Two more games. That’s all Columbus Crew SC has left in the 2017 Major League Soccer season.
Sunday brings an Orlando City SC team that has nothing left to play for but pride. The Lions host Crew SC in the final game of the year in Orlando City Stadium. It will also be the last MLS match for Designated Player Kaka, who announced last week that this season will be his last.
For Columbus, it’s all about seeding in the playoffs. The Black & Gold secured their passage to the postseason in the last game two weeks ago, and now hope to climb as far up the standings as possible.
Can Crew SC win in Orlando after earning a draw on the road against OCSC earlier this year? Let’s see what our staff believes.
With playoffs clinched, it's now all about positioning. Columbus should be wise not to take these last two matches for granted, especially next week's fixture against New York City FC, a team they could be squaring off with in the postseason.
But focus is on Orlando for the time being, a team that looked destined for greatness to start the season, but have long since waved goodbye to the playoffs, and, at present, legendary playmaker Kaka. The Lions likely won't go down without getting out the claws and showing teeth, as it would be wise to inspire supporters (season ticket holders) of a potential strong start to the 2018 campaign.
I expect passionate and energetic play on both sides of the ball, given the restful (though dismal) international break.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Orlando City SC 2
To me, it feels like it’s been months since Crew SC last took the field in a meaningful match. But what’s important is how the players on the field feel. While the MLS playoffs are secure, coming into this match sluggish after two weeks off could make for a poor result.
The Black & Gold are two points back of a home playoff game, so there remains plenty to play for over the final two games.
I imagine this will be a fired up Orlando City crowd, looking to send off legend Kaka on a positive note. Columbus will need to survive the first 10-15 minutes. The first goal will be important.
There’s enough in my mind for Crew SC to get a result and stretch the unbeaten run to nine games, but I’m not sure I see a full three points on the road.
Columbus Crew SC 1 Orlando City SC 1
With both teams returning from a long layoff and with Orlando officially out of the playoff picture, I'm interested to see how much effort Orlando City actually put into this match. Kaka has already announced his intent to leave the team, and Jason Kreis' future for the club has likely already been determined. Still, Orlando are a group of professionals who have the opportunity to damage Crew SC's playoff seeding.
After such a long layoff (and only two matches left), Crew SC should be well prepared for whatever Orlando has to offer. With extra time for Pedro Santos to bed into the Black & Gold's system, I expect the Columbus winger to have one of his best matches in MLS. An unbeaten streak is on the line and a playoff home game (and a remote shot at a first round bye) should be enough to motivate this team for it's trip to Florida.
Columbus Crew SC 3 Orlando City 1
It's nice to be playing again. When we last left Crew SC, they were in the midst of an eight-game unbeaten streak. Justin Meram and Federico Higuain were clicking on all cylinders and a playoff berth was insured for the Black & Gold. Now Columbus head on the road to Central Florida where an underachieving Orlando City squad await.
Orlando have nothing to play for, as they have been eliminated from contention in the East and are only saved by cellar dwellers D.C. United.
Kaka announced that he would not renew his contract with the Lions, so where does Orlando go from here?
Crew SC should have an easier time in this match, as the Lions have won two of their last seven contests. That doesn't mean Orlando would thrive in the roll of spoiler, I wouldn't call this a trap game but Columbus must stay alert.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Orlando City 0
After a two-week break, Crew SC returns to action on the road against Orlando in a game that can seal the Black & Gold’s seed in the playoffs - or at least if the team will play at home or on the road in the first round.
Columbus has historically done well against the Lions and that should be the case again since Orlando will be basically playing for nothing. Kaká’s last match could motivate the Floridians, but I believe it won’t be enough.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Orlando City SC 1