Crossing the Touchline: Crew vs. Orlando City SC

After a week off, the Columbus Crew returned to action on Wednesday night, defeating Loudoun United FC in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 23. The Black & Gold are back in MLS action on Saturday night, looking to right the ship after two straight losses.

Columbus welcomes Orlando City SC to Field for the first match between the two Eastern Conference rivals this season. The two sides both sit on 14 points, with the Crew in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and Orlando in ninth on goal differential.

This is a crucial game for both teams. To get a sense of what to expect from the Lions in this game, we spoke with Ben Miller of The Mane Land.

Massive Report: The Crew and Orlando come into this game with identical 4-4-2 records. Our readers will know how the Black & Gold got to this point but can you give them a recap of how Orlando’s season has gone thus far?

The Mane Land: Orlando’s season has been extremely inconsistent. There was some promise early in the year, particularly with the way the team played across two legs against Tigres, but since then things have been maddeningly up and down. There were some nice wins against Minnesota and Philadelphia on the road, but some really ugly home losses to D.C. United and Nashville, and another on the road against Montreal. This is a team that doesn’t have it figured out yet.

MR: Looking at the Lions’ form, it has been very up and down to start the year without consecutive wins this season. What has prevented this team from finding consistency and what needs to happen to get on a run?

TML: The Designated Players need to start performing at a consistently higher level. It’s Martin Ojeda’s first year in the league so he gets a bit of leeway, but his performances need to start being better than what they have been. That goes double for Facundo Torres. He was the Lions’ best player last year but it just hasn’t been happening so far this season. The book is out on him that he doesn’t want to use his right foot, and that’s proved to be a problem he’s either unable or unwilling to solve up to this point. Torres, Ojeda and Ercan Kara need to start clicking, because this is a team that needs to score more goals than it has.

MR: Orlando has scored just 10 goals this season, tied for third-fewest in the Eastern Conference. What is holding back this offense from getting going?

TML: Part of that can potentially be chalked up to injuries. Kara has only played in five matches, starting four of those, and has been coming back from an injury he suffered in preseason. Aside from that though, there’s a very real possibility that this roster didn’t have some of its holes plugged the way it needed to. Fullback play has been shaky and inconsistent, and not having that extra overlapping threat has taken a dimension away from the offense. It also looks like the three DP’s are still getting used to playing with each other, and Ojeda and Torres in particular have been guilty of occupying the same spaces at times. For lack of a better word, things just need to click better than they have been, and it needs to happen soon.

MR: Who are a few players Crew fans should be aware of in this game that they may not know heading into it?

TML: Cesar Araujo is one of the most important players on the team. He’s asked to do a bulk of the dirty work in midfield when it comes to pressing, winning the ball back and stopping attacks, and he’s key to Orlando playing well. Another to watch out for is rookie Duncan McGuire who has three goals and an assist in seven appearances.

MR: What’s the injury situation for the Lions?

TML: Mauricio Pereyra and Luca Petrasso are both out with right thigh injuries. Other than that, I believe the roster is in pretty good shape.

MR: How do you see this game playing out? Feel free to give a score prediction.

TML: I don’t have a good feeling about this one. The Lions are coming off a pair of road losses, and this will be the team’s third straight game on the road when it already isn’t in particularly good form. I see the goalscoring woes continuing and a 2-0 victory for Columbus.

To read Massive Report’s answers to The Mane Land’s questions, click here.

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