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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City started the 2021 season with a 0-0 draw at Exploria Stadium against Atlanta United. Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja crafted a lineup working around injuries to usual starters such as Robin Jansson, Joao Moutinho, and Uri Rosell, as well as the suspension of Mauricio Pereyra. Atlanta finished with a majority of the possession, but Orlando had the better scoring chances in yet another season-opening draw for the Lions.

Here’s how each Lion rated in the first game of the year, as well as my pick for the team’s Man of the Match.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — The Peruvian goalkeeper only had to make two saves in this one, the toughest coming in the 89th minute, when he had to go to ground to stop a shot from distance Franco Ibarra. It won’t be making a highlight reel anytime soon, but when it mattered, he played his part in Orlando’s clean sheet. Those clean sheets didn’t come often last season, with Orlando’s defense letting at least one goal squeak by in most matches, so it’s nice for Gallese to start the season without conceding.

D, Kyle Smith, 7 (MotM) — Filling in for the injured Moutinho at left back, Smith led the team in passes (45), touches (65), aerials won (3), and clearances (6). He finished with two tackles, an interception, and a blocked shot and passed at an 86.7% rate. Although he wasn’t able to replicate Moutinho’s crossing ability — though he was 1/2 on crosses (both with his weaker left foot) — Smith made critical tackles to snuff out Atlanta’s chances on the left side of the field without Jansson there to back him up. Smith is our Man of the Match for not giving Atlanta time to breathe or find the final pass in a scoreless draw. Left back is Orlando’s position with the least depth and Smith prevented that from being a weakness in this match.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 — With Jansson nursing a lower leg injury, Schlegel came in and managed a pretty good impression of the Swede. Schlegel was imposing, physical, and stood his ground while anchoring the defense. While many will joke about his heroics in goal during the MLS playoffs last year, this performance showed Schlegel’s prowess as a center back. It was important for him to step up after departures at the position this off-season and Schlegel did just that, finishing with two tackles, two clearances, and a notable 35 passes with a team-leading 94.4% passing rate to help Orlando build out of the back.

D, Antonio Carlos, 6.5 — Defensively sound as always, Carlos came up huge in stoppage time by chasing down Ezequiel Barco and stopping Atlanta on the counter to maintain Orlando’s clean sheet. On the other end of the field, Carlos had a great opportunity to score off of a corner kick in the 49th minute. Unmarked in front of goal, he headed the ball down instead of on target and the opportunity was lost. Despite the missed shot and a few errant passes here and there (on 89.7% passing overall), it was a good outing from Carlos as he prevented the kind of heartbreak Orlando fans were likely terrified of late in the match. Defensively, he contributed two tackles, a clearance, and a blocked shot.

D, Ruan, 6 — The 25-year-old dueled with George Bello throughout the match, using speed and silky footwork to get the better of Bello on occasion. Ruan finished second in touches with 63, often working with Chris Mueller or Nani to stretch Orlando’s attack and crash the box. Like the rest of the back line, Ruan played all 90 minutes and hustled in the game’s final minutes to make sure Orlando wasn’t beaten. He finished with one tackle and three clearances on defense. Despite three dribbles, he wasn’t as sharp going forward, with only one cross attempt, which wasn’t accurate, a shot that was blocked, and just a 69% passing rate.

MF, Sebas Mendez, 6.5 — It was the kind of quiet game that Mendez has often had with Orlando City, plugging up Atlanta’s passing lanes and making life difficult for the opposition. He had a chance to score in the 61st minute, pouncing on a loose ball in the box after dribbling from Alexandre Pato, but wasn’t able to get enough contact to put it away. He finished fourth in touches with 49, mostly due to Pareja running the offense through the wings rather than the center of the field. Mendez pushed forward more as the game went on and finished second on the team with 42 passes (92.9% accuracy), one of them a key pass. He had two tackles, an interception, a clearance, and one shot attempt.

MF, Junior Urso, 6.5 — Like many times last season, Urso often found himself in great positions on offense but failed to find the back of the net. The Bear led the team in shots, with three, but either sent the ball into the stands or couldn’t make clean contact on his attempt. He deserves some recognition for his effort on both sides of the ball in the Florida heat. A force in the air and often tracking back on defense, Urso ended the match with a team-high three tackles, a team-high two interceptions, and a key pass on 81.5% passing.

MF, Chris Mueller, 6 — The Money Badger created Orlando’s best chance of the afternoon, setting Pato up in front of goal in the 72nd minute. He seemed to take over as Orlando’s playmaker once Nani was subbed off, working on the left side of the pitch to get things going offensively. Mueller also drew a foul late in the first half to give Orlando good positioning for a free kick. Taking the free kick himself, Mueller served a good cross, but Urso just couldn’t get his header on target. Although his skill level has improved, he tended to dribble into trouble at times and was stymied by Atlanta’s defense. Cash passed at just a 75.8% rate, but had three key passes and was 2/2 in crossing accuracy. He made two tackles, attempted one shot, and drew three fouls.

MF, Nani, 6.5 — The captain was the one pulling the strings on offense, finding players in space and delivering good crosses on corner kicks. With Pereyra serving his suspension, the team looked most dangerous when Nani had the ball at his feet. He finished with three key passes and one shot (on target), taking a chance from distance when Atlanta gave him space to set up the strike. He passed at a 79.4% rate and was accurate on two of his three crosses. Defensively, he chipped in three tackles, three clearances, and an interception. All in all, it was a decent game from Nani, albeit without a goal or assist, and perhaps a few turnovers too many, and he exited in the 70th minute for fresher legs.

F, Tesho Akindele, 5 — A bad first touch by Akindele ruined an early opportunity on the counter and the Canadian wasn’t able to make much of an impact against a stout Atlanta defense. Akindele used his large frame to win two aerial duels and hold up play on offense, but was subbed off after an uneventful first half with no shots and nine passes. His passing rate of 66.7% wasn’t great, he had no key passes, and he contributed no defensive stats.

F, Alexandre Pato, 6 — It was Pato’s first taste of MLS action on a team filled with returning players and there were predictably moments of disconnect between himself and the rest of the team. His best chances came in the second half once he became the team’s lone forward up top after Akindele’s substitution. He dribbled around Brad Guzan in the box only to run into Mendez and not be able to put the ball away, and he had a shot on goal that was deflected and then saved by Guzan later in the match. His day ended in the 78th minute after an awkward landing that left him on the field reaching for his leg and forced him out of the contest, so that will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. His 41.7% passing rate will improve with more time with his new teammates but he showed his footwork with a team-high four dribbles. He also got his only shot attempt on frame.

Substitutes

MF, Andres Perea (45’), 6.5 — Orlando’s shape changed once Perea came on after the first half and the introduction of the U.S. youth international also changed the entire offensive flow for the Lions. Within 30 seconds of taking the field, he delivered a strike but it was right at Guzan. Perea certainly looked hungry in this one, building play in central midfield and ruffling Guzan’s feathers by jumping at a floating Ruan cross in the box. He got his one shot attempt on target, and had a key pass (78.6% accuracy on 14 attempts).

F, Benji Michel, (70’) 5 — Michel didn’t do much as a substitute in this one. Any energy he brought to the offense was erased once Pato was taken off the field due to injury. Until Matheus Aias came on in stoppage time, Michel pushed up into the striker position. The flow of the game shifted and Michel finished with just six touches and two passes, although he completed both. He had one clearance on the defensive end.

MF, Silvester van der Water (80’), N/A — Coming on for Pato to make his Orlando debut, van der Water showed similar miscommunication with teammates. It may take some time for him to learn the habits of the other Lions, but the Dutchman did show quality bits of skill to beat defenders. He finished with one shot (off target), a dribble, and a tackle, completing three of his four passes. He wasn’t on long enough to warrant a grade, but it will be interesting to see him more as he settles in.

F, Matheus Aias (91’), N/A — New season, same late cameo for Aias. He came on for Mueller and didn’t even touch the ball in his brief appearance.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s first game of 2021. Let us know what you thought in the comments below and make sure to vote for who you think was the Man of the Match.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Kyle Smith42
Rodrigo Schlegel12
Nani1
Junior Urso3
Chris Mueller4
Other (write in comments)6

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Final Score 2-0 as Lions Get Blanked at Home Again

Orlando’s three-game unbeaten run is over, but the club’s awful poor home results continue.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Diego Rossi scored twice as the Columbus Crew handed Orlando City a 2-0 loss at Inter&Co Stadium. The Lions (4-6-4, 16 points) continue to struggle at home, falling to an abysmal1-4-3 on their home patch, but this one was a controversial one, as so many meetings with the Crew (6-2-6, 24 points) are.

Referee Jair Marrufo awarded an Orlando penalty late in the first half, then went to the monitor and reviewed a play at the other end. Instead of the Lions having a spot kick, Marrufo handed the Crew a highly questionable penalty late in the first half, turning the game in the visitors’ favor. What made matters worse is that there was a seemingly obvious foul on Columbus prior to the overturned no-call on Orlando, but the penalty went the Crew’s way.

Ultimately, so did the match. The Lions saw a modest three-game unbeaten run come to an end and Orlando City hasn’t scored at home since the 37th minute against Toronto back on April 27, a span of 323 minutes.

“I thought we had the chances to define (the game) and we couldn’t score,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But the effort was there. The first half we were very organized and conceded to them the space, and tried to use it, but we were not precise enough.”

Pareja stuck with the 3-5-2 formation, starting Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rodrigo Schlegel, Wilder Cartagena, and David Brekalo, although Robin Jansson returned to the matchday lineup on the bench. Facundo Torres and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson played wingback outside a midfield of Ivan Angulo, Cesar Araujo, and Nico Lodeiro, with Jack Lynn and Luis Muriel up top.

Orlando looked to keep its defensive shape against the Crew from the jump, looking for chances to win the ball and counter. It was a tactic that worked well for much of the first half but Orlando couldn’t find a breakthrough and the Crew defenders did a good job of blocking shots when the Lions did get a sight of goal.

The Lions fashioned a chance two minutes in when Angulo cut inside from the left and fed Muriel, who fired a shot that deflected wide for the game’s first corner. The Lions couldn’t pay off the short corner, however.

Araujo sent a terrific pass to send Angulo down the right in the 11th minute but he lost control of it trying to cut back in front of goal from the right and it was touched out for a corner. The Lions again went short, and this time Muriel took it, working a give-and-go, but the flag came up for offside.

Muriel won another corner in the 15th minute with a shot that was deflected wide. Lodeiro’s cross on the set piece found a wide-open Cartagena lurking at the back post but the Peruvian drove his header into the ground too far in front of goal and it bounced over.

Shortly after the water break, Lodeiro smashed a shot that sliced just wide of the left post in the 39th minute.

The Crew took the lead just when everyone thought Orlando City would be doing the same at the other end. Lodeiro sent Muriel in behind the defense and he was bundled over from behind by Steven Moreira. Marrufo pointed to the spot and then went to the monitor to check for a possible foul at the other end. There were actually two, but Marrufo only was interested in one of them. In the buildup to the foul he gave, Rossi committed a foul as the Lions cleared the ball to the left side of their box. The Crew recycled it and Araujo grabbed Adian Morris’ shirt from behind. The Crew midfielder fell forward, when a tug back would ordinarily cause a person to fall backward, but Marrufo gave that foul, wiping out an Orlando penalty and overturning his own initial call.

Rossi scored the penalty to a chorus of boos from an angry Inter&Co Stadium crowd and the Crew led 1-0 in first-half stoppage time. The goal came on the Crew’s first shot attempt of the match.

To summarize, the original person who should have committed the foul that negated any Orlando foul in the box seconds later was the one who scored the eventual penalty.

When asked about why the Rossi foul wasn’t given in the buildup to the Araujo no-call that he overturned, Marrufo passed the buck to video assistant referee (VAR) Jorge Gonzalez.

“The VAR reviewed and cleared the attacking phase of play before sending the referee to the referee review area,” Marrufo wrote in response to the question submitted by the pool reporter. Marrufo then said that the attacking phase of play w”was checked prior to the penalty kick being confirmed.”

The problem with that answer is that the penalty wasn’t confirmed, it was an overturned Marrufo no-call, which is supposed to have a higher standard of “clear and obvious” to overturn. There’s no doubt Araujo grabbed the shirt momentarily, but it was minimal and a soft penalty, but it was still an unnecessary grab and it was a costly one.

