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Orlando City vs. Charlotte FC: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Snatch Late Road Win on Tesho Akindele’s Goal

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Ercan Kara opened the scoring and his replacement, Tesho Akindele, scored late as Orlando City defeated Charlotte FC in its first trip to Bank of America Stadium. Akindele’s goal in the 89th minute lifted the Lions (10-10-6, 36 points) back to the .500 mark in the standings in a much-needed win over Charlotte (10-15-2, 32 points).

McKinze Gaines scored for the hosts but Orlando City was able to sweep the season series over the new MLS side. With the other results around the league on Sunday night, Orlando climbed back into fifth in the Eastern Conference.

“An excellent game to show the character of the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Excellent game to prove that these guys are working hard and the game will reward them.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Robin Jansson picked up a foot injury late this week in training and was held out to allow time for evaluation. Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra played in central midfield behind an attacking midfield line of Jake Mulraney, Junior Urso, and Facundo Torres, with Kara returning to the lineup at striker.

The hosts had a half-chance in the third minute on a long-range free kick. The ball somehow cleared everyone and caught Gallese by surprise but he managed to fight it off at the last moment and Ruan cleared.

A minute later, the Lions got a free kick in a good spot to the right of the box. Pereyra found Carlos but he couldn’t get much weight behind his header. The ball fell to Kara’s feet but his shot attempt was blocked.

Kerwin Vargas sent a curling shot wide in the seventh minute after Mulraney lost an aerial duel — due in large part because he didn’t jump — and ignited Charlotte’s break. Mulraney was booked for a foul behind the play after the ball sailed wide.

The game settled into a cagey affair for the next segment, with each team probing for a way through. Orlando sent a couple of passes out right to try to unlock Ruan but weighted them poorly.

Torres finally tested Kristijan Kahlina in the 27th minute with a shot from outside the area but he left the effort too close to the middle of goal and the goalkeeper was able to make the save.

Three minutes later, Vargas tried his luck from outside the left corner of the box, smashing a near-post effort that Gallese parried away.

Urso got his head to a Mulraney cross in the 34th minute but his shot deflected off a defender for a corner.

The Lions were called for a foul on the ensuing corner when there was contact with Kahlina on a 50/50 cross, wasting the opportunity. Three minutes later, Urso badly scuffed a shot attempt from distance and it rolled weakly in for Kahlina to collect.

The Lions couldn’t make a couple of late corner kicks pay off, Smith smashed a screamer off target in stoppage time, and the teams went to the break tied at 0-0.

Orlando City finished the half with more possession (57%-43%), shots (7-3), shots on target (2-1), corners (4-0), and passing accuracy (86.5%-83.3%).

“The football that the team played in the first half was very good,” Pareja said. “We dominated the tempo. We created chances. We avoided (them) to create chances. We made superiority in the spaces that we needed. I saw a lot of discipline tactically, especially with the ball with this group of players.”

Charlotte came out of the locker room with more intensity to start the second half and the hosts’ press created some half-chances. But the half started with a good cross by Mulraney which he sent in way too early before teammates could arrive, and a weak dribbler on goal by Pereyra.

Carlos was booked in the 39th minute after conceding a dangerous free kick just outside the area. Karol Swiderski took the set piece and sent his shot into the outside netting to Gallese’s right.

Quinn McNeill fired at Gallese after a turnover in the 56th minute as Charlotte continued to attack.

But Orlando got back on the front foot and took the lead in the 62nd minute. Urso picked out Torres in the middle and the Young Designated Player sent a perfect through ball to pick out Kara, who finished calmly past Kahlina to make it 1-0. For Kara, it was his team-leading eighth goal of the MLS regular season.

“It was an amazing pass from Facundo Torres,” Kara said. “I saw the space and he gave me a real good ball. I saw the long side and that’s it.”

The home crowd wanted an offside call and the referee did appear to have a conversation with the video assistant referee but the goal stood. Kara said he wasn’t worried about it being pulled back.

“I saw the last man. I think it was (Christian) Fuchs,” Kara said. “In my mind, I was sure that it was clear that there was no offside.”

The lead didn’t last long, however. A cross in from Kamil Józwiak on the attacking left found Gaines, who split Schlegel and Smith and headed in from point-blank range to tie the match at 1-1 in the 66th minute.

“Second half, we understand that just being away that sometimes you want to hold the game higher,” Pareja said. “That it’s normal that the reaction of the other team is aggressive and cost us that tied goal. But I noticed that our reaction after that goal was very professional and calm and that just made us score the second one, which is something that hasn’t happened much in this season, so we’re very proud.”

Kahlina made his best save in the 70th minute after Kara was knocked down from behind by Derrick Jones, who was booked, and the Lions got a free kick straight out from goal. Pereyra took the set piece and sent a good, accurate shot on target but couldn’t get enough oomph on it to sneak it past the diving goalkeeper.

Down the stretch, Orlando struggled to possess the ball. Pareja made some changes to try to solidify things and take off tired players or guys on a yellow card, but Charlotte dictated play, winning set pieces and throw-ins in the Lions’ end.

Akindele put the Lions ahead out of nowhere on the counter. He raced down the right to reach a pass from Urso and sent a shot on goal that Kahlina saved. The ball caromed back to the Canadian and this time he sent his shot into the net to make it 2-1 in the 89th minute. It was Akindele’s first goal of the season.

“Honestly, I don’t even remember starting to play, but the first thing I remember is Urso having the ball,” Akindele said. “And I just saw a gap and I was just like, ‘I gotta go.’ So, I just took off as fast as I could and Urso gave me the perfect pass. And you know, my first shot I should have done a little bit better, to be honest. But you’ve got to (have) short-term memory as a forward, like they say. That was the ultimate example of that. Ball came right back to me and I tried to stay calm and just place it in the corner.”

The Lions couldn’t have been too happy when the fourth official showed seven minutes of added time. There were two second-half injury stoppages but seven still seemed excessive. Orlando City was able to control the game for most of the first three or four minutes of injury time and saw out a second consecutive road win. First, the Lions had to survive a scare in the dying seconds as Brandt Bronico fired a shot just over the bar on nearly the last kick of the match.

Charlotte turned around the possession in the second half, finishing with a slight advantage (50.7%-49.3%) and even edged out Orlando in passing accuracy (82.9%-82.4%), but the Lions led in shots (13-9), shots on goal (7-3), and corners (5-2).

“We need to get better. We need to control those tempos,” Pareja said. “But suddenly, after they scored, we did that. We sustained the game and just tried to look for the second goal in transition, which is something that the boys brought — the substitutions — and we found a way to get these three points in a very difficult match, especially the second half.” 

“Super important for us because, just like every other team, our goal is to win the MLS Cup, and you can’t win if you’re not in the playoffs,” Akindele said. “That’s definitely step one. The bare minimum we need to do is get into the playoffs to give ourselves the chance to win MLS Cup. And so it feels good to stay in there, give ourselves a little bit of a cushion, but it’s still tight. If you kind of fall asleep for a week or two, all of a sudden you’re out of it again and we know that and we’re going to keep our foot on the gas.”


The Lions return home next Sunday for a home meeting with New York City FC.

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 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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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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