When the Chicago Fire welcome current MLS Cup holders Columbus Crew to Soldier Field on Sunday evening, they’ll be looking to extend an unbeaten run that stands at three.
Unlike the hosts, the visitors are looking to bounce back after three straight defeats, but if they want to walk away with all three points, they’ll have to do something that they’ve not achieved since 2015 and that’s win away at Chicago. Interestingly, this is a fixture that has never been kind to the travelling side, with just four road wins in 35 renewals.
Chicago Fire – On the move?
After a dismal start, a start that lingered on longer than many would’ve hoped, the Chicago Fire appear to be moving in the right direction. They’re unbeaten in three, while they’ve now lost just two out of nine. Such form has seen the Fire lift themselves towards the middle of the pack in the east, so much so that the play-offs no longer seem entirely out of reach.
The form of Sunday’s hosts at Soldier Field is also starting to look quite encouraging. They’ve lost just one of their last seven in front of a home crowd, and have picked up some solid results against sides above them in the table, most recently drawing against third-placed NYCFC and beating the Red Bulls, who’re currently two points better off than Raphael Wicky’s men.
Expected Line-Up: Shuttleworth – Teran, Pineda, Calvo – Gimenez – Sekulic, Herbers, Stojanovic, Bornstein – Offor, Beric.
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Columbus Crew – Visitors struggling
It’s been a disappointing couple of weeks for the MLS Cup holders. They’ve lost three on the bounce and as a result, have slipped to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings. Such a position isn’t good enough for a franchise that is undoubtedly looking to go all the way again.
If this match was in Columbus, Sunday’s visitors, despite their recent struggles, would probably fancy themselves to get a result, but their efforts on the road this term have left plenty to be desired, so confidence may not be too high. It’s strange to say this about the side that beat all comers to the big prize last season, but the Crew have found it tough to score goals on their travels, falling to score in five out of nine on the road. Their output needs to improve if they’re to climb the rankings.
Expected Line-Up: Room – Afful, Mensah, Fraser, Santos – Nagbe, Hairston – Diaz, Zelarayan, Molino – Zardes.
Expert Pick #1 – Chicago Fire to Score Over 1.5 Goals @+100
First up, is a play on the hosts to continue their good scoring form. The Chicago Fire notched twice on route to beating NYRB at this venue last time out, while they’ve now scored multiple goals in five of their last seven at home. Interestingly, only two teams in the Eastern Conference have scored more home goals than Chicago this season. Sunday’s home side also delivers a more than respectable 1.5 expected goals per 90 at home. Add in that the visitors, who’ve conceded six goals in their last three away games, have given away no shortage of scoring opportunities on their travels, surrendering an average of 1.51 expected goals, and a bet on the hosts to notch at least twice is warranted.
Expert Pick #2 – Chicago Fire to Win & Over 1.5 Goals @+170/h2>
As a secondary option, a bet on ‘Chicago Fire to Win & Over 1.5 Goals’ catches the eye. We’ve gone into why the hosts look a good bet to score goals, but there’s cause to think they’re a good bet to emerge victorious too. For a start, they’re unbeaten at home against Columbus since 2015, which was the last time that the away team won this fixture. More importantly, the hosts have done a better job of creating more than they’ve conceded at home than the visitors have done on the road. Chicago Fire’s average expected goal difference of +0.07 at home is nothing to get excited about but it’s far better than an expected goal difference of -0.73, which is what the Crew have away from the comforts of home.
Expert Pick #3 – Robert Beric to Score @+175
The big Slovenian has had to bide his time of late, starting less games than he probably would have liked, but when he has been on the pitch, his numbers have been solid. Entering the twilight of his career, Beric still boasts a scoring average of 0.52 goals per game, while his average of 0.42 expected goals per 90 this season is not to be overlooked. If he starts, against a side that has leaked goals on the road of late, Chicago’s hitman is worth betting on to get on the scoresheet.
Chicago can continue to move in the right direction on Sunday evening, as they take on an out-of-sorts Columbus Crew. The visitors have found it hard to keep teams at bay on their travels of late, so the hosts have an opportunity to do what they did last time out and score multiple goals.