When? Wednesday October 28, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 00:30 BST.
Where? Lower.com Field, Columbus, OH.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of the United States. Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV for residents of Central Florida. The game will also be broadcast via radio on FM 96.9 The Game, Accion 96.9 FM and 810 AM. The Game is not scheduled for broadcast in the UK.
Following on from their disappointing draw with the New England Revolution, Orlando City immediately have a chance to get the 3 points they need to almost certainly clinch a place in the post season. With games against Nashville and Montréal to close out the season, a trip to Ohio to face last season's faltering champions is arguably our best chance of victory.
Whilst this game is possibly the easiest of the 3, and I use the term easy very loosely. Nothing about a trip to face the Crew ever really screams 'easy'. They might be some way short of where they were this time last year, but this will still be a difficult game for Orlando City to negotiate. There can be no margin for error here, however. This has to be a victory. Orlando has to take control and seize their moment. Bet you weren't expecting a 'Coco' reference were you? Well, there you go. These are strange times.
As I've already alluded to, Columbus has failed to hit the heights of 2020, so far in 2021. Their 38 goals has them ranked 8/14 in the eastern conference, whilst they rank 23/27 in terms of XG with a lowly 1.21 rating. They average 0.55 assists per game, and 1.02. For context, Orlando City, average 1.13 assists and 1.41 goals per 90. There's quite a difference between both team's offensive output, that's for sure. Defensively, not so much; Columbus has conceded 42 compared to Orlando's 44, that's a rate of 1.35 goals allowed per game for the Crew.
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Columbus are a team that relies quite heavily on set-pieces, having scored 24% of their goals from set plays so far in 2021 (figure 1). They're also a team that favours attacking down the sides (figure 2), which makes sense when you consider they have the likes of Steven Moreira. Moreira seems to have taken to life in MLS very well, averaging 1.5 key passes and 0.8 dribbles per game. From right-back no less. In their most recent game, vs the Red Bulls, he completed 4 dribbles and got forward at will (figure 3).
Figure 1 shows Columbus' goal output percentages.
Figure 2 shows how Columbus like to focus their attacks down the flanks.
Figure 3 shows Steven Moreira's heatmap from the game against the Red Bulls.
The Crew have been somewhat decimated by injuries of late. Aidan Morris, Artur, Perry Kitchen, Luis Diaz and Kevin Molino are all set to miss out according to the injury report. Gyasi Zardes is questionable.
Orlando, also have some injury concerns with Adam Grinwis, Uri Rosell and Raul Aguilera are all listed as out on the injury report. Joao Moutinho, Rio Hope-Gund and Andres Perea are all listed as questionable, though Perea featured against New England so should be OK.
Possible starting XI
Caleb Porter's team typically line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with both full-backs receiving license to get forward. The Crew have to win this game, so they'll send out a strong line-up, looking a little something like this:
The influential DP has been a major goal threat for Columbus so far this season, particularly from free-kicks; 5 of his 8 tallies this season have been from set plays. The Armenian born playmaker has started 25 of his 29 appearances so far, amassing 2,378 minutes in 2021. He's also proved to be a key creative influence in the final third, tallying 66 key passes to go along with his 2 assists. His 15.4% conversion rate his 3.53 XG and 5.7 XA underline how important he is to this team's attacking unit.
Columbus have ham fisted their title defence somewhat, and currently sit 11th, 5 points below the line with a 10-8-13 record having lost 2 of their last 4 MLS games.
Orlando City on the other hand, sit 4th with a 12-11-8 record. Orlando are currently on a 5 match unbeaten streak, having won 2 and drawn 3.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com
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