Orlando City is desperate for points tonight after getting mauled by five-time MLS Cup Champions LA Galaxy last Sunday on the road. The scoreboard said 4 - 2, but it felt more like a five-goal margin of victory from the way the Galaxy dominated the match.
The match marked the return from retirement of Landon Donovan for the Galaxy, and it seemed to be the spark that LA needed to remind them they have multiple championships. There could also have been a revenge factor, as expansion side Orlando City earned their first home victory last season with a 4 - 0 shutout victory over the Galaxy last season.
With the loss last Sunday, Orlando City has allowed DC United to climb back into the 6th position on the East table, and Orlando City is now sitting tied with DCU on 34 points, but below the line in 7th place.
Players to Watch
For Orlando City, the usual cast of characters should be on display. Defender David Mateos is out on yellow card accumulation, which may mean a return to the starting lineup for one of the players that has been out for a while recovering from injury--Tommy Redding or Rafael Ramos--or it could mean someone else gets a chance to start. Of course behind the defense is Joe Bendik, who is second in MLS and leads the Eastern Conference with 101 saves on the season. Kaka should be in the lineup as well with his team-leading 8 assists, and is one something of a roll with four goals in three games. The team's two leading scorers, Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino, will also bring their potent scoring attacks to the pitch tonight.
For Columbus, it's easy to forget that the team sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table this season went to the MLS Cup Final match last season. They have many of the same players in place, but for some reason the goals just haven't been happening for them this year. They did take a 2-goal lead in the first half of the only matchup so far in 2016 between Columbus and Orlando City before the lads came back to secure a point on the road. Ola Kamara leads Columbus with 11 goals on the season, while Ethan Finlay has added five for the Crew. And it's no surprise that Justin Meram leads the team with 8 assists and Finlay has added six for the visitors. Coach Jason Kreis and the players have been wary of Columbus all week and give them due respect as defending Eastern Conference champions.
Orlando City made quite a name for themselves earlier this season in terms of deciding games very late--remember the two stoppage time goals against RSL in the season opener to secure the draw? In fact, Orlando City has gone on to score 14 goals on the season after the 75th minute of the match. This is a good matchup when facing Columbus, who have allowed 17 of the 45 goals they have conceded on the year after the 75th minute. So that means we could be in for an exciting flurry of goals from the lads toward the end of the match. Hopefully, that will be a flurry of goals that extends a lead and not one that has to claw us back into the match.
Columbus and Orlando City have met 4 times, with each side winning once and two draws, and both teams scoring an aggregate total of 9 goals across those matches. But last week's match against LA Galaxy notwithstanding, it feels like Orlando City is on a good run of form lately, playing with more intensity, energy, and focus than I have seen from them in a long time. I think they are strongly motivated to make the playoffs this season, and I believe that will help them take advantage of the struggling Columbus team to earn all three points. I think the final score will be 3 - 1, with Larin getting at least one goal and Kaka registering at least one assist.
What about you? What are your thoughts on the match? Do you think Orlando City will get back on their winning ways tonight, or do you think they will only manage a draw or worse? Who are you hoping to see in defense tonight in place of the suspended David Mateos? Let me know in the comments below!