Crew's high-powered offense, Orlando City's defense set to clash
Posted on: 24 Nov, 2023 at 10:40 PM
Credit: Clare Grant/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
Contrasting styles will be on display when Orlando City host the Columbus Crew in an Eastern Conference semifinal on Saturday.
Under coach Wilfried Nancy, the Crew like possession that leads to putting opposing defenses on their heels. They led MLS with 67 goals in the regular season and scored eight during the three-game opening-round series against Atlanta United.
The playoff format adjusts to single-elimination matches for the conference semifinals and finals, as well as the MLS Cup Final.
Orlando was tied for the fifth-fewest goals allowed at 39 in the regular season and is the only team in the playoffs not to give up a goal after consecutive 1-0 vs. wins vs. Nashville SC in their first-round matchup.
"In Columbus, you can see that initiative to be more aggressive," Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said, according to MLS.com. "I guess that sometimes they need to defend too, and now our initiative is just to create a way where we can make them worry about defending too."
The teams met twice this season. The first was a 2-2 tie in Columbus on May 13 when Orlando rallied from a two-goal deficit, with Duncan McGuire getting the equalizer two minutes into extra time off a set piece.
At home on Sept. 16, Orlando trailed 3-1 before Facundo Torres scored in the 73rd minute. The Lions tied it in the 86th minute on a goal by Ramiro Enrique, and he got the winner on a set piece seven minutes into extra time for a 4-3 result.
"It's hard to forget games like those, for sure," Crew midfielder Aidan Morris said. "Especially when you put together such a great 80 minutes of soccer and then it falls through at the end ... It's definitely in the back of our heads."
Nancy said the Crew has learned from those situations: "I don't want them to shake because we conceded goals the last time that we played them."
Counting regular season and playoffs, Orlando has won six straight matches and five by shutouts. The club is 15-3-4 in its past 22 matches and unbeaten in its last 13 matches (9-0-4) in front of the home fans.
"They keep pushing us, giving us energy, and the way that they support us from the stands is so important," Orlando defender Robin Jansson said.
The winner plays FC Cincinnati or Philadelphia in the conference final next weekend.
--Field Level Media