MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Orlando City

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew SC vs. Orlando City SC

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Saturday, April 18th – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: Columbus 10/11 – Draw 13/5 – Orlando 14/5

Match Preview

Two of Major League Soccer’s most fluid sides face up on Saturday as the Columbus Crew entertain Orlando City at MAPFRE Stadium in what should be a thrilling Eastern Conference clash.

Columbus return home after back-to-back road games at Vancouver Whitecaps and New England Revolution, earning draws in both of those matches, and will want to pick up just their second win of the season in front of their own fans on Saturday.

The Crew have been playing relatively well and many feel that they are the team that play the most attractive football in MLS, but it’s time to start putting points on the board now.

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Their opponents Orlando have enjoyed a solid start to life as an MLS franchise and they too play some attractive, free-flowing football so this should be a treat for the neutral.

Orlando beat Portland Timbers 2-0 away from home last weekend as they remain unbeaten on the road and will travel to Columbus in high spirits.

This will be the first-ever meeting between the sides in MLS and is the first of three games this season, with the following two to be played in Orlando.

Columbus know a win will put them level on eight points with the Lions, who have played one game more, and this has all the makings of a classic between two sides with great attacking talents.

Kaka will look to continue to impress for Orlando, while Federico Higuain and Kei Kamara could cause problems for the Lions defence.

Team News

Columbus Crew could be without midfielder Wil Trapp, as the midfielder continues to struggle with concussion problems, while Waylon Francis (ankle) is also a doubt. Federico Higuain will start behind Kei Kamara in attack, with Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram likely to start on either flank. Chris Klute could start at left-back again in the absence of Francis.

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Orlando City will be without Tally Hall (knee) and Pedro Ribeiro (hamstring) for the trip to Columbus, while Martin Paterson (groin), Lewis Neal (neck) and Tony Cascio (back) could also miss out. Cyle Larin scored his first MLS goal last week and is expected to keep his place in attack. Brek Shea travelled with the USA squad for the friendly against Mexico but is expected to be back in the squad for the game on Saturday.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s form: L/W/L/D/D

Orlando City’s form: W/L/D/L/W

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have registered more shots per game than any other team in MLS so far this season (15.4).

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Key Player: Kaka – The Brazilian playmaker is key to Orlando’s hopes and has seemed to perform better on the road this season. He scored his third of the season at Portland last week and will be a real threat again in this one.

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 2-2 Orlando City – There is not enough to separate these two at this early stage of the season and so a draw is the most likely outcome, although we can expect to see plenty of goalmouth action as these two love to attack. This could be the game of the weekend.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Gillette Stadium – Saturday, April 11th – 15:00 ET (20:00 BST)

Match Odds: New England 21/20 – Draw 12/5 – Columbus 5/2

Match Preview

New England Revolution will play host to Columbus Crew on Saturday, providing a perfect way to start Saturday’s MLS action with a key clash between two of the Eastern Conference‘s top sides.

New England has recently regained a bit of form and is looking more like the team that finished runners-up in last season’s MLS Cup, after starting the new season without a win in their first three.

The Revs beat the Crew 7-3 on aggregate in last year’s MLS Playoffs and so New England will be the more confident of the two sides going into this one.

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After winning two on the bounce, the Revs are back and will be hoping to push on now that Juan Agudelo has got off the mark, having scored against the Colorado Rapids last time out.

The Revs are favorites for this one, and should Jermaine Jones pass fit, it’s difficult to see past a New England win, especially as they have won the last three meetings with the Crew.

Columbus Crew are a team that has yet to really show their potential this season, with an early season victory at home to ten-man Toronto the highlight so far.

They have only one win in four so far, and with a team that is expected to be in the playoffs come the end of the regular season, their form has to drastically improve.

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A 2-2 draw against the high-flying Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night has done the Crew no harm and should aid them when they travel to New England at the weekend, though fitness could be a factor.

With both sides favouring a counter-attacking approach, this could be a very open game. Enjoy.

Team News

New England Revolution: Apart from Jermaine Jones, New England should have a full squad available. If the USMNT star is fit, it is likely he will take a place on the bench. Juan Agudelo could return to the attack with Charlie Davies dropping to the bench, with Lee Nguyen in behind after scoring his first of the season last weekend.

Columbus Crew: Will Trapp (calf strain/concussion) and Waylon Francis (ankle) are both doubts but are expected to feature. Hernan Grana should return at right-back after missing the midweek game against Vancouver, while Federico Higuain will also return to the side after serving his suspension.

