Columbus Crew SC aren’t officially out of the playoff race, and won’t be even if they lose tonight. However, if Crew SC can’t beat Orlando City, they will be 11 points out of the playoffs with 6 games to play. It would be a gap to dent even the sunniest optimism.
The team will have to do it without a few key players. Tony Tchani picked up a red card late in last week’s loss while Cedrick Mabwati is suffering a thigh strain that will keep him on the sidelines. Wil Trapp is listed as questionable, but still recovering from his concussion and is a near certainty to miss the match.
Federico Higuain is also questionable and has been limited in practice. Even when he has played since his return from hernia surgery, he hasn’t been as sharp and incisive as normal and Crew SC has suffered for it. He’s still able to create moments of magic —when he’s in the lineup.
Orlando is stabilizing under new head coach Jason Kreis and has crept into the last playoff spot, partially due to the poor play of the teams around them. They’ve beaten teams the have needed to and lost to some good teams, at home to Toronto and cross country on short rest to the Galaxy. Crew SC faces a struggle against an Orlando team that is starting to turn promise into points.
The Crew SC defense faces a tough test with Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino both in double digits for goals scored for Orlando. Now Kaka has help in crafting chances as Matias Perez Garcia has two assists in seven games, five starts since joining in August.
Keys to the Match
- A firm middle: Tchani and Trapp are out. Without some defensive awareness in central midfield, Crew SC will be facing an uphill battle trying to contain a dynamic Orlando attack that relies on Kaka and the recently added Matias Perez Garcia.
- Goals! Goals! Goals! The return of Gaston Sauro hasn’t completely shored up the defense and the losses of Tchani and Trapp hurt. The Crew SC offense needs more than a single goal if they want anything from this game.
- Dynamism: Federico Higuain hasn’t been quite 100% since returning from surgery and now is dealing with inflammation that limits him further. This team needs chances and Justin Meram, Mohammed Saied, or Dilly Duka have to step up reliably.
How to Watch
Date/Time: September 17th, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. EST
Venue: Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, FL
Television: CW Columbus, TWC SportsChannel
Online: MLS Live
Radio: CD 102.5 (English), La Mega 103.1 (Spanish)