I have told you all, Grasshoppers, that this season will require patience on the part of fans. Last year it was very hard for anyone (including me) to be patient with a team, organization, front office, coaches, and players that seemed like they were spiraling out of control on a collision course with the bottom of the table. But this year, the Lions have largely addressed the issues with the defense, and they are consistently creating ample opportunities to score. And in the last month they have been more consistent about cashing in those chances and converting them to goal. More consistent, but not completely consistent.
Wednesday night’s loss to DC United continued all the trends, including the inconsistent finishing. Orlando City held the edge in possession (54.2% - 45.8%), shots (19 - 15), passes (487 - 430), and pass completion (86% - 85%); they even led in duels won (55 - 51) and tackles won (10 - 9). But the most important stat they could not win was goals scored. The defense only allowed one goal on the game, and that was a screaming beauty by Wayne Rooney. The Englishman seems to be on a mission to prove to all the naysayers who were his fans in EPL that he is washed up and past his prime. Unfortunately over the last couple of seasons two of his most dramatic goals have come at the expense of Orlando City. It would be too easy (and too cheap) to criticize Brian Rowe for the goal for being out of position, but when the ball is in play 80 yards from the goal, most keepers are not going to expect a bomb, even from a world-famous striker. Every coward who criticized Brian Rowe for allowing that goal needs to realize that they themselves are too slow, too pathetic, and too unathletic to have stopped that same shot if they were standing on the goal line when it was struck. That’s the kind of play you just have to shake your head, smile, and appreciate, regardless of whether it was scored by your team or against your team.
Last year I cringed every time Orlando City gave up one single goal because I didn’t think we could score to bring back a point, much less score multiple goals to win all three points. This season when Orlando City gives up only a single goal in a match I still have a bit of uncertainty if we will score, but I have confidence the team will create chances and get the ball in position to shoot, and since May 19 we are averaging 2.2 goals per match. So the team seems to be on the right track. As fans, we just can’t expect a win every time out, even though we’d love to beat everyone 4 - 0 from now until the end of the season.
Crew vs. Lions - Team Previews
The game tonight is a battle for position on the table. With the midweek loss and some of the other results, Orlando City have slipped to 9th on the Eastern Conference table, and Columbus is right behind us in 10th. A win tonight would help put some points separation between the teams, and it could push Orlando City as high as 8th on the table pending the outcome of the rest of the matches this weekend. A loss would put Orlando City that much further out of the playoffs and make it an even harder task to claw their way back above the line by the end of the season.
Orlando City is sitting on 18 points with a 5 - 8 - 3 record and an even goal differential with 22 goals scored and allowed. On the road, Orlando City has two wins and two draws, getting results in 8 of 16 matches away from Exploria Stadium.
Meanwhile Columbus Crew are on 17 points with a 5 - 10 - 2 record and are on -9 for goal differential, allowing 25 goals while scoring only 16. The Crew are 4 - 4 - 2 at home, getting results in six of 10 matches at Mapfre Stadium.
Players to Watch - Columbus Crew
Here are some interesting player stats for Columbus coming into the match (courtesy of the Fotmob app).
Top Rating - Pedro Santos (7.19), Federico Higuain (6.92), Gyasi Zardes (6.77)
Top Scorers - Gyasi Zardes (6), Pedro Santos (4), Gaston Sauro (2)
Top Assists - Federico Higuain and David Accam (3), Pedro Santos (2)
Key Injuries - OUT: Federico Higuain (M) - right knee injury; OUT: Milton Valenzuela (D) - right knee injury; OUT: Josh Williams (D) - right foot injury; OUT: David Accam (F) - hamstring strain
Key Out for International Duty - Zack Steffen (GK), Wil Trapp (M), Gyasi Zardes (F), Jonathan Mensah (D)
Players to Watch - Orlando City
Top Rating - Nani (7.38), Will Johnson (6.97), Joao Moutinho (6.86)
Top Scorers - Nani (8), Tesho Akindele (5), Dom Dwyer (4)
Top Assists - Nani (4), Chris Mueller and Joao Moutinho (3)
Key Injuries - OUT: Cristian Higuita (M) - hamstring injury; QUESTIONABLE: Adam Grinwis (GK) - quad injury; QUESTIONABLE: Joao Moutinho (D) - quad injury
Key Out for International Duty - Kamal Miller (D), Will Johnson (M), Jhegson Méndez (M)
Each time Orlando City has lost lately, they have stormed back with a vengeance the next match. That’s a trend and it’s not a guarantee, but I have a feeling that trend will continue tonight. I look for Orlando City to find the back of the net several times, and to be even more focused on defense. I will call for a 3 - 0 victory on the night. What about you? Do you think Orlando City can take all three points on the road, or do you believe the injury bug and Gold Cup commitments are catching up to the team and that Columbus will defend home turf? Let me know in the comments below!