Welcome to your Decision Day thread for a Sunday match-up between Orlando City (13-14-6, 45 points) and the Columbus Crew (10-7-16, 46 points) at Exploria Stadium (2:30 p.m., FS1, FOX Deportes). This is the second of the two scheduled meetings between the two Eastern Conference rivals in 2022.
Here’s what you need to know about the match.
The Lions are 7-6-3 in the all-time league series and 5-2-2 at home. Orlando City also has a home U.S. Open Cup win back in 2015 against the Crew for an 8-6-3 overall mark in all competitions (6-2-2 at home).
The last meeting in the series took place on April 16, with the Lions going to Central Ohio and winning 2-0 on goals by Rodrigo Schlegel and Ercan Kara.
Last year’s season series concluded on Oct. 27 in Columbus with the Crew winning 3-2. Columbus had lost five straight to Orlando prior to Lucas Zelarayan’s one-goal, two-assist performance. Miguel Berry and Derrick Etienne also scored for the Crew. Daryl Dike pulled a goal back from the spot and Robin Jansson struck late but it wasn’t enough.
The last meeting between the teams at Exploria Stadium was on Sept. 4, 2021, when the Lions won, 3-2. Orlando was cruising and built a 2-0 lead on goals by Dike and Silvester van der Water, but a bizarre own goal by Antonio Carlos threw the Crew a lifeline and a Berry equalizer turned the game around. Junior Urso provided the winner in the 69th minute.
City won the only meeting of 2020 when the 10-man Lions got a late Benji Michel goal to defeat the Crew 2-1 on Nov. 4. 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.
The Lions 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 five-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 prior to the Orlando winning streak 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 from them 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 (on a 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.
Orlando City is in one of its worst runs of form all season. Since winning the U.S. Open Cup on Sept. 7, the Lions are 1-4-0, including their last two to fall below the playoff line. The lone bright spot in that set of games was a 4-0 destruction of Toronto FC in Orlando’s most recent home match on Sept. 17. That lifted the Lions back to .500 at home this season at 8-8-0. The Lions must win to clinch a playoff berth or draw and hope for an improbable D.C. United win over FC Cincinnati. They’ll have to do it without either starting center back today as Carlos is suspended for yellow card accumulation and Jansson has been out for weeks with an injury he sustained in training.
Columbus is unbeaten in its last three (1-0-2) and has a habit of being involved in games that change dramatically late. The Crew allowed Portland’s Santiago Moreno to tie things up in the 95th minute in the first match of the current Columbus streak. Etienne scored in the 89th and 93rd minutes to bring the Crew back from 1-0 down to beat the New York Red Bulls 2-1. Then, in the team’s last match, the Crew led 2-0 at Charlotte, only to see the expansion side pull one back in the 58th minute and tie the match in the 94th. In other words, if this is a close game, don’t go anywhere and don’t even blink.
The 2020 MLS Cup winners are a desperate and dangerous squad, with plenty of firepower. Newcomer Cucho Hernandez has been lighting up the league since his arrival with nine goals and three assists in just 15 games. Zelarayan is always a danger man, especially on set pieces, and can either set up or score goals, leading the Crew in both categories, with 10 goals and 11 assists in 2022. Etienne is right behind the duo with eight goals. Darlington Nagbe is a ball winner who is difficult to dispossess because he reads the play and gets rid of the ball quickly. The Columbus midfield shields a solid back line that features former MLS Defender of the Year Jonathan Mensah and standout goalkeeper Eloy Room.
“Here we are in front of the last regular season [match] looking to hopefully continue in the playoff run,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said in his press conference on Friday. “It is nothing that you haven’t seen or heard before. We are preparing for the next game. The responsibility is on our shoulders and our destiny is on our shoulders in front of a rival that is in the same situation. We could have done this job before and gotten the result before, but it is a very tight competition with a lot of compromises and commitments during the season. This one is the same as last year as we were in front of another big game. We are excited to be at home in front of our fans and win this game. Advancing is obviously our priority.”
Orlando City will be without Carlos (yellow card suspension), Alexandre Pato (knee), Joey DeZart (knee), and Jansson (lower leg). Columbus is healthy.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more info about Columbus with the help of Thomas Costello from SBNation’s Crew SC blog, Massive Report.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions.
- Josh Munsey provided a scouting report on the Crew.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Junior Urso.
Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Michael Halliday, Thomas Williams, Wilder Cartagena, Andres Perea, Jake Mulraney, Nicholas Gioacchini, Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele.
Columbus Crew (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Eloy Room.
Defenders: Pedro Santos, Jonathan Mensah, Milos Degenek, Steven Moreira.
Defensive Midfielders: Darlington Nagbe, Artur.
Attacking Midfielders: Derrick Etienne, Lucas Zelarayan, Luis Diaz.
Forward: Cucho Hernandez.
Bench: Evan Bush, Jalil Anibaba, Josh Williams, William Sands, James Igbekeme, Mohamed Farsi, Aidan Morris, Kevin Molino, Erik Hurtado.
Ref: Alex Chilowicz.
AR1: Frank Anderson.
AR2: Corey Rockwell.
4th: Eric Tattersall.
VAR: Fotis Bazakos.
AVAR: Craig Lowry.
How to Watch
Match Time: 2:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FS1 and FOX Deportes.
Streaming: The match can be streamed on FOX Sports GO and the FOX Sports app.
Radio: FM 104.1 Real Radio (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match. Go City!