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Pick: Philadelphia Union to win (-147)
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Philadelphia Union were rampant last season in the MLS after securing the Eastern division’s top spot with 67 points. The Union scored 72 goals in 34 games and scored seven more in the playoffs before ultimately losing in the final on penalties against Los Angeles FC.
Columbus Crew could have secured a playoff spot for themselves if only they had been a tad clinical. The Crew drew almost half of their league games last season as they lost just eight games all season becoming the second team behind Philadelphia Union with the fewest defeats.
While the history books favor the visitor in this encounter, recent form and recent head-to-head results indicate that Philadelphia Union could nick this opening day encounter and secure the perfect start to a new season.
The two sides have met 32 times in the MLS. Columbus Crew have been victorious on 15 occasions, while Philadelphia Union have won 12 times. Only five encounters have ended in draws and one of them came the last time these two sides met.
Philadelphia Union are unbeaten against Columbus Crew in the last five encounters with three wins sandwiched by a couple of draws. Columbus Crew’s last victory over Philadelphia Union came in November 2020 when they won 2-1 at the MAPFRE Stadium.
Subaru Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Columbus Crew in recent years. In 15 games between these two sides at this venue, the Crew have won on four occasions but their last win came in 2015. After 2015, the Union have won six and drawn one against Columbus Crew at Subaru Park.
Philadelphia Union were nothing short of prolific last season. They almost went all the way but were halted by Los Angeles FC in the playoff final. Instead of the Union, Los Angeles FC lifted their maiden MLS title.
After licking their wounds, Philadelphia Union are expected to bounce back stronger this season. The side have retained their top goal-getters and creators, whilst adding Joaquin Torres to the squad for the season.
The former-CF Montreal midfielder scored three goals and assisted two last season. The Argentine is expected to operate alongside Daniel Gazdag behind the striker and help increase Philadelphia Union’s goal-scoring average.
The Union will need that boost if they are looking to fight for the title this season. Their goals-per-game average was around two last season. So they will have to be more clinical in front of goal this season.
Philadelphia Union went the entire season last time without losing a single game at home. Heading into the opening game of the new season, the Union’s unbeaten home streak stands at 19 games.
Couple that with Columbus Crew’s recent record with that and the predicted outcome heavily favors the host. In the league phase last season, Philadelphia Union won 12 and drew five of their 17 home games all season.
In addition to that, they scored 49 goals in their own backyard and conceded just nine goals. Their goal difference at home (+40) was significantly higher than their goal difference away from home (+6).
Daniel Gazdag played an influential role in Philadelphia Union’s title charge last season. The midfielder was the Union’s top scorer with 24 goals. Additionally, the Hungarian also contributed with six assists.
The 26-year-old will be eager to lace his boots up and start the season with a goal alongside his new teammate Torres. Julian Carranza scored 15 goals last season, while Mikael Uhre pocketed 13.
That striking duo will also be eager to get off the mark on day one. The attack looks promising and it will be interesting to see if the top players of the Philadelphia Union are able to carry their top form into the new season.
It was quite surprising to see Columbus Crew miss out on the playoff spot last season especially after frustrating so many opponents. However, looking at the number of draws they had all season, their ranking is justified.
Despite losing just eight games in the last campaign, Columbus Crew ended up with just ten wins because 16 of their games ended in draws. The Crew only needed to win one of the 16 games they drew to make the playoffs but that did not happen.
This season, converting these frustrating draws to wins will be the primary aim of the two-time MLS Champions. The playoffs will be the main target this season and then only the focus will shift to a potential charge for the title.
While Philadelphia Union boast a prolific home record at Subaru Park, Columbus Crew will arrive there with a winless streak of six games away from home. However, five out of these six games have ended in draws.
Columbus Crew will be yearning to dodge draws this season but against teams like Philadelphia Union, a draw could be a result that turns out to be favorable for the Crew. Three points will seem like a far-fetched dream as they won just three games on the road last season.
However, all three away wins for Columbus Crew last season came against teams that finished in the bottom three.
In the recent transfer window, Columbus Crew have roped in former Aberdeen striker Christian Ramirez. The 31-year-old will be deployed up front ahead of the club’s top-scorer last season - Lucas Zelarayan.
The attacking midfielder scored ten goals and was the only player to touch double digits for Columbus Crew. Striker Juan Hernandez and winger Derrick Etienne both scored nine goals each.
Zelarayan also bagged seven assists and will be able to get a few more if new signing Ramirez settles into the new side and brings his A-game to the pitch. The striker will get plenty of scoring opportunities from midfield via Zelarayan and from the flanks via Etienne.
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● Teams: Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew
● Location: Subaru Park
● Time: Saturday, February 25 at 7:30 pm ET
● How to watch: Univision networks TUDN and UniMas, ESPN Deportes, Telemundo and Fox Deportes
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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