Thursday MLS Picks: How To Bet Red Bulls vs. New York City FC, Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire


Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Mensah

More drama and excitement return to Major League Soccer, with regular-season matches taking place Thursday around the country.

Things kick off around the league when the New York Red Bulls host rival New York City FC in the latest edition of the Hudson River Derby.

Odds as of Thursday at 8 a.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC Odds, Pick

NY Red Bulls odds +148 [BET NOW]
NYCFC odds +170 [BET NOW]
Draw +245 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 2.5 (o-134) [BET NOW]
Time 7 p.m. ET

New York City FC enters the match off an interesting showing at the MLS is Back tournament. The Eastern Conference contender struggled to a 1-2 record in group play and needed help to reach the knockout stage of the competition, where it surprised many with a 3-1 upset victory against Toronto FC in Round of 16 action.

However, the quarterfinal round would be the end of the road for NYCFC, with eventual champion Portland eliminating the Eastern Conference club via a 3-1 result and sending it back to the Empire State without any tournament hardware.

On the other side, the New York Red Bulls opened their competition with a 1-0 win against Atlanta United before suffering back-to-back 2-0 defeats against Columbus and FC Cincinnati to make an unexpected exit from the mid-summer showcase.

When it comes to team data and analytics, these clubs boast some really poor numbers. The New York Red Bulls sit at 2.3 expected goals and 5.2 expected goals against for a -2.8 expected goals differential. Their xGDiff for 90 minutes of -1.42 is better, but nothing to brag about in any way.

In contrast, NYCFC is even worse in these categories (0.9 xGF/-4.3 xGA = -3.4 xGDiff and -1.72 xGDiff/90).

The Red Bulls have gotten the best of their tri-state area foes over the course of the rivalry, winning nine of the 16 meetings between the combatants. However, neither team has played all that well this season, so I am going to avoid a side and back both teams to score instead.

Last season, both games ended in 2-1 results and I see a similar finish in this contest. That said, I will also sprinkle a little on the total going over the number as well.

The PICKS: Both Teams To Score – Yes (-166); Total Over 2.5 Goals (-128)  [Bet now at FanDuel and get a $500 risk-free bet.]

Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire Odds, Pick

Columbus odds -130 [BET NOW]
Chicago odds +360 [BET NOW]
Draw +255 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 2.5 (o-122) [BET NOW]
Time 7:30 p.m. ET

Another Eastern Conference showdown takes place when the Crew goes up against the Fire.

Columbus comes into the match looking to find the form it showed during the group stage of the MLS is Back tournament, and not the way it concluded its time in Florida. The Crew went 3-0 in the opening part of the competition before falling to Minnesota United on penalty kicks in Round of 16 action.
Chicago went 1-2 in the group play and did not advance to the knockout round, so getting off on the right foot here against its Midwest rival has to be the top priority.

Statistically, Columbus is one of the top teams in the entire league when looking at all the data. The Crew sit at 3.0 expected goals and 2.4 expected goals against for a +0.6 expected goals differential. Their xGDiff for 90 minutes of +0.30 puts them among just five teams in the Eastern Conference with a positive differential in that category.

As for Chicago, the franchise is at or near the bottom in the same statistical categories (1.4 xGF/-6.6 xGA = -5.2 xGDiff and -2.63 xGDiff/90), which has to cause some big concerns. The Fire’s xGDiff and xGDiff/90 are actually the worst in the entire league.

When it comes to handicapping this match, it really isn’t that hard to come up with a play. Columbus is the far superior side on the pitch and on paper, and I don’t see Chicago being able to stay with the home team at MAPFRE Stadium in Ohio.

The worst thing you can do is overthink this play. Back Columbus with confidence.

The PICK: Columbus (-130) [Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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