Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night match-up between Orlando City (10-3-8, 38 points) and the Columbus Crew (11-5-5, 38 points). This is the first and only scheduled meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2020. This fixture was originally scheduled to take place on Sunday, Oct. 11 but was postponed due to two members of the Crew’s traveling contingent testing positive for COVID-19 the day before. The league eventually rescheduled the match to the most logical date, which is today.
The match has major ramifications in the Eastern Conference, as the teams entered this week level on points, but with the Crew holding the tiebreaker with more wins. Orlando can finish no better than second but Columbus has an outside shot at the Supporters’ Shield and playoff seeding is on the line, regardless.
The Lions are 4-5-3 in the all-time series and 3-2-2 at home (4-2-2 if you count a U.S. Open Cup win back in 2015). Orlando swept the season series last year, defeating the Crew 1-0 on a Benji Michel goal on July 13, 2019, and two weeks previously getting their first road win in the series, 2-0. Nani assisted on goals by Chris Mueller and Tesho Akindele in that one.
In fact, the Lions are currently on a three-game winning streak against Columbus. Orlando won 2-1 on Oct. 21, 2018 on a pair of penalty kick goals. Yoshimar Yotún and Sacha Kljestan provided the spot kicks to offset Federico Higuain’s opening goal.
The last Crew win in the series was assisted by a horror call by Silviu Petrescu in the 88th minute on July 21, 2018, giving Columbus an equalizer from the penalty spot. Wil Trapp then scored the kind of goal in stoppage time that he’ll probably never score again to lift the Crew to a 3-2 victory in a game the Lions had stolen away on a call that Petrescu’s own organization said was an error.
In Kaká’s final game in purple, the teams met at the end of the 2017 season with Columbus winning 1-0 on Ola Kamara’s second-half goal. The teams drew 1-1 in Orlando on Aug. 19 of 2017. Lalas Abubakar scored to put Columbus ahead in the 35th minute, but Giles Barnes equalized in the 67th. In the first meeting of 2017, Justin Meram scored both goals for the Crew in a 2-0 Columbus win.
The Lions were 0-1-1 against Columbus in 2016. The last meeting in Camping World Stadium saw the Crew beat down the Lions, 4-1. Ethan Finlay and Kamara (with a brace) powered the Crew, who also got a Seb Hines own goal, to more than offset Cyle Larin’s goal. The teams drew 2-2 in Ohio on July 23. Tony Tchani and Kamara (penalty kick in the sixth minute of first-half stoppage) put the Crew up, 2-0, while Kevin Molino and Larin led Orlando back for interim coach Bobby Murphy.
The first ever meeting in 2015 was marred by a Rafael Ramos red card as the Crew won in Columbus, 3-0. The teams drew 2-2 in May of that year and Orlando got its first league win against the Crew in a 5-2 demolition of Columbus that August.
The Lions are 5-0-3 at home this season. Columbus is 0-4-5 in true road games in 2020 but did go 3-0-1 at the MLS is Back Tournament — falling to Minnesota in penalties after a draw in the first knockout stage match — so the Crew are 3-4-6 in all games away from Mapfre Stadium.
Orlando has one two straight since a last-minute loss at Inter Miami halted the Lions’ club record 12-game unbeaten streak (6-0-6). City navigated much of that streak with a number of regular players due to injury or international duty.
Columbus won its last match 2-1 on Sunday at home against the Shield-leading Philadelphia Union, on a night in which former Lion Joe Bendik had a bit of a rough night in goal for Philly. The Crew have won just two of their last eight (2-4-2), but now have Darlington Nabge and Lucas Zelarayan healthy and back in the lineup.
The Crew have been the league’s stingiest teams defensively in 2020, conceding just 18 goals in 21 games this season and only three times in the last four games. They gave up none in the MLS is Back group stage and one in the draw that ultimately knocked them out of the competition.
Meanwhile, only Philadelphia (42) and Orlando (36) have scored more goals than Columbus (33) in the Eastern Conference this season. Gyasi Zardes continues to score goals in every way imaginable. Zardes leads Columbus and is second in the league with 11 goals, and it’s insane how many he scores with random parts of his body. He scores bangers in one game and the next he’ll have one go in off the back of his thigh. All that means is that he’s putting himself in good positions and taking his chances. Zardes has a third of the Crew’s 33 goals this season, so stopping him is an important part of stopping Columbus.
Prior to the postponement of this original fixture, Oscar Pareja said the key to stopping Zardes is to deny service to him.
“Gyasi’s movements have been better as time went on,” he said. “But basically he needs a lot of balls there. He needs a lot of serving. We need to control that. It was very similar to the player that we just played against Atlanta, with (Adam) Jahn. He’s always busy and he has great movements and has scored lately. Their main goals are based on their crossing.
“With Zardes I think it’s similar. He can create his own plays too. Gyasi’s strong on the crossing. We will want to control that.”
Pareja knows his team has a tough challenge ahead against the Columbus defense, led by MVP candidate Jonathan Mensah at center back. Orlando must take its chances if it’s going to have a chance to beat Columbus.
“They have done good things defensively,” he said. “Hopefully we can have creativity, that we can be strong offensively, that we can keep our initiative and protagonism.”
Mauricio Pereyra returned to the lineup Sunday, and Pareja said Monday that Uri Rosell is “normal” and fully available for selection. So, the Lions are without just Dom Dwyer (knee surgery) and Joao Moutinho (groin). Moutinho returned to training this week but is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season, although Pareja said he hopes to have his starting fullback for the postseason.
Columbus is nearly entirely healthy, with only defender Vito Wormgoor (ankle) listed as out. That would not have been the case had the teams met on their originally scheduled date, as both Nagbe and Zelarayan were out at the time.
Mandatory Match #Content
Here's your mandatory match content to prepare you for the game:
- Our Intelligence Report provides more info about Columbus with the help from Patrick Murphy of SB Nation’s Crew SC blog, Massive Report.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions and Pat from Massive Report joined us to discuss tonight’s match. Former Lion/current Nashville SC TV analyst Jamie Watson joined us to preview Sunday’s match vs. Nashville.
- Our Daniel Finton wrote about Orlando’s complementary blend of youth and experience leading to the Lions’ success.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Andres Perea, Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra, Nani.
Forwards: Chris Mueller, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Brian Rowe, Alex De John, Kamal Miller, Rodrigo Schlegel, Sebas Mendez, Joey DeZart, Matheus Aias, Alexander Alvarado, Benji Michel.
Columbus Crew (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Eloy Room.
Defenders: Waylon Francis, Aboubacar Keita, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful.
Defensive Midfielders: Artur, Darlington Nagbe.
Attacking Midfielders: Luis Diaz, Lucas Zelarayan, Pedro Santos,
Forward: Gyasi Zardes.
Bench: Andrew Tarbell, Josh Williams, Milton Valenzuela, Chris Cadden, Youness Mokhtar, Emmanuel Boateng, Derrick Etienne, Aidan Morris, Krisztian Nemeth.
Ref: Ramy Touchan.
AR1: Logan Brown.
AR2: Gjovalin Bori.
4th: Elvis Osmanovic.
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero.
AVAR: Kyle Longville.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only).
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match! Go City!
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