Columbus Crew SC make its first trip to the brand new Orlando City Stadium for the second match against Orlando City SC this Major League Soccer season.
From a personnel standpoint, the Lions have a frighteningly formidable offense featuring Kaka, Cyle Larin, new forward from Sporting Kansas City, Dom Dwyer and a fresh Designated Player signing, Yoshimar Yotun.
For all of this firepower, Orlando have only scored 25 goals in this season. Those 25 goals are good for second worst in the Eastern Conference and third worst in all of MLS.
In fact, the Lions have not scored more than one goal in a match since June 18, while Crew SC has managed that feat three times over that stretch.
Nonetheless, Columbus will have its hands full with the individual offensive talents of Orlando City.
MLS record allocation purchase Dom Dwyer has yet to score for the Lions, and missed Orlando’s last match with a facial injury. On the season, Dwyer has five goals in 17 matches, missing multiple games for a stint with the United State National Team at the Gold Cup.
After being fitted for a mask, Dwyer will likely be on the field as Orlando take on the Black & Gold, and manager Gregg Berhalter knows just how dangerous he can make the Lions’ offense.
“We know he’s an excellent player, we know he’s dynamic, we know he’s got a great left foot, we know he competes,” Berhalted said of the newly acquired striker.
Assuming he plays, the Crew SC will have its hands full trying to prevent Dwyer from opening his goal-scoring account with the OCSC.
Though Dwyer is likely to play against Columbus, Orlando will be without Kaka, the team’s offensive engine in the midfield.
After the Lions decided not to appeal the Brazilians’ bizarre red card from last week’s match against New York Red Bulls, Kaka will serve his one-game suspension against the Black & Gold.
“[Orlando] lose quality,” Berhalter said of the Citizens missing out of Kaka. “With some of the passes that he can make and some of the dribbles that he can go on, and his finishing is amazing.”
Still, Berhalter believes that Orlando City will be able to replace some of the production of their Brazilian No. 10.
“They’ve built a good roster and they’ll be able to fill in with guys like Giles Barnes; whoever they put in will be of good quality,” he said.
The biggest unknown for Crew SC, and for the Lions’ offense, is new DP signing Yoshimar Yotun, who was acquired from Swedish side Malmo earlier this month.
A left-sided player for much of his career, both as a midfielder and left back, Yoshi lined up as the furthest forward central midfielder in his first, and only, match with Orlando against the Red Bull.
Although he lined up in the middle of the field, Yoshi played more on the left side and will likely look to do so against Columbus. Still, Yoshi is mostly an unknown.
“He looks like a good technical player,” Berhalter said. “I haven’t seen that much of him.”
Despite his recent struggles, Orlando City’s’s biggest offensive threat is still 22-year-old striker Cyle Larin. Larin has been unable to find his form after a mid-season suspension, with only one goal and one assist upon returning, but the imposing young striker is always a threat.
“I think he’s a top striker,” Berhalter said. “He’s big and strong, he has good movement off the ball and he’s got good finishing.”
The key to stopping Larin, according to Berhalter, is dealing with the forward’s skill and physicality.
“It’s going to be about how we deal with that, how do we embrace the physicality, how do we compete with him, and how are we aware of his movement,” Berhalter explained.
The Black & Gold attempt to keep the Lions’ streak of scoring one goal or less alive on Saturday. A loss by Orlando almost certainly knocks the team out of playoff contention, and a win by Crew SC helps it keep pace in a tightening playoff race.
For Berhalter, it comes down his team being able to “keep the ball and make [Orlando City] work.”
If Columbus can do this, Crew SC might be able to stop the frightening Lion offense.