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Consecutive away games yield disastrous results for the Black & Gold. Will a return to MAPFRE Stadium give Crew SC the spark it needs?

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Home field advantage is one of the most sought after prizes in professional sports and Columbus Crew SC must be thrilled to return to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday evening. The Black & Gold are back home for a match against a struggling Orlando City SC.

It was a road trip Crew SC hopes to forget, conceding six combined unanswered goals to the LA Galaxy (four) and New York City FC (two). This isn’t a new trend for Columbus. The Black & Gold allowed 11 goals in its last five league games and are desperate for three points. Head coach Gregg Berhalter and his men return to MAPFRE Stadium, where the team has lost just once in eight appearances on the fairgrounds.

It hasn’t been a great year for Orlando City, who travel to Columbus in poor form. Loaded with star power, the Lions can’t seem to put it together. Former head coach Jason Kreis was relieved of his duties earlier in the season and former Louisville City (USL) head coach James O’Connor stepped in to remedy the situation.

The Lions lost nine consecutive matches before picking up a victory against Toronto FC on July 14th, but has the damage already been done?

Let’s take a look at what Crew SC can expect from a hungry Orlando side on Saturday evening.

Lions at a glance

Form: L-L-L-W

Leading Scorer: Dom Dwyer (8)

Assists Leader: Two players tied with (4)

How they play

Expect to see Orlando City lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday evening. The Lions like to attack from the left hand side, utilizing the talents of their wingers to advance the ball up the pitch.

Crew SC should remain vigilant, as Orlando prefer to swap its wingers in an effort to get Chris Mueller involved in the offense. The former Wisconsin Badger is tied for the team lead in assists with four, and possesses the ability thread the needle on difficult passes to get behind opposing defenses.

Disastrous defense

It hasn’t been a great season for the OCSC defense. The Lions have conceded a league-worst 42 goals this season. The troubles begin on the wings as outside backs Wil Johnson and Mohamed El-Munir fail to step into the passing lanes and allow wingers to get quality service into the penalty box. This puts the center backs (generally Amro Tarek and Lamine Sané) under tremendous pressure to make a quick decision to clear the ball. Both defenders struggles were on display in a recent match against Atlanta United. Orlando’s inability to clear dangerous second ball opportunities lead to numerous scoring chances for Atlanta.

Tarek hasn’t enjoyed his return to Major League Soccer. The former Crew SC defender was directly involved in three defensive miscues that lead to goals for the opposition. Rest assured Gregg Berhalter and his staff are aware of this and will look to exploit it Saturday night.

Offensive firepower

Despite struggles in the defensive third, Orlando City still possess tremendous firepower on offense. Anchored by Sasha Kljestan in the center of the park, the Lions could find the back of the net quickly. Forward Dom Dwyer leads the team with eight goals this season and still possesses the capability to hurt the opposition.

How Crew SC win

The Black & Gold must tighten things up on the defensive side of the ball. As mentioned previously, Crew SC have conceded 11 goals in its last five league games. This won’t do as the season wears on. Limiting the chances from Dwyer, Kljestan and the other OCSC attackers will be paramount in this match.

Columbus must remain persistent on the attack. Orlando’s center backs have yet to prove they can handle pressure from opposing offenses. Crew SC must keep things simple and not be overly complex in the final third. Head coach Gregg Berhalter and Josh Wolff may give the green light for the forwards to shoot on the net from anywhere on the pitch. The Lions haven’t demonstrated an ability to stop second ball opportunities and Joe Bendik hasn’t appeared as sure handed as in previous years.