ORLANDO, Fla. – Columbus Crew SC did battle in the sweltering humidity of Central Florida on Saturday, escaping with a 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC to maintain their playoff position and standings lead over the Lions.
The 35th minute saw Crew SC defender Lalas Abubakar invade the Orlando City penalty box and wedge himself between two defenders before heading home the first goal of his Major League Soccer career to put the Black & Gold ahead 1-0. Defender Waylon Francis provided the assist on a free-kick, his second in two games.
Orlando City equalized in the 67th minute on a goal by midfielder Giles Barnes that found the net after bouncing off the far-left post. Barnes received an impressive running assist from midfielder Cristian Higuita in the penalty box that went through the legs of Abubakar.
Columbus (11-12-3, 36 points) remains in fifth place and above the red line in the MLS Eastern Conference Standings while Orlando City (8-10-7, 31 points) stayed in eighth place, on the outside looking in.
The match down south saw the monumental debut of Crew SC’s newest acquisition. Midfielder Pedro Santos made his Black & Gold and MLS debut when he entered the match in the 62nd minute. The sixth Designated Player in the club’s history, signed by Columbus on August 8, made an interception and won a corner during his short time on the pitch.
Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen was standing on his head during the matchup in Orlando. The Black & Gold goalkeeper set a new career-high for saves with seven, breaking his previous high of five. Steffen made multiple impressive plays late in the match to preserve the victory, including knocking away a shot on goal by Orlando City attacker Dom Dwyer in stoppage time.
The Black & Gold defense was on their toes Saturday night while covering the vaunted Orlando City attack. Crew SC won more duels (49-43), made more clearances (27-10) and recorded more saves (7-1) than the Lions in the match.
The Black & Gold will return home on Wednesday, August 23 to kick off a three-game home stand when they face the LA Galaxy in what will be a 7:30 p.m. ET start at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.
Venue: Orlando City Stadium (Orlando, Florida)
Referee: Juan Guzman, Jr.
Assistants: Brian Dunn, Jeff Muschik
Fourth Official: Caleb Mendez
Video Assistant Referee: Matthew Franz
35’ – CLB – Lalas Abubakar (Waylon Francis)
67’ – ORL – Giles Barnes (Cristian Higuita)
CLB – Lalas Abubakar (Caution) 16’
ORL – Yoshimar Yotun (Caution) 28’
CLB – Cristian Martinez (Caution) 55’
CLB – Harrison Afful (Ejection) 77’
CLB – Mohammed Abu (Caution) 81’
CLB – Justin Meram (Caution) 88’
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Lalas Abubakar, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah; Waylon Francis, Mohammed Abu, Wil Trapp ©, Harrison Afful; Justin Meram (Jukka Raitala 89’), Cristian Martinez (Pedro Santos 62’); Ola Kamara
Substitutes not used: Brad Stuver, Alex Crognale, Nicolai Naess, Hector Jimenez, Adam Jahn
Orlando City SC: Joe Bendik; Donny Toia (Richmond Laryea 83’), Leonardo Pereira, Tommy Redding, Scott Sutter; Antonio Nocerino (Dom Dwyer 63’); Yoshimar Yotun, Giles Barnes, Will Johnson © (Cristian Higuita 32’); Carlos Rivas, Cyle Larin
Substitutes not used: Dillon Powers, Servando Carrasco, Jose Aja, Josh Saunders
Saturday’s matchup was only the seventh all-time between Columbus and Orlando. Crew SC owns the majority of the decisions thus far at a mark of 3-1-1 with 16 goals for and 11 goals against.
Missing star power
A pair of Designated Players were absent for the evening match. The Lions were without midfielder Kaka due to the Brazilian star receiving a red card during their match last weekend. Crew SC was without midfielder Federico Higuain who has been dealing with a right knee sprain and has not played since the Black & Gold’s match with Atlanta United FC on July 1.
The banished king
Crew SC will be without the services of defender Harrison Afful for their upcoming midweek match on Wednesday in Columbus against the LA Galaxy. Afful will serve a one-game suspension after receiving a red card in the 77th minute for violent conduct.