Crew-Orlando City Preview

National Sports

Orlando City SC forward Daryl Dike is confident that he can help his side find its scoring touch as it prepares for Saturday’s visit from the Columbus Crew.

Dike made his first appearance for Orlando since July 3 as a halftime substitute in last week’s goalless draw with Inter Miami CF.

The United States international returned from Gold Cup duty with an injury, but is now fit and ready to go with 13 regular-season matches remaining.

Last week’s stalemate with Inter means Orlando has now scored just four goals in its last five games, four of those matches ending as a draw. Dike is eager to change that.

“For me, it’s just about how can I do what I normally do,” he said. “That’s bringing the team up, scoring goals, doing whatever I can do to help the team, whether it be the assists, the goals, the runs, everything.

“If I’m up top the goals will come. So for me, it’s just how can I help the team to win and be a problem for the opposition.”

Orlando may have stuttered of late but is still second in the Eastern Conference heading into the latest round of games, eight points better off than opponents Columbus.

The 2020 MLS Cup winners ended a six-game losing streak with a valuable 3-2 victory over rivals FC Cincinnati last time out thanks to substitute Miguel Berry’s late double.

The Crew are without nearly an entire team of players due to injuries and international call-ups, but coach Caleb Porter knows the importance of picking up three points this weekend.

“As cliched as it sounds, we’re in the mindset of taking it each game as it comes,” Porter said. “We know we have to win a couple of games on the road. “If we do that and take care of business at home, we’ll be in a good shape. We’re getting some injured players back to fitness and that will help us.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Orlando City SC – Daryl Dike

Having played consistent football with no break over the past year, Dike says his recent layoff has given him a chance to “recover mentally”. It remains to be seen whether the 21-year-old is fit to start this match, but if so he will be out to build on a return of two goals in five MLS outings this term.

Columbus Crew – Lucas Zelarayan

If the Crew are to bridge the gap on the playoffs, they will need to rely heavily on primary attacking threat Zelarayan. The Argentinian opened the scoring in the win over Cincinnati from his fifth free-kick goal of the campaign, leaving him one shy of Sebastian Giovinco’s single-season MLS record with Toronto FC in 2017.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Orlando City has won four straight matches against the Crew, including picking up a 2-1 win over the eventual MLS Cup winners in November 2020. This is Orlando’s longest winning streak against any team in its MLS history.

– City is unbeaten in six straight games following a scoreless draw with Miami on Friday (W2 D4). The Lions have kept clean sheets in each of their last two matches, though they have never kept three straight clean sheets in the club’s MLS history.

– The Crew ended a six-match losing streak with a 3-2 victory over rivals Cincinnati. The six-match losing streak equaled the longest in club history (including breakaway shootouts) and was the longest in the post-shootout era (since 2000).

– Six of Orlando’s last eight goals have been scored via headers after just three of its first 22 goals were headed this season. Orlando’s nine headed goals is tied with New England and Vancouver for most in MLS this season.

– Berry came off the bench to score the equalizing and winning goals in the 81st and 82nd minutes against Cincinnati on Friday. Berry is the second player in MLS history to score a match-tying and match-winning goal in consecutive minutes after Didier Drogba did so for Montreal against Toronto in October 2015.

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