Orlando City heads to Lower.com Field this Saturday night to take on the Columbus Crew in an Eastern Conference showdown. The Lions are coming off a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire, but will now have their first road match without Antônio Carlos. Here are three things the Lions can do to earn all three points against the Columbus Crew.
Keep Columbus from Converting
Columbus has scored 10 goals on the season, but none in the last two matches. The Crew started with an impressive four goals against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the season opener, but it was all downhill from there. Columbus scored three goals against the San Jose Earthquakes, two goals against Toronto FC, and then only one goal against the New York Red Bulls.
That is not to say the Crew are not creating chances or getting into their opponents’ area, as Eliot McKinley over at Massive Report observed. Much like Orlando City, Columbus is not finishing those chances the last couple of matches. Orlando City has a good defense, and if the Lions can keep the Crew’s conversion rate down it will give Orlando City the momentum needed on the road since Columbus players may be in their heads over not being able to score.
Orlando City’s defense did well in the first match without Carlos, but will need to build upon that to get another clean sheet. The ability of Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel to handle the Columbus attack, especially inside the area, is crucial in stopping the Crew. João Moutinho has been solid on his half of the field, but Ruan needs to limit the mistakes he’s made recently that have resulted in goals for Orlando City’s opponents. And the team must limit fouls in dangerous areas because Lucas Zelarayán can be dangerous on set pieces.
Score Early, Score Often
Last week, Orlando City created numerous chances and put the ball in dangerous areas even before going up a man. The Lions need to do that again on the road, but this time they need to finish more of those chances. Additionally, Orlando City needs to get the first goal of the match. Doing so increases the pressure on the Crew to break out of their scoring slump, and also increases the chances that Columbus makes a mistake upon which Orlando City can capitalize.
Once Orlando City gets that first goal, my hope is that the floodgates will open. Ercan Kara opened his account last week and he needs to follow that up with another goal this weekend. If he does, not only does his confidence grow, but the entire Orlando City offense will start to open up. Facundo Torres is due for another goal or assist, as is Alexandre Pato. The Lions have too many weapons in a first-choice lineup not to score multiple goals. Orlando City should have had more than one goal against the Chicago Fire, and now needs to do so in Columbus.
Boss the Midfield
Columbus has no shortage of good midfielders with Yaw Yeboah, Zelarayán, and Darlington Nagbe. Orlando City needs to hold its own in the middle of the pitch, and I think the Lions can do so. Sebas Mendez looked good against Chicago, Júnior Urso is a consistent performer, and Mauricio Pereyra seems to be getting better as the season goes on.
Each of these players bring something special. In particular, Pereyra looks more comfortable with the attacking pieces at his disposal when on offense. Urso often seems to be everywhere, and with Columbus not playing the bunker style of the Chicago Fire, the passing lanes may open up. I expect some very interesting battles in the midfield, and Orlando City needs to win more than its share to secure a victory.
Those are the things I’ll be looking for this weekend. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!