“We couldn’t understand it,” Pareja said of the decision.

“It totally changed the plan that we had going into the game, ” Muriel said. “We wanted to be more patient, choose our moments to press, so that way we could remain organized. And after that penalty, after that goal against, it totally changed the plan, because we felt that urgency. We had to press more and press immediately. And against a team like Columbus that’s so precise in taking advantage in that disorder on our part, it’s tough. I don’t think it changed the mentality as much as it did the plan.”

Neither side fashioned much after that aside from an Orlando corner kick that went nowhere, and Columbus took its lead into the break.

The Crew held the halftime advantage in possession (62.5%-37.5%) and passing accuracy (92.3%-90.5%). The Lions attempted more shots (4-1) and won more corners (4-1), while each team put one shot on target.

Chasing the game, Orlando got stretched at times in the second half and it eventually turned out to be costly. The first warning sign came in the 48th minute, when Torres was left alone to defend against Max Arfsten, who beat him badly to get inside of him and shot. Schlegel arrived just in time to make a sliding block.

Angulo got to the end line in the 55th minute down the left channel, but his cross was straight at the goalkeeper, wasting a promising counterattack. A minute later, Muriel did well to play a ball to himself behind Rudy Camacho, who pulled back the Colombian and earned a booking.

Pareja made a triple substitution in the 59th minute, sending on Ramiro Enrique, Felipe, and Rafael Santos on for Lynn, Araujo (who was on a yellow card for the penalty foul), and Thorhallsson. However, before the trio of new players could settle in, the Crew doubled their lead.

The counterattack came in the 61st minute, with Yaw Yeboah streaking down the left side. As Angulo caught up defensively, Rossi broke in between the two defenders and chipped the cross in to make it 2-0.

“We felt that urgency to go and look for the game, and there is a trade,” Pareja said. “You do that and then you have spaces (in behind the defense).”

Orlando had a flurry of half chances after the second goal. Lodeiro forced Patrick Schulte into a save in the 65th minute at the near post, while a back-post placement may have yielded a better result. Seconds later, off the ensuing corner, the ball popped out to Cartagena at the top of the area. The Peruvian didn’t get much on his shot, trying to pass the ball inside the left post. The lack of pace on the ball made for an easy save for Schulte.

Christian Ramirez should have made it 3-0 in the 68th minute, beating Gallese on the counter but sending his shot trickling just wide of the left post.

Enrique got into some good spots late but did not look sharp after his long injury layoff and was unable to beat Schulte. Torres found him with an excellent pass in the 73rd minute but a defender stuck a foot around the Argentine and knocked the ball off of his own goalkeeper. The ball died in front of the line and Schulte smothered it.

Three minutes later, sub Martin Ojeda sent Enrique a pass on the right but he took too long to get his shot away and the defense blocked it.

Muriel won a corner in the 77th minute when his shot was blocked behind by Darlington Nagbe. The cross in on the set piece found Torres on the left. The Uruguayan headed the ball into the middle of the six-yard box but no Lions could get around the Crew defense to the loose ball and the visitors cleared.

Another Crew counter could have added to the misery but Marino Hinestroza sent a left-footed effort wide of Gallese’s goal in the 88th minute. Gallese then saved a shot right at him from Yeboah in the 91st minute on a Crew set piece.

Ojeda took a shot in the 92nd minute that missed the net wide, but Schulte appeared to have it covered anyway.

Enrique had a chance to at least spoil the shutout late. Schlegel headed a corner cross into the path of the Argentine who headed the ball hard but straight at the goalkeeper from point-blank range. Just a foot or two on either side and it’s an easy goal, but the final ball was once again lacking.

That was the last action of the match as the Lions again failed to find the net.

Columbus finished with the advantage in possession (56.6%-43.4%) and passing accuracy (91.9%-88%). Orlando finished with more shots (12-8), shots on target (5-3), and corners (8-2).

Ultimately, the referee’s decision to give the Crew a penalty and a lack of precision in the final third (again) doomed City to yet another home loss.

“It’s difficult to comment on a game like that, because at one point we thought we were about to be up with a penalty, and then in the next moment we were given a penalty against us,” Muriel said. “So, I think that confused us, and we were wanting to press a team, which is difficult to do against a team that has the quality of Columbus. At the end of the day, I don’t think we were as clear. We weren’t having the luck that we needed in those moments to score goals.”

“I thought the boys played well except in the second half, when we looked unorganized and started losing our shape,” Pareja said. “Listen, the frustration is there, but this is our journey. We keep going. In the last three games we have done fantastic things. They have done things that they didn’t do before and we have to keep growing.”


The Lions have a short turnaround before a road match against the Fire in Chicago on Wednesday, with a trip to play the Red Bulls looming a week from tonight.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, and More

The Lions host the defending champs in their first meeting with the Crew since last year’s playoff battle.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night matchup between Orlando City (4-5-4, 16 points) and the Columbus Crew (5-2-6, 21 points) at Inter&Co Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This is the first of two scheduled meetings of the season between the two Eastern Conference rivals, with the Lions set to make the return trip to Central Ohio on Sept. 21.

Here’s what you need to know about the match.

History

The Lions are 9-6-4 in the all-time, regular-season series and 7-2-2 at home. Orlando City also has a home playoff loss in extra time last November and a home U.S. Open Cup win back in 2015 against the Crew for a 10-7-4 overall mark in all competitions (8-3-2 at home).

The last time these teams met was in the 2023 Eastern Conference semifinals on Nov. 25 of last season. The teams played scoreless through the 90 minutes plus injury time, with Orlando City defender Rodrigo Schlegel getting sent off late with a second yellow card. The Crew were able to bundle home a goal in extra time and add an insurance marker for a 2-0 win en route to an eventual MLS Cup championship. Christian Ramirez and Cucho Hernandez scored for the Crew.

The most recent regular-season clash between the Lions and Crew in Orlando was a memorable game at Exploria Stadium on Sept. 16, 2023, with Orlando coming from behind to snatch a stunning 4-3 victory at the death. Julian Gressel gave Columbus an early lead that held up through the first half. Martin Ojeda equalized just after the restart, but Diego Rossi and Hernandez staked the Crew to a two-goal lead. Facundo Torres pulled one back and Ramiro Enrique bagged his first MLS brace, with a goal just a few minutes from the end of normal time and another late in stoppage.

The teams met in Columbus on May 13 of last season, playing to a 2-2 draw. Orlando City fell behind 2-0 by halftime on goals by Darlington Nagbe and Jacen Russell-Rowe, but Ercan Kara pulled one back just a few minutes after the restart and Duncan McGuire leveled the game in stoppage time.

The two sides met in Orlando on Decision Day 2022, with Orlando City erasing a 1-0 deficit on a Derrick Etienne Jr. goal to win 2-1 and clinch a playoff spot. Junior Urso leveled the game in the second half and Torres struck from the penalty spot late. The meeting in Columbus that year took place on April 16, 2022, with the Lions winning 2-0 on goals by Schlegel and Kara.

The 2021 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 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 teams met at Exploria Stadium on Sept. 4, 2021, with the Lions winning 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. 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 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 a five-game winning 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.

Columbus got the better of Orlando in 2017, going 2-0-1. The Lions were 0-1-1 against Columbus in 2016 and 1-1-1 in the series in 2015.

Overview

Orlando City enters on a three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1), with the Lions keeping a clean sheet in each of their last two matches. OCSC last played a week ago in San Jose, defeating the Earthquakes 1-0 on a late goal by Jack Lynn. That win came a few days after a scoreless home draw against Inter Miami. The Lions, however, are in the midst of a goal drought. Orlando sits 10th in the Eastern Conference table — just one point out of the play-in-game places — and has only scored more than one goal in a game once since April 20, a span of five games.

The Lions have struggled at home early this season — much like in 2023. Orlando is just 1-3-3 at Inter&Co Stadium in MLS play in 2024. That’s a poor home record since the building got its new name. I’m not suggesting a causality, but I can’t prove it’s a coincidence either.

