Struggling Orlando City host the Columbus Crew on Saturday night in a match that could give the hometown fans a glimmer of hope or could push the red line even further out of reach for the lads from Orlando City. The summer has been an active one for the Orlando City front office, between losing MPG to gaining Dom Dwyer, Yoshi Yotun, and Dillon Powers. Dwyer and Yotun have both made appearances and have shown that they can be dangerous players. In his first two matches, Dwyer has had a number of close brushes with crossing passes and has opened space for other attackers on the pitch. And in his debut for Orlando City, Yotun showed his touch by sending a 40-yard pass forward right to the feet of a charging Carlos Rivas. As they get settled in and build chemistry with their teammates, it seems promising that the results will be better. The question Orlando City fans are impatiently watiting to see answered is whether that will happen soon enough to salvage a playoff run for this season.
Players to Watch
Due to a bizarre late-match horsing around between Kaka and old teammate Aurelien Collin last week, the Captain will be suspended after receiving a red card for what was deemed "violent conduct." The incident was a moment of levity in a match that was getting increasingly testy, and the officials misread Kaka's actions and issued a straight red, even after Collin pleaded on behalf of his former teammate to reassure the officials they were just playing around. So Kaka will be out for the match.
Dom Dwyer is coming off minor nose surgery and has been fitted with a facemask, but it is uncertain if and how much he will play in this match. Yoshi Yotun made his debut in purple last week and as advertised he seems to be a great creator, being able to pass the ball forward to help attackers if a shot opportunity is available to them. And of course Jonathan Spector is out with a knee injury, meaning that we are likely to see the same defensive line that gave up three goals to the Red Bulls last week, unless Jose Aja returns to the lineup after spending some time on the bench to think about all the goals he has allowed in over the last fifteen or so matches.
For Columbus, there are several dangerous players to watch for. Ola Kamara leads the team with 12 goals, and Justin Meram (who had a brace against Orlando City back in April) is not far behind at 10. Federico Higuain is snapping at his heels with 9 goals on the season.
I chatted with a Columbus fan named John last week down at the Broken Cauldron before the Orlando Pride match. He said to keep an eye on a young Brazilian player named Artur. He's featured in 17 matches for Columbus and has two assists on the season, but John seems to think that with the form and poise he has showed he could contend for a DP spot with the Crew next season. Speaking of assists, some familiar names are at the top of the table for Columbus in that category. Meram leads the team with 7 assists, followed by Higuain at 5, and then Will Trapp has added 4 assists on the season.
I wish I had the confidence to predict an Orlando City win. Unfortunately, winning only two matches in the last 17 outings is not doing anything to instill me with confidence in my team. I see glimpses of promise in the impact that Dom Dwyer and Yotun have already had on the team, but I see this team trying way too hard to make the complicated plays instead of going for the straightforward options. A great example was last week when Carlos Rivas had a beautiful opportunity to go to the near side of the goal with the keeper's momentum moving the opposite way, but instead he tried to make a dainty little chip over the diving keeper that got swatted out harmlessly.
Come on guys--let's just get back to basics. Pass to the closest teammate. Shoot for the open side of the goal. Mark your man on defense. Press the attack forward for 90 minutes relentlessly. And instead of wasting energy getting mad and fighting with the other team, how about focusing that energy into actually playing the game and trying to win. Could you maybe see if you can do that for us? We'd really appreciate it.
As for tonight's match if we see the same kind of Keystone Kops routine we have from Orlando City, I'd look for another 2 - 0 defeat. But if the lads can show that they've actually learned from some of their mistakes and taken some things to heart, we could see the team win. Columbus has struggled on the road, losing 6 of their last 8 road matches and being outscored 19 - 7 in those contests. A flurry of goals tonight by the home side would do a lot to buoy the confidence of Orlando City fans and set the stage for a possible run at getting above the red line. But a loss will make the playoffs an even higher mountain to climb with even fewer matches left to reach the goal.
What are your thoughts on tonight's match? Do you think Orlando City can reverse the recent trend and actually win a match, or do you think Columbus comes in with too much firepower for the struggling home side to get a result? Let me know in the comments below!