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Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 3-1 as Lions’ Home Futility Continues

Level at the break, the Lions gave up two goals early in the second half and continue to struggle both at home and in all games against D.C.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City simply cannot figure out D.C. United. The Lions (3-3-2, 11 points) fell behind early but leveled the game before halftime, only to fall flat in the second half in a 3-1 loss to D.C. (3-4-2, 11 points) at Exploria Stadium. Duncan McGuire scored again, to offset a strike by Taxiarchis Fountas in the first half, but Donovan Pines and Christian Benteke scored in the second period to lift the visitors to the win.

Orlando dropped its third consecutive home match and hasn’t won at Exploria Stadium since opening night, going 0-3-1 sincethe end of February.

“Certainly a very disappointing night, not getting the results at home after the big effort that the team (had) in the games away,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The development of the game, I thought it was very clogged. The game did not flow and we did not find that rhythm. We couldn’t find a way to hurt them. And they did it in those key moments. There’s no excuse. They took advantage of it and that’s why they get the points tonight.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal — tying Joe Bendik for the most appearances in goal in club history, with 92 — behind a three-man back line of Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, and Antonio Carlos. The midfield was made up of Gaston Gonzalez and Ivan Angulo outside of Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra. Facundo Torres and Martin Ojeda flanked rookie Duncan McGuire up top.

The teams played an uneventful first 10 minutes as they struggled to settle into the match. Each team got an early set piece but did nothing with it.

The Lions were particularly poor connecting passes and gave the ball away cheaply, in the early stages of the game and it cost them in the 15th minute. Angulo gave the ball away in the middle of the pitch and the ball quickly found its way from Mateusz Klich to former Lion Ruan on the right side. He played Fountas in behind the defense and the Greek forward scored his fifth goal in three matches against Orlando. In just three games, Fountas has become D.C.’s all-time goal-scoring leader against Orlando City.

After a few minutes of playing in the middle of the pitch, the Lions leveled things out of nowhere. Carlos started the play with a great tackle in the middle of the pitch, knocking the ball to Ojeda. The Argentine turned and played a through ball for McGuire to run onto and he beat Tyler Miller to equalize in the 23rd minute. It was the rookie’s third goal of the season.

“We executed a perfect press the way that we like to do the majority of the time in the way that we like to press,” Ojeda said about the tying goal. “Antonio was able to recover (the ball) very quickly, and I saw Duncan using his space well. So, I just tried to hit him on the counterattack to put him in one on one with the keeper. With luck, it happened and he was able to score the goal.”

A couple of Orlando long balls nearly sent Ojeda and Torres in behind the defense but the delivery was a little long on both and Miller was aggressive in coming off his line.

Angulo got down the right and put in a good centering pass to Ojeda in at the half hour mark. The Designated Player tried to flick it to himself to work past a defender but his touch was a little heavy and the ball rolled in to Miller.

The mixed night for Angulo continues moments later when he made a poor cross out of play and then got another blocked after being sent down the wing by a good flick by Torres.

The half saw a couple of good chances for Gonzalez to make something happen in the final minutes. His header across the box hit Victor Palsson in front of goal and required Miller to save it by knocking it over the net in the 40th minute. Gonzalez then forced Miller to make a save in stoppage time when Torres’ blocked cross reached him and he headed toward goal. The shot, however, was right at the goalkeeper.

Orlando City held a slight edge in possession (52.4%-47.6%) at the break, with both clubs firing three shots, but the Lions edging the visitors in shots on target (2-1) and corners (3-1). Orlando was slightly more accurate in the passing game (75.9%-70.9%), but neither team was spectacular.

Orlando came out of the locker room strong, sending a few crosses through the box but nothing came of them. But it was the visitors who took the lead. It started wtih an inattentive moment from Angulo, who drifted from Pedro Santos and by the time he recovered he could only knock a cross out for a corner. Behind the play, McGuire was down with what appeared to be a hamstring issue. Ramiro Enrique subbed on prior to the corner kick.

On D.C.’s corner kick, Pines ran through Araujo, knocking him to the ground and easily towered over Enrique to give the visitors the lead on a header in the 52nd minute, literally adding insult to the McGuire injury. The Lions appealed for a foul on Pines but none was given and there didn’t appear to be much of a delay to account for the play being reviewed.

The Lions had a couple of half chances to pull the goal right back but as has been a problem this season so far, both Ojeda and Torres had shot opportunities blocked by the defense. That proved costly, as D.C. added to its lead shortly after those chances.

Benteke got his goal in the 63rd minute and it was a preventable one. The Lions had ample opportunity to clear an aerial ball but couldn’t knock it away from the penalty area. It eventually found its way back in to Benteke who played it to himself, held off Schlegel, and then turned on a dime and fired past Gallese to make it 3-1.

D.C. United Head Coach Wayne Rooney said preparing for Orlando was difficult because of the varied formations the Lions have used in recent weeks, but he added that he felt his team had the size and strength to take advantage on set pieces.

Pareja inserted Ercan Kara and Rafael Santos for Ojeda and Schlegel to try to change the game and Kara nearly scored on his first touch off a corner, forcing Miller to knock it ofout for another in the 69th minute.

Orlando came frustratingly close to pulling one back a couple of times with Carlos and Angulo sending crosses through the six that just needed a touch but no one could provide one. The Lions should have had a second goal in the 77th minute on a counterattack with Torres laying off to give Araujo a wide-open look but the midfielder hit his shot right at Miller.

Benteke had two good chances to make the score even more lopsided. The first came on a free header that he missed well wide of goal and the second was stopped by a diving Gallese.

The Lions have now gone four straight without a win against D.C. — all four since Rooney became United’s head coach.

Orlando finished with more possession (55.2%-44.8%), shots (13-9), corners (9-3), and passing accuracy (82%-77.3%), but both teams got five shots on target and D.C. won the only stat that matters.

“We thought we got into that final part of the field more than a few times where we needed to be more pointed in our finishing and taking those opportunities at the end,” Ojeda said. “We had some good chances. Gaston had a header. We had a couple of opportunities where we came through. Obviously, we had the goal. But it’s just got to be more pointed and we’ve got to finish when we get into the box and into the final portion. It just has to be better.”

Pareja said after the match that it was too soon to tell the severity of injuries sustained by McGuire and Pereyra in the match, but those would be big losses for City to shoulder.

Gonzalez said the players aren’t feeling any pressure building with the lack of home results.

“I’d say we’re all calm right now. We know that there’s things that we need to fix to be able to take these results at home,” he said. “We’re faulting on the details here at home. That’s costing us some of these points. To the fans, I’d say, we know that we’ve got work to do to be able to bring those victories at home and to give them the results they deserve,” Gonzalez said.


The Lions will get another shot to right the ship at home next weekend, with the LA Galaxy visiting Exploria Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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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