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Little Familiarity Despite Second Meeting Between Columbus Crew SC and Orlando City

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Crew SC still doesn't know much about Orlando as it prepares for second meeting of the season.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

In sports, familiarity is a good thing. Players need to know their teammates, their coaching staff. They like to have routine in their day-to-day lives.

Familiarity also helps when facing an opponent.

When Columbus Crew SC took on Orlando City SC last month, it was the first time the sides had ever gone head-to-head, meaning there was very little familiarity between the clubs. Columbus won that game in convincing fashion, dispatching of City 3-0.

"It's helpful," Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said when asked about playing the Lions a second time. "We hadn't played them before the in the MLS so it's a little bit unknown. But now we have a better hold of what they're trying to do against us. I'm sure there will be some adjustments and we'll probably make some adjustments as well."

One big catalyst for the Black & Gold on the night was a red card to Orlando right back Rafael Ramos 34 minutes into the match. Columbus led the game 1-0 at the time, but the extra space and City's positional adjustments made it a much easier game for Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium.

This time around, Ramos will be in the lineup and each player will hope to stay on the field for 90 minutes. So how much can Berhalter and his team really take away from that mid-April encounter?

"I look at the first 30 minutes and that's it. That's all really," Berhalter said.

After the red card, issued for a dangerous challenge by Ramos on Crew SC left back Waylon Francis, OCSC manager Adrian Heath took off his lead striker, Cyle Larin, and brought on defender Tyler Turner to keep the shape at the back.

Midfield maestro, and former World Cup and World Player of the Year winner, Kaká was moved to a target forward position he was clearly not comfortable with and therefore was mostly a nonfactor all night.

Crew SC's possession game opened up with the extra space on the field and Orlando had to play damage limitation for the remainder of the match.

Even the tape Berhalter can use from the night may not be all that worthwhile. Despite a 1-2-2 record since that meeting, City have played much better of late.

"They're also even improved from that game," Berhalter said of Orlando. "They did have a good result, I think they were coming off the Portland win when we played them, so they did have some momentum, but they're a better team now. Their coach has done a good job, he's a good coach, they know what they're doing so they'll be fine."

OCSC came from 2-0 down to earn a draw with the New England Revolution, outplayed D.C. United for the better part of 90 minutes, and thrashed the defending champions, LA Galaxy, 4-0 for their first home win two weeks ago.

Orlando will look to build off that win over the Galaxy, as well as a 1-1 draw at San Jose a week ago where they played a man down once again.

"We know it's going to be a difficult game," Berahtler explained. "Orlando had a great result against LA Galaxy a couple of weeks ago, so they're going to try and carry that home form on and we're going to have to resist and play our game and really try and take advantages of the weaknesses we saw last time."

One weakness they didn't see last time, but will this week, is the absence of Brek Shea, who has been solid at left back and left winger, but was ejected against the Earthquakes.

"First and foremost, I think it's a positive that he's not playing because he's a good player," Berhalter said when asked about Shea. "It gives them a more dynamic attacking edge when he's up there. He's not playing. We'll deal with the next guy that comes in."

The next player will have something to prove, but likely won't have the quality or the speed of Shea. It will be another wrinkle that Berhalter and his staff have to prepare for, as Shea has appeared in 11 of 12 games for City this season.

There will be more familiarity this time out, but Crew SC will still be on new ground, both literally and figuratively, Saturday night.

Maybe this unfamiliarity will be the recipe for a first win on the road for Columbus.