With their backs against the wall, Columbus Crew SC came through with flying colors.
The Black and Gold turned in a comprehensive team performance in a 4-1 win over Orlando City SC Saturday night. It marked the club’s first ever win at Camping World Stadium. It was also their first win in the state of Florida during the MLS regular season since September 9, 2001 (a 2-1 victory over the now defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny).
Columbus Crew SC Keeps Slim Playoff Hopes Alive With Win Over Orlando City SC
Columbus opened up the scoring in the sixth minute. With the Lions pressing the ball, defender Michael Parkhurst sent a direct ball centrally towards attacking midfielder Dilly Duka. He in turn slotted it to Ola Kamara who timed his run well to avoid the offside trap. Kamara had nothing but open real estate between him and goalkeeper Joe Bendik. But instead of shooting, he squared it to an onrushing Ethan Finlay who finished it into a virtually empty net.
The Crew SC advantage would double 16 minutes later. After winning a corner, left back Hector Jimenez placed an accurate ball into the box which forced some emergency defending from Orlando. In the end, it glanced off defender Seb Hines head into his own net for the own goal.
Right on the stroke of halftime, things would get worse for Orlando City. This time, it was Kamara’s turn to find the back of the net. It was a mirror image of Finlay’s opening tally in that it was essentially an uncontested tap-in. Defensive midfielder Nicolai Naess, playing more advanced than he’s used to as a center back, notched a secondary assist courtesy of well-placed through ball to Finlay.
The Black and Gold certainly made the most of their opportunities in the first half. Despite being outshot 7-4 over the first 45 minutes, the club enjoyed a significant advantage on the scoreboard. It was testament to some resolute defending that has been missing at times this season, particularly when they enjoyed leads.
Much has been made about Columbus’ propensity for giving up late goals. The club has either drawn or lost games in which they’ve led eight times this season. They’ve also given up 18 goals after the 75th minute which is the most in MLS.
But in the second half, the back four held firm. Orlando City’s only tally after halftime came in the 79th minute via their talented young center forward Cyle Larin. The Canadian took advantage of some space at the top of the box and blasted the ball past Steve Clark to make it 3-1.
It wasn’t just the defenders that upped their game to get a result. Clark came up big all night, finishing with seven saves on the game. The Crew SC netminder continuously stymied Orlando’s dynamic playmaker Kaka, denying three of his shots on target.
Columbus added one more in stoppage time. With Orlando City aggressively pushing forward in search of a miracle draw, Crew SC won the ball and had a chance in transition. Kamara timed his run well to receive a diagonal ball from Finlay. With nothing but open field between him and Bendik, he made no mistake in chipping it over the keeper for goal number four on the night.
Despite the win, Crew SC’s playoff hopes remain tenuous at best. The team had a 1.4 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason according to SportsClubStats.com. And with New England having defeated Montreal 3-1, Columbus remains seven points below the red line. That said, they do have two games in hand on the Revs.
The Black and Gold return to action next Sunday when they host that same Revolution team. It marks Kei Kamara‘s first match in Columbus since was traded to the Revs on May 12th. The game kicks off at 7 PM ET and will be nationally televised on FS1.
Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew SC Communications.