ORLANDO — With just two matches remaining in the Major League Soccer's 2017 regular season, Columbus Crew SC visited Orlando City SC en route to a 1-0 victory on Sunday. The game's only goal, Ola Kamara's winner, cemented itself in Black & Gold history before Columbus sealed its 16th win of the season — the highest total since the MLS Cup-winning 2008 season.
Kamara's winner — his career-high 17th of the season and 33rd career MLS goal — catapulted him over Kei Kamara on the Club's all-time goal-scorers list and into a tie for eighth place with Guillermo Barros Schelotto. On his 28th birthday, Kamara sliced into the 6-yard box on a trot to 1-touch finish Hector Jimenez's low-and-hard cross from the left side.
The game's only goal served as the exclamation point in a match bulging with offense. Despite leading the overall shot total by 13-11, Orlando City failed to place any on-target — giving Zack Steffen a pedestrian 90 minutes for his club record-setting ninth shutout for a goalkeeper in his first year of play.
Columbus' starting front four of Kamara, Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos and Justin Meram combined to dominate Orlando with 206 successful passes and six successful take-ons. The Black & Gold attack peppered the Lions' final third with nine shots.
While Crew SC officially clinched a spot in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs on Sept. 30 with a win over D.C. United, Eastern Conference seeding is in full focus. The Nos. 2-5 seeds — including the home-field advantage in the No. 3 vs. 6 and No. 4 vs. 5 Knockout Round matches — have yet to be clinched. In Sunday's other results, No. 2 New York City FC lost 2-1 to the New England Revolution; the No. 3 Chicago Fire downed the Philadelphia Union 3-2; and No. 4 Atlanta United FC survived a scoreless tie against the No. 6 New York Red Bulls.
After Sunday's win, Crew SC cannot finish lower than fifth in the East, while a win at NYCFC along with an Atlanta loss or tie to Toronto FC and a Chicago loss or tie to the Houston Dynamo could see Columbus finish as high as second place with a Decision Day, presented by AT&T, win.
The Black & Gold return to the postseason for the third time in four seasons under Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.
Decision Day kicks off from Citi Field on Oct. 22 as Crew SC visits New York City FC in the regular-season finale at 4 p.m.
Venue: Orlando City Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Referee: Chris Penso
Assistants: Jeff Muschik, CJ Morgante
Fourth Official: Robert Sibiga
VAR: Kevin Terry, Jr.
Weather: 88 degrees and clear
66’ — CLB – Ola Kamara (Hector Jimenez, Federico Higuain)
ORL – Richie Laryea (caution) 81’
ORL – Will Johnson (caution) 83’
CLB – Josh Williams (caution) 87’
ORL – Yoshimar Yotun (caution) 90+4’
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Harrison Afful (Jukka Raitala 85’), Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Hector Jimenez, Wil Trapp ©, Artur; Pedro Santos, Federico Higuain (Adam Jahn 90+5’), Justin Meram (Kekuta Manneh 63’); Ola Kamara
Substitutes not used: Brad Stuver; Mohammed Abu, Lalas Abubakar, Cristian Martinez
Orlando City SC: Joe Bendik; Scott Sutter, Seb Hines, Jonathan Spector, Donny Toia (Will Johnson 57’); Antonio Nocerino, Servando Carrasco (Richie Laryea 70’), Yoshimar Yotun; Giles Barnes (Carlos Rivas 57’); Dominic Dwyer, Kaka ©
Substitutes not used: Earl Edwards Jr.; Hadji Barry, Dillon Powers, Tommy Redding