Preview: Columbus Crew (a).
Saturday April 16, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 00:30 BST (17/4).
Where? Lower.com Field, Columbus, OH.
How can I catch the game? The game will be broadcast on MLS LIVE on ESPN+,MLS LIVE on DAZN for residents of the United States. For those in Central Florida the will be broadcast on Fox 35 Plus ,LionNation TV, and radio 96.9 The Game, Acción 97.9. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
Orlando City are in Columbus this weekend. Should be a fairly uneventful game, right? For many of an Orlando City persuasion Lower.com Field evokes certain... unpleasant, yeah, let's go with unpleasant, memories. PRO. Need I say more? That being said, Orlando have enjoyed the better of the contests over recent years, winning 5 of their last 6 against the Crew. The solitary defeat coming at the back end of last season, thus snapping a 5 game winning run for the Lions.
Columbus have had an indifferent start to the season, going 2-2-2 so far and they lost their last home game, against Nashville. Orlando have fared reasonably well away from home so far, so the Lions will take confidence from that fact and look to make it 4 unbeaten away from Exploria Stadium.
The Crew are a good side, don't let their indifferent start to the season fool you. They're an accomplished team in possession, with quality players like Lucas Zelarayan and Miguel Berry in advanced areas, they can do some serious damage in the attacking third. The Crew have scored 10 goals so far, averaging 1.7 goals per game with an XG of 12.9.
They are a team who like to dominate possession. They rank 3rd in MLS for average possession so far this season with 58.3% (figure 1). They also rank 1st for accurate passes per match with 439.2 (figure 2). They'll undoubtedly try to dominate the ball as much as possible, particularly with the onus being on them as the home team. They'll try to play through Artur, Darlington Nagbe and Zelarayanin the middle. If Orlando can remain compact and keep taps on Zelarayan in particular they'll have some joy defensively.
As dangerous as they've been in an attacking sense so far, they can be got at defensively; they've conceded 7 goals so far. They rank poorly in several key defensive categories; successful tackles (16th), saves per game (14th) and clean sheets (17th).
Figure 1 shows Columbus' average possession ranking in MLS on the season so far.
Figure 2 shows Columbus' accurate passes per match ranking in MLS on the season so far.
The Crew are expected to be without Kevin Molino and Isaiah Parente through injury and illness respectively.
Orlando City, on the other hand, are only without Antonio Carlos. Michael Halliday is still listed as questionable, though he has trained this week.
Possible starting XI
The Crew have utilised a fairly settled starting XI this season, so I wouldn't be surprised to see an unchanged line-up in their favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Gyasi Zardes sometimes rotates in, but the USMNT striker is struggling for form right now, so I'd expect to see Miguel Berry in attack:
The Armenian playmaker has started the 2022 season in fine form, scoring 4 times and assisting once during his 6 appearances so far. He has amassed 532 minutes so far, and has an XG of 1.87. Of his 4 goals this season, 3 have come from outside the box. Similarly, during 2021, he scored 8 of his 12 goals from range. Orlando will need to be quick to shut him down within sight of the area.
Columbus have had an iffy start to the season, going 2-2-2 so far. They currently sit 7th in the east.
Orlando, on the other hand, are 2nd having gone 3-2-2. The Lions will be looking to build on their encouraging win over Chicago.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC