After having a bye week last weekend and defeating Loudoun United FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 32 on Wednesday, the Columbus Crew was back at Lower.com Field to take on Orlando City SC in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup on Saturday night. Without playmaker Lucas Zelarayan, the Crew could only secure a point after going up 2-0 in the first half followed by an Orlando City comeback in the second.
With Orlando controlling the first 10 minutes of the game, the Black & Gold were flat-footed and pinned into their own defensive half. It wasn’t until the 12th minute that Columbus started to find a rhythm. Striker Cucho Hernandez intercepted a bad pass by OCSC and quickly dribbled toward the penalty area, with his ensuing shot just missing the far post by mere inches to almost give the home side a 1-0 lead.
The Crew controlled most of the first half with possession and generating opportunities. The Black & Gold’s best chance came in the 32nd minute when midfielder Aidan Morris had a shot on target that almost connected with the upper corner, but the attempt was just high over the crossbar.
Hernandez, who put together an impressive first half, came just shy of yet again giving Columbus the lead. The Colombian’s shot late in the first half skimmed just past the far post, however, and out for a goal kick.
Just two minutes later, the Crew found the breakthrough.
Attacking midfielder Alexandru Matan found space on the right and dribbled around a defender toward the end line before centering a pass back across the face of the goal to find Darlington Nagbe. The midfielder placed the ball comfortably into the net to give the home team a 1-0 in the 39th minute.
In first half stoppage time, the Black & Gold doubled their lead. Wing back Mohamed Farsi pulled the same trick as on the first goal, this time finding forward Jacen Russell-Rowe trailing in the center to put the ball past Orlando City keeper Pedro Gallese, giving Columbus a 2-0 lead.
The visitors came out with a different intensity in the second half, however, one the Crew could not match.
It took four minutes in the second half for the Lions to pull a goal back. Forward Ercan Kara was able to slip past defender Philip Quinton and go one-on-one with goalkeeper Patrick Schulte, slotting the ball home to get Orlando on the board.
The Black & Gold thought they extended their lead in the 64th minute when Russell-Rowe found Hernandez on a break for a nifty goal. After a VAR check, however, the goal was waved off as the Colombian striker was offside.
Columbus had another chance to go up 3-1 in the 78th minute when Farsi found Nagbe in an advanced position. The midfielder turned to Hernandez who then found Morris at the top of the box. The midfielder’s shot was on target, but Gallese claimed it with ease to keep the score at 2-1.
In the 80th minute, Orlando came just short of equalizing when the team’s chance ended with the shot off target.
The visitors finally leveled the match in second half stoppage time on a set piece. Forward Duncan Maguire’s shot on goal was deflected into the back of the net, making the score 2-2.
Columbus almost came out on top in stoppage time when midfielder Isaiah Parente’s shot on goal was saved by Gallese. His second attempt was hit wrongly and wide for a goal kick and the Crew had to settle for a point at home.
Attendance on the rise
This marked a third straight sellout for Crew this season. The announced attendance of 20,488 was the fourth sellout of the year as fans flock to Lower.com Field. After building the downtown stadium, this is precisely what the team hoped for from its team.
Now that results need to turn around.
No Lucas Zelarayan
The Black & Gold were without Zelarayan against Orlando, as the playmaker was not in the starting lineup or on the bench. Zelarayan worked apart from the team in training on Thursday when media embers were present but was not listed on the team’s injury report.
According to head coach Wilfried Nancy, this had to do with rotation. “He wasn’t ready to play, so we passed on this game but he should be good for next week,” Nancy said after the match.
Columbus is back home on Wednesday, May 17, taking on the Los Angeles Galaxy from Lower.com Field. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET and the game can be streamed on Apple TV MLS Season Pass.
6 thoughts on “Crew blows 2-0 lead, draws 2-2 with Orlando City”
Any concerns over Zelarayan’s absence? Not on the injury report, but training apart from the team sounds like an internal disciplinary issue, but I’m curious about international suitors. What are the chances of something like that?
While generally training alone tends to indicate an injury or recovery, are also a lot of games in a compressed time schedule. So, it could be a combination of things, but I doubt the discipline angle.