Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

Familiarize yourself with this week’s opponents, the Columbus Crew, courtesy of someone who knows them best.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

It was a pretty rocky week for Orlando soccer, but the only way out is through. Time to put bad results in the past and look forward to the next match. Tomorrow, Orlando City will take on the Columbus Crew up in Ohio, and try to right the ship after a rough couple of games.

A clash with Columbus means I spoke to Massive Report’s Pat Murphy. As always, Pat was very helpful in getting us up to speed with the Crew. Like us here at The Mane Land, Massive Report has gone independent and they’re continuing to do excellent coverage of the Crew, and I answered a few of their questions about Orlando City, so make sure you go and check them out over at their place.

Columbus has now played 10 league games under Wilfried Nancy. How do the Crew like to play under him compared to what you saw under Caleb Porter?

Pat Murphy: If you watched CF Montreal under Nancy last year, you have the answer to that question. More or less, he has tried to carbon copy what made Montreal successful in 2022 in Columbus.

The Crew play a 3-4-2-1 with one of the center backs stepping up into midfield often. The Black & Gold want to play out of the back with the center backs attempting to pull attackers to them before passing at times to open space to go forward. The wing backs create the width with central midfielders operating mostly out of a double pivot. There are two attacking midfielders behind the lone striker (typically, sometimes he’s played with two strikers) and that group is usually rather fluid.

As well as this worked last year in Montreal, it’s taking time for things to fall in place for the Black & Gold. This was a team that was built to play a 4-2-3-1 under both Gregg Berhalter and Porter, and so the pieces to play a completely different formation aren’t all there, especially after the starters. We’ll call it a work in progress.

The Crew have not struggled to score goals this season, as only Atlanta and St. Louis have more than Columbus’ 19 tallies. What has made the Crew so lethal on offense this season?

PM: That number is a bit inflated by two consecutive games earlier this year where the Crew combined to score 10 goals against an undermanned Atlanta United and a struggling Real Salt Lake. The only other times the Black & Gold have scored more than one goal in a game this year came in the two games against D.C. United (and that was still a D.C. team trying to figure things out).

What should be pointed out is that Designated Player striker Cucho Hernandez has played just four games this year after a knee injury forced him out for around two months. He has one goal, which came in the last game against Inter Miami, and if he gets going, that could really boost the offense. Hernandez has done more floating than he did after joining the team last year, which means he hasn’t been in front of the goal as much, but is still always dangerous. His combination with Lucas Zelarayan, plus central midfielder Aidan Morris adding goals to his game this year, could mean the offense does live up to its numbers so far.

Who were some notable off-season departures, and how have they been replaced?

PM: The biggest was Jonathan Mensah, who had served as the team’s captain and defensive rock for the last several years. He was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes shortly before the start of the year with the intent to replace him with a younger center back that more fits what Nancy wants from that position. The Crew had a target they were close with in Turkey, but that fell apart before the start of the season. The Black & Gold brought in Gustavo Vallencilla from the Colorado Rapids on a season-long loan and he has played well for the most part but has not replaced Mensah.

Pedro Santos and Derrick Etienne were both also rather notable departures. Santos, in particular, would have been interesting on this team given his ability to play left back or left wing, which would fit right into Nancy’s wing back role. Etienne had a good season last year but wanted more money than the team wanted to give him — and they appear to be right with an inconsistent start for him in Atlanta. As it turns out, he may not have fit well in Nancy’s system either, as the Crew has too many wingers and not enough wing backs.

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

PM: Left wing back Will Sands is out for the season after he tore his ACL against Charlotte FC a few weeks back. Goalkeeper Eloy Room likely remains out with a knee issue that has lingered for a while. The Black & Gold may have an issue at center back, a position that already doesn’t have much depth, as Josh Williams is yet to play this year after an ankle injury in preseason, Milos Degenek and Steven Moreira left the game two weeks ago against Miami with injuries and Philip Quinton got hurt late in the Open Cup game on Wednesday.

Guessing Nancy’s starting lineup is typically tricky, but I’ll go with: Patrick Schulte; Steven Moreria, Gustavo Vallencilla, Malte Amundsen; Mohamed Farsi, Yaw Yeboah; Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe; Lucas Zelarayan, Alexandru Matan; Cucho Hernandez.

I said 2-0 Crew earlier this week on our podcast but the injuries at the back have me reconsidering this score. The Black & Gold need a win after dropping two in a row to struggling teams, so I think they pull one out at home but it could be an ugly 2-1 victory.

Thank you to Pat for helping us get caught up on the Crew. Vamos Orlando!


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