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Massive Predictions: Orlando City SC at Columbus Crew SC

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Crew SC look to take down another of MLS’s unbeaten sides. Will they?

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Orlando City SC Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

A week after vanquishing the hottest team in Major League Soccer, Columbus Crew SC are tasked with doing it again.

The 2-0-0 Orlando City SC comes to MAPFRE Stadium Saturday afternoon, looking to build on a positive start. City opened the season with a 1-0 over New York City FC before a 2-1 Week 2 victory against the Philadelphia Union. Both of these matches came at the brand new Orlando City Stadium that opened this year.

In OCSC’s first road test, the club faces a Crew SC side that, despite a slow start, appears to be playing some pretty good soccer right now.

The Black & Gold have two consecutive wins, one on the road and the other against the previously 3-0-0 Portland Timbers at home last Saturday. There appears to be momentum building in Columbus.

Orlando comes into this game without its creative spark in Designated Player Kaka, but does have the always dangerous Cyle Larin, who has scored all three goals for City so far this year.

Carlos Rivas already sits on two assists this season while new signing Jonathan Spector is hoping to help improve a defense that, if you can believe it, was worse than Crew SC’s a year ago.

Without further adieu, let’s see what our staff has to say on this game this week.

Josh Enke

Winning streaks aren't all that common in Major League Soccer, though I do think Columbus are in an ideal position to continue its run of form and snatch a third straight win. Simply put, Orlando are without Kaka. That's a huge relief for the Black & Gold.

While I do think Crew SC will dominate most of this game, I don't believe they'll completely quiet Orlando forward Cyle Larin. The Canadian is one of MLS's most exciting young attackers. On the five occasions these two teams have matched up, Larin has scored four times. He'll get on the scoresheet. I say this with confidence, but also as a challenge to the Crew SC defense.

As far as how Columbus line up, I'd rather see Waylon Francis over Jukka Raitala at left back. Even if Francis is still shaking off the rust and regaining fitness, I think his established chemistry with Justin Meram should be the deciding factor.

Overall, coming off the huge win against Portland, the guys will be confident. I expect a strong performance all around. This is a time not only to take advantage of momentum but also to take advantage of an Orlando team without their Brazilian maestro.
Columbus Crew SC 3 Orlando City SC 2

Guilherme Torres

Another undefeated team is coming to town in Orlando City. Even though I consider the Timbers a bigger threat, I believe this will be a tough match for Crew SC and the Lions will have their entire roster available, except Kaká, while the Timbers were shorthanded last week.

Orlando displayed good progress from last season, but the teams seems a little overdependent on Cyle Larin and that's something the Black & Gold could and should take advantage of. If Crew SC succeeds on giving Matias Perez Garcia, Giles Barnes and Carlos Rivas a hard time, the victory will be close. I anticipate a good amount of goals and a very fun match, with Larin and Ola Kamara leading the way.
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Patrick Murphy

I’ve watched both Orlando City games this season and still don’t quite know how I feel about Crew SC’s opponent. They aren’t quite as explosive as I expected, but the defense does look improved. Is that the benefit of two home games to start the year? Saturday should tell us that.

Here’s what I do know, this is a confident Columbus side (it’s amazing what a couple of wins will do). The offensive players believe they’ve found their form and the defense did enough last week against a very good attack. What concerns me most is Jonathan Mensah, who I don’t believe will feature in this one.

I’m looking for another good game from Federico Higuain and the rest of the front three. I expect a strong performance from Alex Crognale, who I assume starts in place of Jonathan, to show another step forward for this defensive line. I still think Larin causes problems, maybe even a goal, but not enough. Make it three in a row for the Black & Gold.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Orlando City SC 1

Kris Landis

I get the feeling this is going to be another of those "good for the neutrals" sort of matches. I don't anticipate much top quality defending being on display at MAPFRE Saturday afternoon, as Crew SC looked shaky at times against Portland and are facing a potent Orlando offense. For their part Orlando looked to have some defensive frailties as well. I don't hate the odds of Ola Kamara splitting OCSC's center backs and getting in behind, likely on a Federico Higuain through ball, and bagging a goal (or two). On a similar note, I can see the combo of Carlos Rivas and Cyle Larin causing problems for the Crew SC backline, especially if Jonathan Mensah is out due to injury. It'll fall to Wil Trapp and Artur to be on-point, tracking runs from the midfield and in to the box.

