Columbus Crew SC are back home on Saturday, welcoming in Orlando City SC. The Black & Gold are hoping a return home will change their recent fortune, as Columbus has lost four of its last five games, all of those away from the friendly confines of MAPFRE Stadium.
Another advantage for the home side could be the opponent on Saturday. Orlando comes to Columbus on the back of a win, but that was the team’s first win since May 6, a stretch that broke a streak of nine consecutive losses.
To learn a little bit about what’s gone wrong for the Lions, who currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 22 points, we turned to our friends at The Mane Land, specifically Logan Oliver.
Questions for The Mane Land
Massive Report: Orlando City started the season brightly, winning six consecutive games at one point. But the team has just one win in its last 10 games. What happened?
The Mane Land: There were a few tough, close losses in the beginning. Several results where the team let a point slip away in the dying moments. Then Yoshimar Yotun and Amro Tarek -- the club’s best midfielder and arguably best defender this year -- left for international duty and a few key players picked up injuries (namely Dom Dwyer) that left the cupboard a bit bare. At one point the Lions rolled out two fullbacks and two midfielders as their back line. It snowballed from there and the team could never really pull itself out of that downward spiral. Once Kreis was fired and interim Head Coach Bobby Murphy brought in a new system, it understandably devolved even more.
MR: Jason Kreis is out, James O’Connor is in. What has the former Louisville City manager changed since his appointment?
TML: Two league matches is a small sample size, but there’s definitely some more cohesiveness, especially in the attack. Orlando struggled to create quality chances in its winless run and connect the midfield with the forwards. Against LAFC and Toronto FC, Orlando created plenty of quality chances but has still struggled a bit to finish them. Personnel has also seen a big shake-up as Joe Bendik has been benched for Earl Edwards, Jr. and Justin Meram has been left out of the 18 for the last two matches. It would seem that Orlando is at least trending in a positive direction.
MR: Crew SC fans have been surprised to see Justin Meram struggle so much this season after having a great year last season for the Black & Gold. Is there anything you can identify as to why Meram hasn’t been a good fit for the Lions?
TML: Meram’s first match in purple made fans think he would be a world-beater but ever since then he has failed to show the same flash and drive. Justin’s high-risk, high-reward style of play has often left the attack frustrated when he’s the most talented outlet available and without Dwyer available for long stretches he’s been asked to shoulder a lot of the load from 21-year-old Chris Mueller and 19-year-old Josue Colman. Meram has definitely shown flashes of the player he was in Columbus -- and looked like that player in his last appearance at LAFC -- but now he has mysteriously been dropped from the match day roster.
To read Massive Report’s answers to The Mane Land’s questions, head over to their Intelligence Report.