Key Points

New England Revolution’s form: L/L/D/W/W

Columbus Crew’s form: L/W/L/D

Key Stat: New England are undefeated in their last 12 MLS home matches now and are proving a tough team to break down at Gillette Stadium.

Kei Kamara in action for the Columbus Crew against Vancouver Whitecaps

Key Player: Kei Kamara – The Crew striker is in fine form after scoring twice against the Whitecaps, so expect him to have a say in the scoreline come the end of play on Saturday night.

Score Prediction

New England Revolution 2-1 Columbus Crew – The Crew did well to earn a draw at Vancouver on Wednesday but the Revs have had a full week to prepare for this game and look to be finding their form now. Home advantage should see the Revs edge it but this one is perfectly poised.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2 Columbus Crew: Five takeaways

Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew got Week 6’s action underway with the first midweek clash of the new MLS season on Wednesday night in a highly entertaining game that ended 2-2 at BC Place.

The Whitecaps came into the game on a win streak of four but had to settle for a valuable point after coming from behind twice to earn a share of the spoils.

Kei Kamara grabbed both of the Crew’s goals, with Octavio Rivero netting again for the Whitecaps and Darren Mattocks netting the all-important second equaliser.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Mattocks makes his mark

Carl Robinson decided the time was right to start Jamaican international Darren Mattocks on Wednesday, as the pacey forward started on the left in place of Kekuta Manneh, and he didn’t disappoint. Mattocks grabbed a goal and an assist and was named as Man of the Match in his first start of the year. He was full of energy and contributed to the defensive side of the game as well as attacking, and improved dramatically when Manneh entered the game on 56 minutes. He could have had a hat-trick on the night as he recorded seven shots, one of which cannoned off the post with the game level at 2-2. Vancouver’s forward line looks strong.

2. Columbus will be O-Kei

Kei Kamara in action for the Columbus Crew against Vancouver Whitecaps

Columbus Crew have had a less than convincing start to the 2015 season, winning just one of their opening four games but Wednesday night’s performance against the best side in MLS right now will leave Gregg Berhalter pleased. Federico Higuain missed the game through suspension but Kei Kamara didn’t suffer without the playmaker as he netted both of the Crew’s goals. Kamara now has three in four and looks sharp in and around goal. Expect the Crew to start climbing the Eastern Conference now.

3. Role reversals

Coming into this game, the Crew were the top side in MLS in terms of average possession per game, while the Whitecaps were the worst, seeing less of the ball than anyone else after five weeks. But that all changed on Wednesday as the ‘Caps dominated the game for large spells. Vancouver had 62% of the possession and showed a more controlling side to their game, while the Crew proved they can be just as effective as a counter-attacking side. These teams are two of the more exciting in MLS and proved they can play more than one way to good effect on Wednesday night.

4. Shall we just give Rivero the Golden Boot now?

Octavio Rivero in action for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Columbus Crew

Octavio Rivero added his fifth goal of the season against the Crew to keep him at the top of the goalscoring charts at this early stage and the Uruguayan forward looks unstoppable in and around goal. He picked up the March Player of the Month award in his first month in MLS and has recorded more shots, and shots on goal than any other player in the league. The Whitecaps are playing well and Rivero is looking like an incredible piece of business as he can’t stop finding the net. Expect him to continue his goalscoring form when the Whitecaps travel to San Jose on Saturday.

5. Is this the turning point for entertainment in MLS this season?

The 2015 season hasn’t hit full flow yet as there have been several cagey displays by teams and nowhere near enough goals (we’re looking at you Colorado) but that changed on Wednesday. The ‘Caps and Crew played out one of the best games of the season so far at BC Place as there were a combined 37 shots on goal at either end. Both teams attacked from the outset and that lead to a free-flowing, entertaining game that we usually see more of across the league. This was a hopefully a sign of things to come as Week 6 got off to a fun start. Bring on the weekend!

MLS Fantasy Tips: Gameweek 4 Picks

With the weekend approaching, it means more MLS matches, and with the international break in full swing, this is probably the time to bring in some replacements for your MLS Fantasy team that aren’t away with their national sides.

All 20 MLS teams will be in action for Week 4 but international absentees make picking a team a little more challenging.

We take a look at some worthy replacements for the usual stars that could make the difference this weekend:

1. Tyler Deric: $4.9m (Houston Dynamo) – Colorado Rapids (H)

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Tyler Deric has been a breakthrough player so far this season and barring that unfortunate moment against Orlando, he has been one of the Dynamo’s best players.

