Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Match Preview, Starting XIs, Predictions and More



It’s been a big week for Orlando City (4-5-10, 22 points), which hired a new manager, brought in a new player on loan and loaned one of the team’s Designated Players to Real Espana in Honduras.

But the Lions still have one match to play before the Jason Kreis era really gets underway, and it’s a big one, as the club faces off against Columbus Crew SC (3-7-9, 18 points) in hopes of ending a three-game road trip with a victory. It’s been a massively disappointing season for last year’s MLS Cup runners-up, who are sitting just one point clear of the Eastern Conference cellar.

The Lions developed a nice little rivalry with Columbus last season, going 2-1-1 in four meetings with the Black and Gold across MLS and U.S. Open Cup play.

Saturday night presents Orlando with an opportunity to claim four points off a three-game road trip, something that would’ve sounded pretty nice after an uninspiring 0-0 home draw with the Houston Dynamo just three weeks ago.

Starting XI and Lineup Projections:

Orlando City

Don’t expect any huge changes in the starting XI for Bobby Murphy’s last game in charge of Orlando City.

The biggest addition will likely be Brek Shea’s return from yellow card accumulation, giving the Lions some flexibility in the attacking midfield. While he hasn’t exactly been an offensive force since returning to MLS last season, Shea can still make things happen along the wing. Carlos Rivas is another option here, and is a real threat to start since Murphy has nothing to lose, but that basically comes down to whether or not this coaching staff trusts Luke Boden to hold things down at left back. I think they do, which is why I’ve got Brek starting further up. Oh, and some guy named Kaká is back and available for selection.

Another thing to watch out for is the debut of Uruguayan defender José Aja, who has been training with the club for a few weeks and will make the trip to Ohio.

Columbus Crew:

And you thought Orlando City was having a frustrating season.

While the Lions can still write off many of the issues the club has faced this season as “growing pains,” the folks in Columbus are dealing with a pretty startling regression from 2015. After hosting MLS Cup last season and featuring an MVP finalist in their starting lineup, the Crew are a different team this season.

Like many first-to-worst clubs, Columbus can blame injuries for at least some of the struggles this year. Federico Higuaín and Gastón Sauro are both hurt, and while Higuaín has been training this week, his status for Saturday’s match remains uncertain.

Forward Conor Casey is also out with a right knee sprain, leaving attacking duties to Ola Kamara (no relation to Kei). He joined Columbus after a career spent bouncing around the backwaters of European soccer, but has been impressive since joining MLS, scoring nine goals in 13 appearances this season (0.92 goals per 90 minutes).

Player to Watch:

Wil Trapp is a big deal for the Crew, but for Jurgen Klinsmann, developing kids like this might be one of the reasons he still has a job.

One of the coveted guys to make the jump from Homegrown Player to U.S. National Team member, Trapp has a bright future ahead of him. Despite all the hype, righting the ship in Columbus this season has got to be priority number one for the Ohio native this season.

A deep-lying midfielder with an uncanny ability to spread passes across the whole field, he’s become one of the most important players on this Columbus roster at the tender age of 23. And he’s started all but one match for the Crew this season, doing stuff like this with increasing regularity.

Orlando fans know as well as anyone that having a talented defensive midfielder doesn’t always lead to results (we see you, Cristian Higuita), though if Columbus hopes to turn things around this season, Trapp is almost certainly going to have to play a role.

Prediction: Orlando City 2 Columbus Crew 1

While it probably won’t be sustainable, Orlando City should expect a boost with the appointment of Jason Kreis as manager. Even though he won’t be patrolling the sidelines on Saturday, Kreis is going to be watching this one with interest and you can bet the players know it.

With Orlando’s lineup card in a state of flux this season, there are only a handful of guys on this team who’ve got their jobs locked up and I expect them to play like their starting jobs are on the line against Columbus. That could make the difference against a struggling Crew team.


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