The great start to the MLS season was derailed by Sporting Kansas City last week as a midweek Champions League match appeared to take too much out of them in Colorado. After three weeks of the MLS season, my record sits just below even at 2-2 (-0.03x).
Let’s get back to the winning ways this week with Philadelphia at home hosting Columbus.
If not for an Andreas Ivan goal in the first five minutes of the season, the Columbus Crew would have kept three consecutive clean sheets to begin the season and sit atop the MLS table. On paper, the Crew appear to be one of the best defences in the league, and expectation would go a long way in supporting that. Through 270 minutes, the Crew have allowed 3.1 expected goals against to just the single goal conceded.
As I mentioned in previous articles, it is difficult to use expectancy from such a limited sample size of games. The true talent of the defence likely lies somewhere in between.
One thing that this team is extremely good at is shutting down any pressure up the middle. Skill wise, Columbus central defenders are not the quickest in the league, but they always have plenty of support in playing very deep and have a great connection with perimeter defenders.
Striking in Transition
Despite the success Columbus has had in the back, it is their midfield which raises some questions. The Crew can be extremely sloppy on the ball and holding possession.
They have been knocked off the ball with direct turnovers at a 2:1 rate compared to opponents through three matches.
This allows for any team with speed and transition skill to potentially create a number of opportunities. Philadelphia has a lot of crafty playmakers in midfield who are great passers. Haris Medunjanin is a lesser known player in the league but the tall midfielder is extremely good at controlling the ball and getting a cross into the box, while averaging in the high 80% passing bracket.
Where all the focus is on the Columbus defence, the offensive success has somewhat been taken for granted. Through three matches, the Crew have been outshot twice and averaged less than 10 shot attempts per match. The Crew are playing above expectation on offence and have been the benefactor of an easy schedule of opposing defences to begin the season. Zardes has been a major contributor scoring half of the team’s goals and directly accounting for more than a third of the shot attempts for the Crew.
His absence to international duty this weekend means Columbus will have to look for offensive output somewhere else.
The other two goals they have scored this season have come from centreback Gaston Sauro – certainly not a viable creative force in attack. Without the lead attacker in the 4-2-3-1 with Columbus has fielded in all three matchups and the tendency to sit back deep, manager Caleb Porter is going to be quite comfortable in playing conservative and looking to get out of Philadelphia with the single point.
The loss of Gyasi Zardes is huge for the Crew. His absence changes the tactical matchup and opens up plenty of opportunities for Philadelphia to push forward and take advantage of the sloppy Columbus midfield play.
This price has come down this week – for good reason – and will continue to drop as we get closer to kickoff.
As long as Philadelphia are priced above 2.00, there is certainly value in backing the home side.
- Philadelphia Union (2.15). Risking 1.00x