It was an important home stretch for Columbus Crew SC. The Black & Gold needed to get as much as possible out of three consecutive matches at MAPFRE Stadium in order to try and turn around a disappointing season.
Crew SC enters the final match of that three-game home stand Saturday night having achieved only draws in the first two games. Columbus began this stretch in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and at best will remain in that following the final of the three contests.
Neither club is where they wanted or expected to be at this point in the MLS season where points have come at a premium. If one side can get a win in this game, it would help them move closer to the red line that indicates playoffs.
Questions for The Mane Land
Massive Report: Jason Kreis was introduced as the new Orlando City coach this week. Although he won't be on the sidelines for this match, what do you expect from the new manager? How will things change for the club under Kreis?
The Mane Land: Initially I don’t think much will change as Kreis learns more about his personnel and what their strengths and weaknesses are. I think we’ll gradually see a shift to new formations, including his preferred 4-4-2 diamond. The early days will be about experimentation to see how far the team is from where he wants them to be. Things may get a bit worse before they get better, but it’s a process that the team needs to undergo in order to move into the future.
MR: Cyle Larin is having quite the year with nine goals and was recently named an All Star. How has he matured over his first two years as a professional and what makes him so good leading the OCSC attack?
TML: One thing about Cyle is that he wants to be great and he works hard toward that end. He put in a lot of extra work over the off-season to take the next step as a player. As a result, his hold-up play has improved and he’s become more adept at finding teammates in the box when he is closed down. He can still get better in those areas and probably will with his work ethic and attitude.
What makes Larin such an offensive threat is his unusual combination of speed, size, athleticism, skill, and instincts. He’s got all the tools to become not only a great MLS striker, but a player who could see time for one of the world’s really big clubs somewhere down the road.
MR: Orlando is clearly not where the team wants to be in the standings. It appears the defense is primarily to blame, conceding 33 goals in 20 matches, as the offense has held up its end of the bargain (30 goals scored). What is going on defensively for the Lions right now and what can be done to fix it?
TML: At times, the defense has had one or two bad moments in a match, either switching off or failing to properly communicate. That’s not been the case too often recently. In recent weeks, the team has been very poor defending set pieces. One or two moments off set pieces have been the difference between winning and drawing, or drawing and losing. That has affected results. Another issue has been possession and turnovers. With Kaká missing half the season with a series of nagging soft tissue injuries, the team has tried a number of lineups that have not always been in sync. Kaká’s presence alone cuts down on turnovers and helps the team maintain possession, and he can often be a release valve when the team is under pressure.
MR: Speaking of Kaka, yay or nay for this match? If he's in, how does that change what Orlando City does?
TML: The captain returned to training this week and Interim Head Coach Bobby Murphy said he’s available. When Kaká is available, he generally starts. I think he’ll play. His presence means Kevin Molino won’t see as many double-teams and it’ll free the Trinidadian up to express himself in the game. Kaká also brings out the best in Brek Shea, so that’ll help Orlando City as well.
To read Massive Report’s responses to The Mane Land’s questions, take a look a their Intelligence Report.