Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways



Orlando City came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 in the regular-season finale at Exploria Stadium. With Cincinnati jumping out to a big early lead at D.C. United, the Lions needed all three points to keep their season alive and now look forward to the MLS Cup playoffs on Sunday in Montreal. What can we take away from the Lions’ win in their final game of the regular season?

Columbus Was the Early Aggressor

Orlando City needed a win in this game to make the playoffs while Columbus only needed a draw. You’d expect the Lions to come out attacking and the Crew to sit behind the ball, but it was the opposite in the first half. The Crew were on the attack while the Lions seemed happy to defend. Orlando City didn’t pressure the Crew back line and, when it did, some of the team stayed back, creating gaps in the midfield. After 45 minutes, it was tough to see the Lions winning. The Crew controlled the pace of the first half and it paid off in the 38th minute when Derrick Etienne Jr. gave the visitors the lead. At halftime, it seemed highly unlikely that the Lions would be able to mount a comeback.

A Tale of Two Halves

The Lions needed to change their mindset in the second half and they did. The team pressed higher and was more creative in the final third. Orlando put Columbus on their heels, resulting in Junior Urso’s goal in the 56th minute. After the goal, the Lions continued to create opportunities and eventually found the winner. In short, the second-half Lions looked like a team needing to win.

Part of that could’ve been that the Crew were playing more behind the ball, which was bound to happen with a 1-0 lead and Columbus merely needing a draw to qualify. But the Lions also looked like a different team in the second 45 minutes. Had they come out that way at the start of the game, they probably wouldn’t have needed a comeback or any late heroics.

Pedro Gallese, Orlando City’s Savior

As has happened on many occasions, Gallese was once again asked to make some huge saves. The Peruvian goalkeeper was excellent in the second half, making some big stops that kept his team in the game. In the 35th minute, Gallese tipped a shot from Cucho Hernandez off the post and collected the rebound. He also made some huge saves in the second half, including an 86th-minute save on Lucas Zelarayan and an injury-time stop on Zelarayan to keep the 2-1 lead. Without the team’s number one, the result likely would’ve been different and the season would’ve ended.

Benji Michel’s Impact

Ercan Kara is a player that needs service to succeed. He doesn’t possess much speed and doesn’t press the opposing defense. Michel isn’t as good at finishing as Kara, but he provided the energy, speed, and pressure needed. Michel’s shot in the 81st minute hit the hand of Milos Degenek, giving the Lions a penalty that resulted in the game-winning goal. He’s not the team’s best forward, but Michel makes a difference off the bench and did so again in this one.

Facundo Torres Has Nerves of Steel

Orlando City has had some trouble finding the right penalty taker in the last couple of years. The team didn’t find out that Daryl Dike was the best option until shortly before he left. This year, Designated Players Kara and Torres have both emerged as viable options, as did Alexandre Pato prior to his knee injury. Torres showed his value from the spot again in this game, providing the winning margin. Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room guessed the right way on Torres’ late penalty, and even left his line early, but it was well struck into the corner, resulting in the Lions’ game-winning goal.

This is what I took away from Orlando City’s 2-1 win over the Crew. It looked like this game would be six losses in seven games to end Orlando’s season, if not for the comeback. It was an ugly way to get into the playoffs, but the team has made the postseason for the third consecutive year after failing to in its first five seasons in MLS. Let us know what stood out to you in this match in the comments below.


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