Another Friday means that another Orlando City game is almost upon us. The Lions’ undefeated streak is still intact, so the boys will try to stretch it a little bit further when they welcome the Columbus Crew to Exploria Stadium on Sunday.
Columbus has had a damn good season so far and is currently only three points back from first place in the Eastern Conference. Have you been surprised by the team’s form or was this expected coming into the season?
Pat Murphy: I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised with how good the Crew has been most of this season. I expected the Black & Gold to be better than last year because it’s hard to have the injuries and the turnover under a new coach that Columbus did in 2019. The second half of the year, once Caleb Porter had more of his type of guys on the roster, the Crew was one of the hottest teams in the league, so that set some expectations.
With that said, however, I expected this team to be a playoff contender, not necessarily in contention for the Supporters’ Shield. The defense has far exceeded expectations, as has Gyasi Zardes in terms of goals per game. Those are good recipes for being successful
Lucas Zelarayan was the Crew’s big signing last off-season. How has he performed this year?
PM: Zelarayan has been well worth the record-setting money the Crew paid for the Argentine playmaker. When he is on the field, he makes this offense better, creating chances for both himself and others. He is your true modern day No. 10, contributing five goals and four assists. The issue has been Zelarayan needs to be on the field to be successful and he hasn’t been enough. Ankle, knee, and hamstring injuries have kept him out of five games already this year and Zelarayan is set to miss more time. Fans in Orlando will not get to see him this weekend.
What type of soccer does Columbus like to play? What do you expect to see from the Crew on Sunday?
PM: The Crew have more or less played a similar style since 2014 when Gregg Berhalter took over. Porter didn’t change too much when he came. Out of a 4-2-3-1 typically, the Black & Gold look to possess the ball and build out of the back. The fullbacks will get involved in the attack and the midfield will help to create chances, mainly for Zardes.
While I expect Columbus to rotate the lineup a bit on Sunday after playing on Wednesday night, I still expect Porter to play the same type of style. There may be little tweaks based on personnel and to adjust to Orlando, but more or less the Crew looks to play its game against any opponent.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
PM: I mentioned Zelarayan already, he will be out. Darlington Nagbe is also likely to miss yet another game with a knee injury. Midfielder Fatai Alashe could return from an injury of his own to replace Nagbe, but that is not certain. Milton Valenzuela left Wednesday’s game with an injury but looked okay. That could just have been precautionary.
It’s hard to predict the lineup for the Crew right now, but I would guess Eloy Room; Chris Cadden, Jonathan Mensah, Aboubakar Keita, Hector Jimenez; Artur, Fatai Alash; Emmanuel Boateng, Pedro Santos, Luis Diaz; Gyasi Zardes.
I said 1-1 on our podcast and your guys’ podcast, so I’ll stick with that for the sake of consistency.
Big thanks to Pat for the insight on the Crew.