Columbus Crew SC (5-10-2, 17 pts.) rounds out a three-home-match month of June with a Saturday showdown against Orlando City SC on June 29 at MAPFRE Stadium.
The Black & Gold are coming off of a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, June 23. Crew SC put up a solid performance in the first half but was unable to respond to a 48th-minute goal by Felipe Gutierrez.
“The first half was good,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “We need to stick with that. We were aggressive. We pressed. We just got to finish, and we can’t give up the goal in the second half.”
As for Orlando City (5-8-3, 18 pts.), the Purple Lions are coming off a midweek 1-0 loss to D.C. United on Wednesday, June 26. With the rest advantage, Crew SC must continue to prepare as they do for any other match but also be aware of player rotation, Porter emphasized.
“I think they have to prepare more for that than we do,” said Porter. “We don’t know what they are going to do but they probably are going to have to rotate some.”
One player that Crew SC must prepare to defend is 2019 MLS All-Star, Nani. Currently, he has eight goals on the season and four assists. Defender Gaston Sauro spoke on the importance of closing down space early to limit Nani and Orlando's chances.
“Nani is going to be dangerous if we give him space,” he said. “We have to reduce the space and be smart and be very aggressive.”
Saturday’s match also provides Crew SC with an opportunity to cover some ground in the Eastern Conference standings. With a win on Saturday, Crew SC would pass Orlando, who currently sits in ninth in the East and be within striking distance of the playoff line.
“I think that it is important for us to get everything behind against Orlando,” Sauro said. “They are also on the edge of the playoff. We can catch them.”
Historically, the Black & Gold have fared well against Orlando City at home. Since the Purple Lions joined Major League Soccer in 2015, they are 0-3-1 at MAPFRE Stadium.
“We cannot be wasting any more points,” midfielder Artur said, “especially at home. We need to make other teams respect us at home because it is our home. We need to make them fear us and be more confident and aggressive.”
Key to continuing Crew SC's positive home trend versus Orlando is by scoring the first goal, as the Cub is 5-0-1 this season after netting the game's opener.
“When you look at when we have scored the first goal,” Porter said, “you see what has happened. When you look at when we have conceded the first goal, you see what happen. It is important that we get off to a good start and get the goal."
Kickoff on Saturday is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET at MAPFRE Stadium. Fans can tune-in on FOX Sports Ohio or 97.1 FM The Fan or stream the match on FOX Sports GO as well as stream the audio on www.ColumbusCrewSC.com.