It’s finally here. The big one. MLS Cup.
After a dramatic comeback from two goals down in the Eastern Conference Final in the biggest-ever Hell is Real derby against FC Cincinnati, the Columbus Crew will host the final game of a remarkable 2023 season when they take on LAFC at Lower.com Field on Saturday (4 pm ET | Apple TV - Free).
Jack Collins here from The Game Day to look at the showpiece game of American soccer: MLS Cup presented by Audi.
Columbus Crew vs LAFC Odds
Columbus Crew vs Los Angeles FC betting lines are current as of Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 9 am ET at bet365 Sportsbook.
- 3-Way Moneyline: Columbus (+120) • Tie (+240) • LAFC (+220)
- Total Goals: Over 2.5 (-118) • Under 2.5 (-106)
- Both Teams To Score: Yes (-143) • No (+105)
Columbus Crew vs LAFC Match Prediction
Columbus Crew 2:1 Los Angeles FC
If we’ve learned anything across the course of both the regular season and the postseason campaign, this Columbus Crew side is absolutely relentless under Wilfried Nancy. At 2-0 down against the league’s best team in 2023, away from home, it would have taken a brave soul to back the Crew to come out on top - and yet that’s precisely what they did.
It was a second-half performance of immense quality and ceaseless attacking output - and eventually, the Matt Miazga-less Cincinnati crumbled under the sheer weight of pressure that Nancy’s side had subjected them to - a rolling tide of attacks that swamped their opponents.
Nancy’s decision to bring Julian Gressel and Christian Ramírez into the game proved to be a masterstroke, with the former swinging in yet another sensational cross to initiate the Crew fightback before the latter scored deep in extra time to seal the deal and book Columbus’ spot in MLS Cup.
Things were less dramatic for their upcoming opponents. LAFC conceded the vast majority of possession against Houston Dynamo FC but limited their opponents to potshots from distance and hopeful attempts, as they kept their third clean sheet in a row.
It is the bedrock on which this postseason has been based - LAFC know that if they can keep opponents at bay, their forward line will probably guide them to victory.
Led by the talismanic Dénis Bouanga, who is one goal off Carlos Vela’s MLS-record 37 goals in all competitions, Steve Cherundolo’s side can hurt opponents in transition, even if they don’t see much of the ball, which is almost certainly how this showpiece game is going to unfold.
Nancy’s Crew demand the ball; they dominate it. Backed by what will be vociferous home support on their own turf, they’re likely to see a lot of possession on Saturday.
However, LAFC won’t mind that - they will point to the game against the Dynamo to show how comfortable they are without the ball. Their phenomenal speed of attack, when they do get turnovers, has been a viable source of goals throughout this campaign.
It sets this game up nicely for a cat-and-mouse affair, with both sides playing to their strengths, and is likely to mean that certain players become even more crucial than usual.
LAFC’s veteran center-back pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Jesús Murillo will need to be rock-solid in a low block, especially against the combined ability of Cucho Hernández and Diego Rossi, who will have a particular point to prove, as he comes up against his old club, with whom he won the Supporters’ Shield in 2019 and the Golden Boot in 2020.
On the other side of things, just like in the Eastern Conference Final, Aidan Morris and Darlington Nagbe will be crucial if the Crew are to halt LAFC’s dangerous counter in its tracks, with the energy and industry of Morris vital in those transitional phases.
LAFC have been here before, and they know they are one game from becoming the first team to go back-to-back in the MLS Cup since their crosstown rivals, LA Galaxy, did it back in 2011-2012.
It’s a strong motivation, but the Western Conference felt far weaker than the East this season, and Columbus Crew are battle-hardened and playing perhaps the most exciting football in the division.
They feel like a squad that came good at the right time, growing into the postseason in some style, and they are the most challenging prospect LAFC have faced in the Playoffs.
With Cherundolo’s side having slogged through a season where they have already played 52 games, the energy and intensity of this Crew side might prove a step too far, especially on their own patch.
Columbus Crew vs LAFC Best Bet
Total Goals: Over 2.5 (-118) • bet365 Sportsbook
This might feel like a bold shout given LAFC’s defensive record and three shutouts on the spin, but it’s important to remember that these are also two of the league’s best attacks going toe-to-toe.
They might do it differently, but with this amount of firepower on the pitch, backing a relatively high-scoring encounter in such a big game feels like a good bet.