Columbus Crew SC has two wins in a row after handing unblemished Portland their first loss last weekend. Another perfect team comes to MAPFRE today with Orlando City carrying a perfect 2-0-0 record.
Gregg Berhalter has shown his flexibility in recent weeks, rolling out a 3-4-2-1 against D.C. United and augmenting the midfield by pinching the wingbacks centrally. Orlando City presents similar look to Portland, but Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas are a different attacking duo than the potent Timbers midfield.
Without the influential Kaka, the Lions have looked to attack directly at speed. Rivas and Larin are very adept at interplay and slice through defenses that don’t show enough deference to their speed and lethal finishing.
Crew SC faces more questions at the back. Designated Player Jonathan Mensah suffered a quad strain. He’s now failed to finish two of the team’s four games and was suspended for another. Even if he’s fit, there is a concern if he's fully fit. That may mean that Berhalter may have to turn to either rookies Alex Crognale or Lalas Abubaker to step in against perhaps the most dangerous forward in the league.
Further up the field, the team is more settled as loanee Artur has seized the spot next to Wil Trapp. The two have allowed Columbus to create the most dangerous attack in the league. Ola Kamara has three goals, but Federico Higuain is still influential, Justin Meram is a lethal creator, and Ethan Finlay has chipped in.
With the trade of Tony Tchani, Crew SC was able to bring in the exciting Kekuta Manneh. He arrived in Columbus late Friday and hasn’t been ruled out of a game day lineup.
Keys to the Match
Kakaless: Orlando has been successful playing directly without Kaka, but they have been riding excellent form from Rivas and Larin. Will Orlando be able to create if their dynamic duo aren’t able to conjure a magical moment. Barnes and Perez Garcia haven’t yet.
Changes (again): Jonathan Mensah is “racing against time” according to Berhalter and that means that the backline may be switching again. Jonathan and Crognale faced off against Fanendo Adi last week, but Larin’s pace presents another challenge for a defense that can get stretched.
Gamechanger: Crew SC turned to a rookie trying to get a win against Portland last week. Will Niko Hansen be able to create more magic or will Berhalter have the new addition Manneh to rely on if Columbus needs a goal.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday April 1st, 4:00 p.m. ET
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
Stream: Univision Deportes Facebook Page
Listen: CD102.5 FM (English) La Mega 103.1 FM (Spanish)