Orlando City returns to action following the international break this Saturday night at Exploria Stadium. The Lions are hosting Columbus Crew SC in a matchup of top five Eastern Conference clubs. The Lions will not be at full strength for this match, but the points at home are still needed as the hunt for the playoffs continues.
What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Columbus Crew?
Score All the Goals
Though I doubt that Oscar Pareja agrees with me, the Orlando City attack is hanging on for dear life. The departure of Ercan Kara was a big blow to Orlando City’s postseason. The Lions are in a good position to make the playoffs, but how far the club is able to go will in large part be determined by which players contribute goals. Losing and not replacing a DP-level striker — whether he was starting or not — doesn’t help.
The match against the Crew is the opportunity for others to chip in on the attack. Duncan McGuire is the obvious choice, but Big Dunc hasn’t scored in a few matches and needs to put the scoring boots back on. Facundo Torres needs to continue his run of form. Most importantly, Ramiro Enrique and Jack Lynn need to turn a corner in their careers starting this weekend. The training wheels are off, and it’s time to ride, boys.
Stop Hernandez and Co.
Cucho Hernandez scored a hat trick in Columbus’ last match against CF Montreal. Is Orlando City’s defense better than Montreal’s? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean Hernandez is not a threat to score multiple goals, because he absolutely can. Limiting his opportunities to do so will be crucial.
Oh, and let’s not forget about Darlington Nagbe, Diego Rossi, Aidan Morris, and Christian Ramirez. All of those players are a threat to score at any point. The Crew have scored an Eastern Conference-high 54 goals so far this season. That is 13 more goals than Orlando City has on the year. The defense is going to have to be solid once again if the Lions are hoping for a victory at home.
The Battle of the Midfield
Columbus is no slouch in the midfield. I already mentioned Morris and Nagbe, but the Crew also have Julian Gressel and Yaw Yeboah. How this match plays out might depend on which team is able to control the midfield, on both offense and defense.
Mauricio Pereyra’s form will be critical, because even though Torres is the star, Pereyra is the linchpin. We will most likely see Ivan Angulo on the left doing Angulo things — taking on defenders and being speedy on the wing. The attack starts with these players so it’s up to them to create chances.
Defensively, Orlando City will be missing Wilder Cartagena due to the red card he received in the match against FC Cincinnati. That means it will be up to Cesar Araujo to do more and with someone else in the midfield. It might be Felipe, but it will likely be Junior Urso. Bossing the defensive midfield without Cartagena will be a challenge, but it will be necessary.
That is what I will be looking for this weekend as Orlando City looks for a sixth result in a row. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.