounce against an Orlando side struggling to find any form.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew

NOTE: Preview for game on Sunday, July 19 can be read here!

 

Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Toyota Park – Wednesday, July 16 – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST Thursday 17)

Match Odds: Chicago 6/5 – Draw 12/5 – Columbus 11/5

Match Preview

Chicago Fire host Columbus Crew in the first of two meetings in five days between the Eastern Conference rivals.

Both sides come into the game desperate for points. Chicago are still at the bottom of the Eastern on 18 points and also sit bottom of the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings after 19 weeks of the 2015 season.

They did record a first victory in six on Saturday night though, beating Seattle Sounders 1-0 thanks to a stoppage time goal by Jason Johnson, sending the home crowd into raptures.

Fire fans will hope to be cheering come the end of play on Wednesday night too as a victory over Columbus could move them off the foot of the table and to within just three points of a playoff spot in the East.

Embed from Getty Images

The Crew currently sit in fifth place and are holding on to a playoff spot. But they know they must improve if they are to guarantee postseason football after just two wins in their last ten MLS games.

Gregg Berhalter’s men lost 3-0 at Montreal Impact on Saturday and must respond quickly in Chicago, though they haven’t taken three points away at the Fire since 2006.

The Crew have still not won away from home in MLS this season and have the second worst road record in the league (only Chicago have picked up fewer points away from home).

Though they have still managed to score the second highest number of goals across MLS with 27 in 19 games. Saturday’s 3-0 loss saw them fail to score for the first time in five games, but they have failed to net in six of their nine away games now and are a much better side at MAPFRE Stadium.

Embed from Getty Images

The earlier meeting between the two ended 2-2 at MAPFRE as the Fire rallied from two goals down to rescue a late point thanks to that man Jason Johnson again. They will meet again in Columbus on Sunday night so this should be an intriguing match.

Team News

Chicago Fire boss Frank Yallop could welcome back Shaun Maloney after three weeks out but will definitely be without Jeff Larentowicz. Adailton and Ty Harden are doubtful, while Joevin Jones is still away with the Trinidad and Tobago squad at the Gold Cup.

Columbus Crew will likely be without Kristinn Steindorsson once more, while Kevan George is away with Trinidad at the Gold Cup.

Key Points

Chicago Fire’s last five: L/L/L/D/W

Columbus Crew’s last five: D/W/D/W/L

Key Stat: Columbus have not won in Chicago since 2006 – a run of 11 MLS games without victory has followed, with the Fire winning six times.

Key Player: Jason Johnson – He may be unlikely to start for the Fire but his last gasp goal on Saturday has lifted spirits around Chicago and he was the man to rescue a point in stoppage time against Columbus back in May too. Could he do it again?

(Photo via Chicago-Fire.com)

(Photo via Chicago-Fire.com)

Score Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-1 Columbus Crew – Very difficult to separate the sides on paper ahead of this midweek clash. Chicago will be on a high after their win against Seattle but still don’t look strong enough to record back-to-back victories. While the Crew can’t win away and are unlikely to change that record here. Low scoring draw.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Saturday, July 4 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST – Live on Sky Sports)

Match Odds: Columbus 11/10 – Draw 13/5 – NY Red Bulls 9/4

Match Preview

Columbus Crew welcome New York Red Bulls to MAPFRE Stadium for the second time this season when the two clash on Saturday evening in what is a key Eastern Conference game.

Both sides are still holding on to playoff spots but their recent form in MLS has been way below the standards expected by supporters and so this one should be good.

Columbus come into the game off the back of a 2-0 loss away at Orlando City in the US Open Cup in midweek and they have won just once in their last eight league games.

Gregg Berhalter will be demanding much more from his team as they enter the second half of the regular season. They are hanging on to sixth place in the Eastern as it stands, and need to be fighting higher up the conference.

Embed from Getty Images

The Red Bulls seem to have put their shocking run of defeats behind them as their 4-1 Open Cup victory over local rivals New York Cosmos was their third in a week.

They had lost four straight league games before beating Real Salt Lake last Wednesday and followed that success with three points against NYCFC on Sunday, coming back to win 3-1.

Jesse Marsch will be delighted they have found some form again and will hope they can win in Columbus for the second time this season. The Red Bulls won 2-1 at the end of March as the Crew ended the game with ten men.

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

The Red Bulls have only lost in one of their last six visits to the Crew and will be confident of leaving with at least a point on Saturday.

Team News

Columbus are likely to be without midfielder Will Trapp once again as he is still struggling with concussion symptoms. Other than that, Berhalter has a full squad at his disposal.

New York Red Bulls might have to deal without Lloyd Sam yet again as he is still struggling with a groin injury.

Key Points

Columbus Crews’ last five: L/L/D/W/D

New York Red Bulls’ last five: L/L/L/W/W

Key Stat: There have been 20 goals in the last six games between these sides. Expect entertainment in what should be a good one.

Key Player: Anatole Abang – The 18-year-old Red Bulls striker has done a fine job since coming into the team more regularly. He has three goals in his last six games and got an assist last weekend against NYCFC.

Photo: MLSsoccer.com

Photo: MLSsoccer.com

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 1-2 New York Red Bulls – This one could end up with the exact same result as the earlier season meeting between the two. Columbus are struggling to win games, while New York look to have rediscovered their form at the perfect time. Away win.