The Crew enter this matchup just above the playoff line in seventh place. Columbus has won its last two matches by identical 3-1 scores over Chicago and Montreal on the road and beat Monterrey away from home by that same scoreline in the team’s most recent Concacaf Champions Cup. The Black & Gold have gone unbeaten in four straight road MLS games (2-0-2) and are 2-1-3 away from Lower.com Field in 2024 in regular-season play. Columbus has managed to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt despite making a deep run in Concacaf Champions Cup play, losing only twice and managing six draws. That shows a gritty ability to scrap for points during the season’s early fixture congestion.

Only FC Cincinnati has allowed fewer goals (11) in the Eastern Conference than the 13 the Crew have conceded. Combined with the Lions’ difficulties scoring over the last month, it may mean that scoring will be difficult for City. Making matters worse for Orlando is an injury picked up by striker Duncan McGuire in the San Jose match. Ramiro Enrique’s return to training may help, but if Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja is going to roll the 3-5-2 out again, it’ll likely be Luis Muriel and Lynn starting this one.

Crew Head Coach Wilfried Nancy’s system features a three-man back line with solid defensive positioning and an opportunistic attack that can win the ball in dangerous areas and exploit transition opportunities. Rossi, and Ramirez are obvious threats but midfielder Aidan Morris and Russell-Rowe are also threats to score.

“Like any other team, we’re responsible with our preparations, understanding the challenges this team brings us,” Pareja said ahead of the match. “Columbus has a very bold system and way to play, so we’ve been analyzing how we can affect them and how we can control them. As I say, just trying to be very confident in our ways and our players and trying to get these results at home in front of our fans. That’s what we want.”

In addition to McGuire (shoulder), Orlando City will be without fullback Michael Halliday (knee), and reserve defender Tahir Reid-Brown (thigh), while Enrique (ankle) and Robin Jansson (ankle) are listed as questionable. Columbus will be without Hernandez (back) per Nancy, but there is no one listed on the Crew’s availability report in the club’s game notes as of this writing.

Match Content


Official Lineups:

Orlando City (3-5-2)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Rodrigo Schlegel, Wilder Cartagena, David Brekalo.

Wingbacks/Midfielders: Facundo Torres, Ivan Angulo, Cesar Araujo, Nico Lodeiro, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson.

Forwards: Luis Muriel, Jack Lynn.

Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Rafael Santos, Kyle Smith, Alex Freeman, Robin Jansson, Jeorgio Kocevski, Felipe, Martin Ojeda, Ramiro Enrique.

Columbus Crew (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Patrick Schulte.

Defenders: Yevhen Cheberko, Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira.

Wingbacks / Central Midfielders: Yaw Yeboah, Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe, Max Arfsten

Forwards: Alexandru Matan, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Diego Rossi.

Bench: Nicholas Hagen, Malte Amundsen, Taha Habroune, Derrick Jones, Marino Hinestroza, Mohamed Farsi, Will Sands, Sean Zawadski, Christian Ramirez.

Referees

REF: Jair Marrufo.
AR1: Jose Da Silva.
AR2: Tyler Wyrostek.
4TH: Marcos DeOliveira.
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.
AVAR: Robert Schaap.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV/Streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+

Radio: FM 104.1 Real Radio (English), Mega 97.1 FM (Spanish).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).


Enjoy the match. Go City!

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Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

Find out what you should expect from the Columbus Crew on Saturday, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After returning from a successful trip to the West Coast, Orlando City will be staying in town for Memorial Day weekend. Next up on the schedule for the Lions is a visit from the reigning MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew.

A date with Columbus means I spoke with Collin Johnson of the always excellent Massive Report, and he was kind enough to help bring us up to speed on what to expect from the Crew this year. I also answered some of Massive Report’s questions about Orlando City, which you can find over at their place.

Talk me through the Crew’s off-season transfer business. Who were some of the big departures, and who has been brought in to replace them?

Collin Johnson: It was a pretty quiet off-season from the Crew. They focused on extending current contracts (and getting rid of bad contracts) rather than bringing in a big name acquisition. The bigger news were the contracts they were able to get rid of. Kevin Molino’s $700k+ salary was bought out before the season started, while Julian Gressel ($900k+) opted to take a deal with Inter Miami after losing his place in the starting lineup during the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs.

Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Mohamed Farsi, and Sean Zawadzki all signed new deals. Academy and Crew 2 midfielders Cole Mrowka and Taha Habroune signed full first-team deals, though both are expected to jump back and forth between the second team and the first team. Derrick Jones was signed as a free agent. Many thought the very tall defensive midfielder would slot in as a center back in the Wilfried Nancy system, but all of his time has been spent as a DM (and it has gone relatively well aside from a shocking red card against Charlotte).

The only transfer fee paid this off-season was, ironically, to Pachuca for Marino Hinestroza. Hinestroza is an MLS U22 Initiative player who plays a similar style to Alex Matan but is faster and a bit better at finishing. With Hinestroza on the field, Columbus looks to stretch defenses in a different way than the typical wingback defensive stretching.

Columbus has been excellent defensively, with the 13 goals conceded on the season tied for second-fewest in the league. What’s been working so well at the back?

CJ: The defensive recovery extends back to the 2023 season and probably has two factors. First is the team getting comfortable in the Wilfried Nancy system. The expectation is that players will hold onto the ball until the last second before playing a pass to get out of trouble. At times last year that resulted in turnovers and goals by opponents. You can really see this in the play of Yeven Cheberko. Cheberko struggled in his half season with the Black & Gold in 2023 but this season has played like a new signing, splitting time as the starting left center back. Cheberko has the ability to break multiple lines with his passing, and now that he has improved in his Nancy system confidence, he has begun to live up with the potential he had as a new signing.

The other factor is Rudy Camacho. Camacho joined in the summer transfer window from Montreal, so he was already familiar with the Nancy system. Immediately he slotted into the center spot of the back three and conducted the rest of the defense. As soon as he joined the team, the defense took a huge step forward.

The Crew have done about as good a job balancing Concacaf Champions Cup play and the MLS schedule as possible, and currently sit above the playoff line. How have they been able to find a good balance, when most teams struggle mightily in one competition or the other?

CJ: Realistically it has been a bit of a struggle. Columbus is getting results now but most of the matches during the meat of the Concacaf Champions Cup run were draws. When the Crew beat Montreal on May 16, that was their first league win since March 16. Still, grabbing some draws during that run and staying alive in the playoff hunt are absolutely accomplishments for this team. Part of the reason for this success is the team’s depth. Hinestroza adds another attacking option up top while Derrick Jones is able to spell Aidan Morris/Darlington Nagbe in the midfield. Zawadzki has been a Swiss Army knife for the Black & Gold, slotting in at nearly every position on the field aside from goalkeeper. Nancy has also been willing to use his substitutes after a 2023 season when his sub pattern was frustratingly limited.

The Black & Gold also have the good fortune to get a bye through the group stage of this summer’s Leagues Cup, so they can push a bit harder during a congested few months with the expectation of multiple weeks off in July.

Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspensions, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

CJ: Cucho Hernandez is officially out for Saturday’s match. He has had a nagging back injury and it is expected that he is being held out as a precaution and to be healthy for the Concacaf Champions Cup final in June. Without Cucho these last two weeks, the Crew have grabbed back-to-back road wins for the first time in what seems like forever. Without Cucho, the attack is a bit more multi-faceted. Diego Rossi has picked up the slack and started to look like the former Golden Boot winner that he is.

Rossi will start with a target striker, assuming this is Christian Ramirez, and likely Alex Matan. Depending on the game state, Nancy will slot Jacen Russell-Rowe into Matan’s spot to attack with two target strikers up top. The midfield duo of Nagbe and Morris is a mainstay, though the team has tried to manage Morris’ minutes as the season has gone on. Expect to see Zawadzki or Jones replace Morris/Nagbe around the 75th or 80th minute. In the back we’ll see Yaw Yeboah, Malte Admundsen or Cheberko, Camacho, Steven Moreira, and Mohamed Farsi.

I’m guessing the below is what they roll out:
Patrick Schulte; Malte Amundsen, Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Yaw Yeboah, Mohamed Farsi; Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe; Alex Matan, Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi.

I don’t see Columbus grabbing a third straight road win but they are playing well right now so I’m guessing we see a hard-fought draw. Columbus 2-2 Orlando. 


Thank you to Collin for providing the scoop on the Crew. Vamos Orlando!

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