Orlando City returns to the Citrus Bowl on Saturday for an Eastern Conference clash with Columbus Crew SC. The Lions will have revenge on their minds after a 3-0 blowout in their last matchup with Columbus and an opportunity to string together back-to-back home wins for the first time this season.
Will Orlando be able to get it done? Here are three things the Lions must do in order to bring home the win on Saturday.
Attack Columbus down the right side
After a slow start to the season offensively, Orlando City has started to hit its stride (and the back of the net) with six goals in its last three games. Against a Columbus team that shut them out in their last meeting, the Lions will need more offensive fireworks if they want to get the win.
Crew SC are winless in their last two matches and coming off a draw to the Chicago Fire in which they allowed their opponents to find an equalizer deep into stoppage time. We know how fun that can be. But against Columbus, Orlando must look to hammer Crew SC down the right side of the pitch, a strategy that's brought points to the last two clubs to face them.
In a 2-0 Columbus loss to San Jose, 63% of the Quakes' shots on goal came from the right side of the pitch. Last week, in a 2-2 draw to Chicago, Columbus surrendered a 93rd-minute goal off an Eric Gehrig cross from the right.
With Brek Shea's attacking threat missing from the lineup while serving a red card suspension, Orlando will have to reconfigure their formation or bring someone off the bench to fill his role on the left side of the midfield. The right side of Orlando's formation will be more stable coming into Saturday night's match-up, and that's where the Lions should look to direct their offensive traffic. That also brings us to...
Get Rafael Ramos involved
The Portuguese youngster has been a revelation for Orlando City in 2015, giving the club a solid right back with two-way speed. Coming off a solid performance in a 1-1 draw with San Jose, Ramos has a chance for redemption against the club that provoked his most embarrassing incident of the season, a first half red card after a reckless challenge.
Ramos isn't the first player to lose his temper on the pitch, but the Lions will need him for all 90 minutes on Saturday. He flashed his offensive potential with a 62nd-minute strike against San Jose that nearly gave Orlando the advantage last week, and Ramos must challenge Crew SC on offense if Orlando is going to create any attacking pressure in the absence of Shea.
With enough recovery speed to get back on defense if he's beat, Ramos should be able to cheat up and create opportunities against Columbus. And with with Crew SC likely trying to expose whoever is tasked with replacing Shea, Ramos could very well have room to roam on the right side. Expect a big night from Ramos on Saturday.
Start fast and start physical
Orlando City boasts one of the toughest road environments in MLS, yet the Lions are only 1-2-3 at home this season. Columbus is sitting at fourth place in the Eastern Conference, even though Crew SC remain winless on the road.
Something's got to give on Saturday night in Orlando.
In order to take advantage of Crew SC's struggles away from home, a fast start could do wonders for Orlando as they look to keep the crowd involved throughout the match. If there's confetti on the pitch before halftime on Saturday, the Lions could be in great shape.
Orlando City must also find a way make this a physical match without crossing the line. The Lions have been forced to play with 10 men three times this season and can't afford any costly red cards against Columbus. That being said, Crew SC have shown in the past that they struggle against a physical opponent and Orlando must be able to give as good as they get on Saturday.
Let us know in the comments anything you'd like to see from Orlando City on Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl...