Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew prediction, team news, lineups
The Crew overcame Atlanta United 4-2 in their previous meeting to win that three-game series 2-1, but the Lions advanced to this round of the playoffs by winning two games 1-0 against Nashville SC in the opening round.
After two strong performances against the Boys in Gold, Orlando City is in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in their MLS history.
The Lions had few opportunities to score because they were facing the most stingy defence in round one, but they should be commended for their recent defensive resolve, as they have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six regular-season and postseason games.
Oscar Pareja’s team had some great roster balance during the domestic season thanks to the Lions’ effective play-from-the-back strategy, which featured some equally elite ball winners in the midfield and elite ball progressors in central defence.
Orlando demonstrated its versatility in 2023 by winning 10 games despite conceding goals and won 11 games by a single goal in both the regular season and the playoffs.
The Lions have not lost at Exploria Stadium in 14 straight games across all competitions, and they have only lost one of their three home postseason games in MLS history (3-1 against the New England Revolution in 2020). It has been a while since this team has been defeated there.
The Lions are currently on a six-match home winning streak over the Crew, and they have only lost once in their last 10 MLS matches with them.
The brilliant strategies of first-year head coach Wilfried Nancy helped the Crew recover their confidence this season after two dismal regular seasons in 2021 and 2022.
The French manager appears to be able to extract the greatest performance out of his players wherever he goes. In 2022, CF Montreal had their best-ever MLS regular season with 65 points, while in 2023, the Crew tied a single-season club record with 57 points.
With their customary 3-4-3 shape, Columbus was one of the league’s best at using short passes to entice opposition defences to advance and then cutting into open space in the attacking half of the field.
Their strong offensive line, which led the league in goals scored in the regular season (67), and their ability to score eight goals in three games against the Five Stripes, helped them overcome the opposition.
In addition to scoring two goals or more on 24 occasions during the regular season and playoffs, Columbus has demonstrated their ability to play through almost any defence by allowing several openings behind their defence, allowing multiple goals to be conceded in 15 MLS games.
The Crew has not won a postseason game in regular time outside of Columbus since defeating the New York Red Bulls in the 2008 MLS Cup Final (3-1). They have only won one of their past five domestic regular season or playoff games away from home.
Orlando City Major League Soccer form:
W W W W W W
Columbus Crew Major League Soccer form:
W D W W L W
Due to a left thigh injury, Jack Lynn is unlikely to play for the Lions in this game, and Favian Loyola is also questionable due to a left arm injury.
In their triumph over Nashville in game two, Ivan Angulo scored his first playoff goal—his sixth goal overall this year—and Pedro Gallese saved four shots to continue his unbeaten streak in the postseason, which now stands at 13 clean sheets across all competitions.
When the Lions last played the Crew, it was a high-scoring match that ended in a 4-3 Lions triumph behind goals from Martin Ojeda and Facundo Torres, followed by a brace from Ramiro Enrique in the final four minutes plus stoppage time.
Will Sands is sidelined for this game for the Crew because of a knee injury, and Sean Zawadzki played just a limited part in game three against Atlanta following a minor thigh strain in game two.
In their triumph in game three, Darlington Nagbe, Alexandru Matan, and Malte Amundsen all scored goals and assisted on another. Diego Rossi also had an assist.
Cucho Hernandez’s record of four straight games with a goal ended in their most recent meeting; however, on their most recent trip to Orlando, he not only scored but also set up Julian Gressel’s first goal, and Rossi also scored in that loss.
Orlando City possible starting lineup:
Gallese; Thorhallsson, Schlegel, Jansson, Santos; Araujo, Urso; Torres, Pereyra, Angulo; McGuire
Columbus Crew possible starting lineup:
Schulte; Moreira, Camacho, Amundsen; Gressel, Nagbe, Morris, Yeboah; Matan, Rossi, Hernandez