Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (9-4-8, 35 points) and the Columbus Crew (7-9-6, 27 points). This is the first of two scheduled meetings between the two Eastern Conference rivals in 2021. The Lions will make the return trip to Columbus on Oct. 27.
Orlando City is coming off last Saturday’s 0-0 home draw against Inter Miami, while the Crew snapped a six-game losing streak at home last weekend with a dramatic turnaround in the final minutes, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati.
The Lions are 5-5-3 in the all-time league series and 4-2-2 at home. Orlando City also has a home U.S. Open Cup win back in 2015 against the Crew.
Surprisingly, Orlando is on a four-match winning streak against the Crew after the 10-man Lions got a late Benji Michel goal to defeat the Crew 2-1 last season on Nov. 4, 2020. Chris Mueller gave Orlando the lead in that game but Harrison Afful was able to equalize just moments after referee Ramy Touchan had sent off Nani on a ludicrous call that was overturned by the MLS independent panel a few days later. Thanks to Michel’s goal, the officiating error didn’t end up costing the Lions, who clinched their first-ever MLS playoff spot with the win.
Orlando swept the season series in 2019, defeating the Crew 1-0 on a 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 Mueller and Tesho Akindele in that one.
Orlando won 2-1 on Oct. 21, 2018 to start its successful four-game streak against the Crew 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, 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 6-1-4 at home this season and are unbeaten in their last six matches (2-0-4), although goals have been difficult to come by during that span. Columbus is 2-6-3 in road games in 2021 and the Crew have dropped their last three away games but have conceded just one goal in each of their last two road contests.
Last year’s MLS Cup winners have struggled at times in 2021 due in large part to sustaining even more injuries than Orlando City has endured. Still, the teams’ performances haven’t been that far apart. Columbus has conceded five more goals than Orlando and has scored five fewer. That turns out to be a difference of eight points in the standings, although Orlando holds a game in hand over the Eastern Conference’s eighth-place team.
One player who is healthy is midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who gobbles up the ball all over the midfield and is difficult to dispossess. He and attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan are the Crew’s most critical players and Orlando will need to win battles in the midfield to have success.
“Columbus is a rival that has been struggling lately, but we see that as just data, knowing that we have to prepare ourselves in the best way possible,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said on Thursday. “Knowing the rival, we haven’t played them yet this year, but we did last year as one of the best teams in Major League Soccer, who won the championship. That should be extra motivation for everybody. The importance of the game, the rival, it’s a necessity to just get points. I’m excited to play Columbus here. The boys, as always, have been training hard and preparing the best they can.”
Orlando City will be without its top two goalkeepers, as Pedro Gallese is away with Peru for World Cup qualifying and Mason Stajduhar was ruled out Friday due to an undisclosed injury. Adam Grinwis will likely start, with MLS pool goalkeeper and former Lion Greg Ranjitsingh also available if needed.
Midfielder Sebas Mendez is also on international duty for Orlando, while Alexandre Pato is still listed as out with a lower body injury. Mauricio Pereyra, Andrés Perea, and Uri Rosell are all listed as questionable but the availability report these days is more performance art than an actual useful informational tool, so it’s really anyone’s guess as to who might be in the lineup.
Meanwhile, Columbus has an extensive list of players out: Artur (hip), Marlon Hairston (thigh), Perry Kitchen (knee), Kevin Molino (knee), Aidan Morris (knee), Milton Valenzuela (thigh), and Gyasi Zardes (thigh) are all unavailable due to injuries, while defender Josh Williams (ankle) is questionable. Liam Fraser and Jonathan Mensah will also miss the game due to international duty.
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 Orri Benatar of SBNation’s Crew SC blog, Massive Report.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions and Orri from Massive Report joined us to help us break down what we can expect from the Crew tonight.
- Our Dave Rohe wrote about his three keys to victory for Orlando City in the match.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Adam Grinwis.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Chris Mueller, Junior Urso, Joey DeZart, Sylvester van der Water.
Forwards: Nani, Daryl Dike.
Bench: Greg Ranjitsingh, Kyle Smith, Emmanuel Mas, Rodrigo Schlegel, Andres Perea, Uri Rosell, Mauricio Pereyra, Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele.
Columbus Crew (4-1-4-1)
Goalkeeper: Eloy Room.
Defenders: Harrison Afful, Aboubacar Keita, Vito Wormgoor, Waylon Francis.
Defensive Midfielders: Darlington Nagbe.
Midfielders: Alexandru Matan, Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan, Derrick Etienne.
Forward: Miguel Berry.
Bench: Evan Bush, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Josh Williams, Isaiah Parente, Grant Lillard, Erik Hurtado, Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Ref: Armando Villarreal.
AR1: Kevin Klinger.
AR2: Logan Brown.
4th: Marcos de Oliveira.
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.
AVAR: Kyle Longville.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only) or on the LionNation app.
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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