If this post title doesn’t have you fired up I don’t know what to say. For those of you wondering what exactly the CONCACAF Champions League is, I’m happy to tell you it’s the North American version of the Champions League in Europe that’s contested by teams you’ve heard of, such as Milan, Barcelona and Liverpool. Unfortunately, anyone reading this won’t be able to name any teams in this competition, but I’m happy to help out with a tip for one of tonight’s games.
MLS team Columbus Crew are in Costa Rica tonight to face Costa Rican champions Deportivo Saprissa. Don’t let the fact that the entire country of Costa Rica could fit inside Lake Michigan lead you to believe that Columbus is favored tonight. They aren’t. In fact, Columbus is missing their entire back line and only dressing 16 players for the game tonight.
We are only bringing 16 of 23 players down, so I don’t know if it will be worth watching for a neutral. Chicago on Sunday is a big match, and we [Columbus] could almost put them to sleep in terms of the #1 seed out east with an away win.
Here’s who is out for us:
1. D Eric Brunner (starting CB) is suspended.
2. D Chad Marshall (starting CB) got hurt in practice Monday (knee sprain), could miss Chicago game or possibly more depending on severity.
3. D Gino Padula (starting LB) was ill Sunday but played through it. He won’t make the trip.
4. D Frankie Hejduk (starting RB) will be rested.
5. F Alejandro Moreno (starting F) will be rested (played midweek and Sunday).
6. F Emelio Renteria (visa issues) won’t make the trip.
7. GK Andy Gruenebaum (hip) won’t make the trip.
So, 5 starters out, including the entire backline. Ouch.
Include the fact that Columbus is away from home and playing on what’s described as 1980s astroturf, and it’s almost assured that Columbus will be “playing for the draw” which in soccer terms means they’ll be trying not to get their ass kicked.
A hard place to go? Estadio Saprissa, near the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, is a soccer apocalypse, said Crew captain Frankie Hejduk, who did not make the trip in order to rest.
“It’s a little bit like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” said Hejduk, recalling the bottle-chucking hostility he has faced on previous visits with the U.S. national team.
Costa Rica has beaten the United States six consecutive times in “the Monster’s Cave,” a venue former U.S. coach Bruce Arena referred to as “borderline dangerous.”
“I don’t think (tonight) will be quite what it’s like when the U.S. plays there, but it is one of the most hostile environments I’ve ever been in,” Hejduk said.
Unconfirmed reports also have Saprissa resting players in their domestic league in preparation for tonight’s game. -200 on Bookmaker. Max play on the Costa Ricans.
Lots of picks for tomorrow’s qualifiers:
Chile +600 @ Brazil
Brazil are at home following Saturday’s comprehensive 3-1 win in Argentina. That win also locked up their World Cup place, making their last three games essentially meaningless. Brazil will be missing most of their attacking players who featured on Saturday with Robinho out with a thigh and Kaka, Ramires, Luis Fabiano are suspended along with defender Lucio. Chile are second in the qualifying group and can book their World Cup place with a win. Brazil certainly doesn’t lack depth, but if there’s ever a time to take 6/1 on Brazil losing, it’s here. +300 on the draw is interesting too. More info here.
USA -167 @ Trinidad
Team USA needs a win here to stay on top of their group with three games to play. Trinidad is terrible and their only home win has come against joint bottom El Salvador. With only 5 points from 7 games, Trinidad are essentially out of the running for a World Cup place. If USA were to lose here, they don’t deserve to qualify. A draw is possible, but the US should win this one handily, by which I mean make this more difficult than it should be. Three points are essential as the US finishes with Honduras away and Costa Rica at home, neither of which is an easy game. Fun fact: Trinidad lost at home to Bermuda last year.
Mexico -265 vs. Honduras
Mexico is fresh off a 3-0 win in Costa Rica (where the US got schooled 3-0 earlier in qualifying) and looked fantastic. This should be a repeat of the US game last month, though with much worse odds. Honduras has been in form as well, but Mexico is a perfect 3-0-0 at home in qualifying while Honduras has only picked up one point in three road games. I’m sure Honduras’s record all time in Mexico is something like this, and everything from that post applies here. Wish the price were better, but this is still a value play.
Finland -300 @ Lichtenstein
Finland have an outside chance of qualifying but would need lots of help. This bet is basically Finland to score, as Lichtenstein have one goal in seven games (incidentally against Finland). Finland is not a particularly good team, but these odds reflect a 75% chance of a win here and that feels much too low against a team so limited.
Russia -200 @ Wales
Austria +585 @ Romania
Austria will have a good chance to qualify with a win in Romania and a France loss or tie. On the road tend they to put 8 players behind the ball and try to counterattack through 6’7″ Stefan Maierhofer. It hasn’t been successful as their road record the last few years has been awful. +285 on the draw is also tempting here and might actually be a better play, as could betting on 0-0 if you can find it. Romania is missing their best player forward Adrian Mutu but coming off a solid 1-1 draw with a disorganized France. Like with Chile, 6:1 odds are hard to pass up as Romania is out of contention.
Ukraine -133 @ Belarus
At 3-4 with two road wins Belarus looks fairly decent, until you see those three wins came against group minnows Kazakhstan and Andorra. Belarus do not offer much going forward as 13 of their 15 goals in qualifying have come against the aforementioned Kazakhs and Andorrans. Ukraine have been mediocre this qualifying and only beat Belarus at home on a 90th minute penalty in their last meeting. That said, they will leapfrog Croatia into second place in the group with a win here and a Croatia loss away to England. Ukraine could screw up here, but we’re betting they don’t.
Bulgaria @ Italy Draw +325
Small play here against the Italians who haven’t played well in nearly a year. Italy are on 17 points and lead their group with Bulgaria, unbeaten but with 5 draws, on 11. Ireland are in second place with 16 but have played a game more than these two. The group winner automatically qualifies and the second place team will earn a playoff spot. A Bulgaria win would completely open up this group, an Italy win would all but secure them first place. 3:1 on a draw feels like a good play as Italy seem to never makes things easy for themselves, and haven’t scored for themselves since playing the US in the Confederations Cup in
July June. Italy’s form chart here.
My plays for Wednesday:
Chile 1 unit to win 6
USA 3.34 units to win 2
Mexico 5.3 to win 2
Finland 6 to win 2
Russia 4 to win 2
Ukraine 5.32 to win 4
Italy/Romania 1 to win 3.25
Austria 1 to win 5.85
Austria/Romania under 2.5 goals 1.15 to win 1
From the weekend…
Arsenal +800 or +850 to win the EPL. Probably won’t happen, but they’re no worse that 5:1 after this.
Need to pay more attention on the weekends…
I’m not normally a big fan of past records, such as Philly is 2-6 against the spread in their last 8 meetings versus Seattle. A lot of times, the players on each team hadn’t even been born when the records in question were being tallied. That said, sometimes there’s valuable info in there. Current lines on Bookmaker for the World Cup qualification match in Mexico City next weekend:
The US is 0-22-1 all-time in Mexico. Even when the US is good, they still don’t win there. Somehow, Mexico is an even money bet to win a game they’ve won literally, all but once.
4 unit play on El Tri.