In the end I see this one coming down to who makes fewer mistakes. Orlando has only played two games this season, so they're still a relative unknown. All things considered I see this one being an open, attacking match with both sides getting goals. It'll end in an entertaining but frustrating draw, with both teams feeling they left something on the table.
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Nick Clarkson

Orlando City enters the Saturday clash with two wins in its first two contests this season, both at home in their new 25,500-seat stadium. 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year and Lions’ forward Cyle Larin has netted all three of Orlando City’s goals this season, and has scored three times in his last two meetings with Crew SC.

The Black & Gold come into the matchup off their second win in as many games, including last week’s 3-2 thriller over Portland at MAPFRE Stadium. Midfielders Federico Higuain and Justin Meram have been excellent in their regular roles through three games, racking up a two goals and three assists combined.

Both Pipa and J9 will again be a key to three points this weekend, along with defenders Jukka Raitala and Jonathan Mensah holding down the backline. Crew SC is playing in Columbus for the third time this season Saturday, and despite Larin finding the back of the net, I think goals from forward Ola Kamara and Meram — as well as a rowdy home crowd — will play a big role in the result of this one.
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Josh Mlot

I'm still not sure what Orlando City is. The club had some issues last year and appears to be better this year, despite the loss of Kaka, but both games so far have been at home with the excitement and energy of a brand new stadium. I'm also hesitant to buy in on "first place" Crew SC, but there has been some reason for optimism. I think a Columbus side with burgeoning confidence at home will find a way to win, by just barely, and I think both sides get on the scoreboard.
Columbus 2 Orlando City SC 1

Nathaniel Marhefka

This match features two very good but very different offenses. Columbus likes to play a lot slower on the ball while Orlando is more of a direct team and uses their wide players to create chances for the two striker front. The end result of the match I believe will come down to two primary factors: Can Crew SC convert when given the opportunity? And can City’s Matias Perez Garcia be a good enough solo playmaker from the wing?

I expect us to see several goals this match with Orlando scoring goals out of half-chances and Columbus creating many but lacking overall conversion. As a result, I see this one going in the boos as a draw with goals from two of the leagues best forwards, Ola Kamara and Cyle Larin.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Orlando City SC 2

Collin Johnson

After a big home with against the other previously undefeated team in MLS last week, and on the heels of a, excuse the pun, massive trade, I expect Crew SC to come out with a ton of energy against Orlando City. Orlando have won both of their games so far but have not played an away match. Cyle Larin has scored all three goals for City this season, so the Crew SC center backs will have to be aware of his positioning at all times (while avoiding the mistakes of overcommitting to one player). If Columbus are able to possess the ball and limit Orlando's direct play (especially long balls over the head of the defense) then I expect the Black and Gold to win.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Orlando City SC 1

Sam Fahmi

Columbus is on a bit of a roll. Even with the possibility of Jonathan Mensah's absence, Alex Crognale has proven, so far, a worthy substitute. Orlando is also on a roll, but they come to Columbus missing their start playmaker, Kaka. If Crew SC can keep Cyle Laren under control and lessen the defensive lapses, this can be a good night for the home team.
Columbus Crew SC 3 Orlando City SC 1

Ralph Schudel

I fully expect Columbus to keep the momentum rolling against Orlando City. Sure, Orlando has Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas, but City have been involved in knock-down, drag-out matches all season. Larin is responsible for all of the offense in Orlando, but has long relied on Kaka to take some of the heat off of him.

Again, he won't have Kaka for this match and may have a completely different pairing in the midfield to shield the backline. There will be an exceptional amount of pressure on Will Johnson and Jonathan Spector to clean things up at the back. Goalkeeper Joe Bendik has been superb this season, but how long can this run of form continue?

Expect Columbus to run directly at Jose Aja as he is the lesser athletic of the two center backs. Meram should have a big day against Orlando as they will be getting Kevin Alston back and he could be making his season debut Saturday against the Black & Gold.

Bottom line: Kamara gets another one on the board, and Crew SC tally a second in route to another win.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Orlando City SC 0

Patrick Guldan

I think Orlando presents specific challenges to Crew SC on defense that will be hard to overcome. Columbus is still very vulnerable to direct play and Orlando has shown they can be ruthlessly direct. Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas have been ruthless as they work together to shred teams that push too far up or that have too much space between the lines. Those are both opportunities that the Black & Gold style of play present. However, Columbus should also find plenty of chances on offense as Orlando’s defense is also still a work in progress. This one promises to be a shootout, much like the Portland game. Unfortunately for Crew SC, they’ll have to share the points.
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