It’s Friday once again, and that means that another Orlando City game is just around the corner. This week the Lions travel to Ohio to take on the Columbus Crew. That means I spoke to Thomas Costello, one of the contributors over at SBNation’s Massive Report. Thomas gave us some great info to get up to speed on the Crew, and I also answered a few of his questions which you can find over at their place.
What is the atmosphere like surrounding the team after a down year in 2021 following the team winning the MLS Cup in 2020?
Thomas Costello: Unfortunately, the 2020 MLS Cup-winning season high didn’t last long. In May, the Crew announced a new logo that was as well received as an unexpected bill or jury duty summons. Injuries rattled the side, not starting the same 11 twice in a row all season. Columbus went so far as to put midfield loanee Liam Fraser at center back for a while, and winger Pedro Santos into a fullback role that he still has to this day. Excuses, however accurate they are, don’t go a long way in the world of public opinion though. That same feeling’s followed the team into 2022, after two recent losses.
Yaw Yeboah was one of the big arrivals for Columbus in the off-season. How has he looked so far?
TC: Yeboah started well. In two home matches, the Ghanaian had an assist in the opener and almost had a goal off an amazing Santos pass two weeks later. The jury is still out on him. He’s a younger player and adjusting to a new team, country, and continent all together. While there’s been moments of promise, there are other times where he kind of disappears on the field. Time will tell which direction Yeboah heads in the future.
The defense looks to have been pretty solid, as Columbus has only given up multiple goals on one occasion. What has been the biggest factor in the sturdiness at the back?
TC: Health. As I mentioned earlier, center back, and the defensive back line as a whole, was the focus of injury issues all season. In six matches though, Columbus started the same four players on that back line. It took five matches for an opponent to score in the run of play, and that goal doesn’t happen if Santos doesn’t slip in the box on the pass. Jonathan Mensah and Miloš Degenek are playing outstanding as a duo, and as they still improve communication and knowing where the other will be on the field. Degenek joined the Crew in the last week of preseason after years playing for Red Star Belgrade of Serbia. Degenek’s played UEFA Champions League football, even beating Liverpool on one occasion. The 27-year-old and Mensah look like a pairing that can dominate the league all season.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
TC: The only injury of potential starters is midfielder Kevin Molino. The winger’s recovering from a torn ACL sustained in 2021. Outside of Molino, Columbus’ consistency in lineup has been an asset. The only spots in the lineup that are really open are on the right wing and at forward. I think Yeboah and Miguel Berry get the start but Gyasi Zardes could overtake Berry this week. Columbus’ defense is strong in the run of play. If they play mistake-free soccer, it’ll be a tough day for Orlando City. I’m going 2-1 for the Black & Gold.
[Note: no projected starting XI provided.]
Thank you to Thomas for the insight into the Crew. Vamos Orlando!