Columbus began the game with heavy pressure from its usual high press, and like last week’s win over the Portland Timbers, Meram opened the game’s scoring early.
Off an Orlando City turnover, central midfielder Artur placed a pinpoint pass from the backline into space for Meram down the left sideline to beat the offside trap. The streaking midfielder carried the ball into the Lions’ penalty area before deflecting a left-footed shot off City goalkeeper Joe Bendik’s leg and into the bottom corner to give Crew SC the lead just 14 minutes in.
Columbus continued to put the Orlando City defense under duress throughout the half, as forward Ola Kamara found himself in space to score on multiple occasions — but was denied by the assistant referee’s flag each time. Orlando’s best opportunity of the first 45 came in the 21st minute when forward Carlos Rivas fired a rocket on net, but in reaching distance for goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
With that, Steffen was not challenged much between the pipes for the Black & Gold in the first half, recording two saves on just five shots. As both sides entered the dressing rooms at the half, Crew SC owned a one-goal lead.
The second stanza provided a promising start for the visitors, as the forward Cyle Larin and attacking wide player Giles Barnes began to produce more opportunities for the Lions. On the other side, however, Columbus weathered the attacking bursts from City, and maintained the pressure on the wing through Meram and in the middle of the pitch through Kamara and Federico Higuain.
In the 75th minute, Crew SC and Meram doubled their lead. After another Lions’ turnover, Higuain slid a through ball to Meram down the sideline, the winger cut inside onto his favorite right foot and cashed in past Bendik to register a brace and third goal in his last two games.
Columbus’ backline and Steffen continued to ward off the Orlando City offense in the final 15 minutes of the match, and after the final whistle, Crew SC had kept the clean sheet for three huge points.
Three-Game Win Streak
Crew SC recorded its third-straight win this season with the victory over the Lions. This marks the first three-game winning streak for head coach Gregg Berhalter’s team since October of 2014 — and for Black & Gold fans, three wins in 2017 is just five away from last season’s total.
Meram’s Magical Moments
After experiencing some struggles last season, Justin Meram is off to an excellent start in 2017. The midfielder currently holds a share of the lead in both the goals (3) and assists (2) categories for Columbus through five games this year. The Iraqi international notched a brace in the shutout-win over Orlando City.
Crew SC travels to “Chicago” — or Bridgeview, Illinois — next Saturday for their second of three meetings this season with the Fire. The Black & Gold will have their first look at League-newcomer Bastian Schweinsteiger, who netted his first MLS goal this week in a 2-2 tie with the Montreal Impact. Kickoff from Toyota Park is set for 2:00 p.m.