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FC Cincinnati vs Columbus Crew: who is the favorite in the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals?

Both teams had their fair share of drama on their way to the finals, Columbus Crew have been here before while Cincinnati are seeking their first title.

Both teams had their fair share of drama on their way to the finals, Columbus Crew have been here before while Cincinnati are seeking their first title.
Nathan Ray SeebeckUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew both left it late to book their place in this year’s Eastern Conference final - both semi-finals were settled after the full 90 minutes had been played. Yerson Mosquera latched onto a loose ball to rifle in the winner in stoppage-time as regular season champions Cincinnati pipped Philadelphia Union 1-0.

Long and close-range for the Crew

The other semi-final, between Orlando City and Columbus Crew went to extra-time after two goalless halves in Florida. Christian Ramirez put Columbus ahead, bundling the ball in from close range just three minutes after the restart and Chuco Hernández settled it from a little further out - finishing into an empty net from the halfway line after keeper Pedro Gallese ventured out of the safety of his penalty area.

Tension in the playoffs

Both teams had their fair share of ups and downs to get where they are today - after comfortably topping the Eastern Conference in the regular phase, Cincinnati resolved their Round 1 playoff against the New York Red Bulls after a nail-biting shootout that went to 20 spot-kicks.

Columbus’ Round One tie went to a third game after Atlanta tied the series, beating Wilfried Nancy’s team 4-2. The Crew bounced back to beat their opponents by the same scoreline at Lower Field to progress to the semis.

Top goal scorers against one of the strongest defences

During the regular phase, Cincinnati lost just five games and apart from a 5-1 thrashing to Western Conference rivals St Louis back in April, have looked pretty solid at the back since the season started. This will be their first appearance in the Conference finals and the closest they have ever been to getting their hands on the MLS Cup. Their relative inexperience at this stage of the tournament could be a factor against a side who have been here many times.

Columbus ended the regular season 12 points behind Cincy in third but were the top goal scorers in both conferences with 67 goals - that’s an average of almost two goals per game. You would think their punching power in attack plus their track record would make them the favorites to advance to next month’s MLS Cup final - the Crew have ended as Conference champions three times and gone on to lift the trophy twice (2008 and 2020) yet that is not reflected in the bookmakers’ odds...

Before the semis, Cincinnati were +243 and Columbus at +573. Currently, Cincinnati are listed+100 to advance to the MLS Cup final; Columbus are at +240 with the bookies to appear in the final for the fourth time, while the odds for a draw are +250.