Orlando City scored goals on two of its three shots and Lamine Sané and Robin Jansson were ridiculously good as the Lions beat the Columbus Crew 2-0 on the road at Mapfre Stadium. The Lions got their first win ever in Columbus in five tries (1-3-1) and improved to 3-5-3 in the all-time series behind goals by Chris Mueller and Tesho Akindele, with Nani assisting both.
The Lions (6-8-3, 21 points) may have been clinical in converting two of their three shot attempts into goals on the night but the real stars of the show were center backs Lamine Sané and Robin Jansson, who cleared everything that came into the box with either their heads or their feet.
With the loss, the Crew (5-11-2, 17 points) are now winless in their last six matches (0-5-1) and have won only once in 12 tries (1-10-1). Orlando closes with a 2-1-0 June record in league play and a 4-1-0 record in all competitions.
James O’Connor went with only two changes to the lineup from Wednesday’s starting XI, pushing Ruan and Carlos Ascues to the bench, inserting Danilo Acosta and Uri Rosell, and moving Kyle Smith over to the right side of the back line.
The first half wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty. Orlando struggled to maintain control of the ball beyond midfield and poorly weighted and offline passes kept giving the ball back to Columbus. The Crew didn’t exactly take advantage, managing just one weak, offline shot by Robinho until a late flurry off a handful of set pieces in first-half stoppage time.
The teams had a hydration break at the half-hour mark and afterward Orlando kept losing the ball in its own half, but the Crew couldn’t find anyone with a cross or final pass. The one-way traffic suddenly shifted in the 41st minute.
Acosta drove from the sideline toward the middle and slipped a ball to Nani at the edge of the area. The captain flicked the ball through to Mueller who got his shot off quickly and finished past Jon Kempin to score his career-high fourth goal of the season.
Up to that point, Orlando’s best chance to score was a headed back pass from Gaston Sauro that nearly threatened his own goal.
The Crew came close a few times late in the half, sending a few dangerous set piece crosses into the area. One hit Jansson in the jaw and sent the beefy Swede to the sideline to get checked by the trainers. Sané, who had an excellent first half, clearing everything in sight, smashed it out of the box. A corner cross pinballed around and hit the right post in stoppage time and eventually the halftime whistle took off the heat.
Columbus led in shots (4-1, with each team getting one on target), possession (56%-44%), and passing accuracy (82%-77%) but the Lions led on the scoreboard.
The second half was much like the first. Orlando was loose with the ball in traffic and spent a lot of time defending, but did well to force the Crew to the outside and send crosses into the box, where Jansson and Sané were waiting to either nod or smash them away.
The Crew pushed forward and kept coming. In the 54th minute, Columbus victimized Acosta, who was beaten twice in succession but Rosell swooped in to bail him out and clear the ball out for a corner. Columbus, which had 13 corner kicks on the night to Orlando’s two, nearly scored in the 55th minute when a ball popped out to Robinho at the top of the box. He tried an audacious bicycle kick and got a lot of pace on it but Brian Rowe made a diving one-handed save to keep the Crew off the board. Nani was bowled over without a call on the play so it’s a good thing Rowe kept the ball out.
Arturo sent a shot over the bar seconds later as Columbus continued to probe for an equalizer.
The game continued in that vein for about another 10 minutes before Nani turned things back in Orlando’s favor. After a superb tackle by Jansson turned Columbus over in the Orlando defensive end, the ball found Nani on the left side. He dribbled into the attacking third, drew the defenders in, and sprayed a pass between two players to Akindele. The Canadian picked out his spot and fired a perfect shot inside the post to make it 2-0 in the 66th minute.
Akindele’s sixth goal of the season puts him just one shy of his career high of seven, set back in 2014.
From there it was just a matter of seeing the game out by continuing to defend resolutely. The Lions only got forward for one more shot attempt, which Nani put on goal but right at Kempin. It was more about preventing anything dangerous from threatening Rowe’s goal and Orlando was able to see it out and capture its third road win of the season and its fifth road result in nine games in 2019. Orlando now has 11 road points in 2019 after earning only six all of last season.
The Crew had the advantage in shots (10-3, with each team getting three on target), possession (59%-41%), and passing accuracy (81%-74%), but nothing matters but the final score and getting the team’s first ever win in Columbus.
The marathon stretch of games continues next week with a home-and-home against the Philadelphia Union, starting Wednesday at 7:30 at Exploria Stadium before shifting to Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday night.