Having only conceded two goals in three games, Deric looks a good bet for a clean sheet this week at home to a Colorado side that are yet to be involved in a game with a goal. The Rapids have not scored a goal in 420 minutes of MLS action now so Deric will be confident of keeping his second clean sheet of the season.

2. Kei Kamara: $8.0m (Columbus Crew) – New York Red Bulls (H)

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With an injury to Red Bulls left-back Roy Miller and centre-back Ronald Zubar a doubt for this fixture, this might be the time to throw Kei Kamara into the team. Playing for a Columbus side that was brilliant at home against Toronto, he will be a huge threat in attack.

Coming off a bye week should make him hungrier than usual, and if you’re looking to replace Robbie Keane or Blas Perez for the international break, Kamara is a great option at $8.0 million.

3. Tesho Akindele: $8.1m (FC Dallas) – Seattle Sounders (H)

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As usual the last pick is for the gamblers among you. Tesho Akindele is expected to play up top this weekend, deputising for the missing Blas Perez.

Akindele is up against a very good Seattle Sounders team, however, they haven’t been great recently and lost 3-2 to the San Jose Earthquakes last time out. Star man Clint Dempsey won’t feature and so Akindele could be in for some big points this weekend.

Who do you think will be the standout MLS Fantasy performer this weekend?

MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs Columbus Crew

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Sunday, March 8th – 20:30 ET (01:30 GMT – Sunday, 9)

Match Odds: Houston Dynamo 5/4 – Draw 11/5 – Columbus Crew 11/5

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo host the Columbus Crew on Saturday night in their season openers of the 2015 Major League Soccer campaign. This one sees two good sides that have had eventful yet promising offseasons go head-to-head.

Houston has changed their manager, opting to go for Owen Coyle. The Scot replaces Dominic Kinnear who departed the club at the end of the 2014 season after eight years in charge.

The managerial change sees former Premier League manager Coyle take over a Houston side that needs to do better than last season as they have a lot of promise in the squad.

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With the addition of Erick Torres to bolster an already strong team that boasts World Cup stars DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Davis, the Dynamo could be set for a good season.

Starting a season at home is always a good thing and Houston are the favorites going into the game against the Columbus Crew.

Houston Dynamo’s MLS home record in 2014: P17 – W8 – D4 – L5

The Columbus Crew’s changes have been more image-based as the club enter 2015 with a new logo and are without too many changes to their roster. The addition of Kei Kamara will bolster their attacking options and is a good pickup.

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Midfield acquisitions, Mohammed Saeid and Kristinn Steindorsson will add depth to a midfield that is very strong. Defensive midfielder, Will Trapp was recently called up to the USMNT and will want to continue to impress this year.

Columbus Crew’s MLS away record in 2014: P17 – W5 – D6 – L6

A special mention has to go to Ethan Finlay as the young attacking midfielder chipped in with eleven goals in MLS last term and will be hoping for more of the same in 2015.

Team News

Houston Dynamo: No injuries and we’re expecting everyone to be available for selection. Will Bruin is set to start in attack while defender Raul Rodriguez should make his debut at centre-back.

Columbus Crew: Romain Gall is out of this game with a knee injury. Kei Kamara and Kristinn Steindorsson should make their debuts.

Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s form: N/A

Columbus Crew’s form: N/A

Key Stat: The Houston Dynamo have only lost once at home to Columbus in MLS, a 2-0 defeat in June 2011.

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Key Player: Federico Higuain – The Argentinian playmaker can lay on assists as well as score goals. He was key in 2014 for Columbus and if they are to take anything from Sunday’s game he will need to be at his best in a playmaking role.

Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Columbus Crew – A game that neither side want to lose and we don’t think either will risk losing in this one. It could be a tight game but with each side bagging a goal. Score draw.

Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact record enormous preseason wins

The Columbus Crew and the Montreal Impact got the biggest day of the MLS preseason underway in fine style as they won 7-0 and 6-0 respectively.

A total of 12 MLS sides are in action on Wednesday as the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic and Desert Diamond Cups get underway.

The Montreal Impact played their second game against Mexican opposition in as many days in the days early kickoff and they put in a fine display to win 6-0 against FC Cuautla in their final friendly before next week’s CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final clash with Liga MX side Pachuca.

Jack McInerney, who was sent off in yesterday’s 1-0 win against Cruz Azul, opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Blake Smith added a second just before halftime.

Cameron Porter came on at halftime and the 21-year-old third round MLS SuperDraft pick bagged himself a hat-trick, while McInerney added his second of the game to seal a comfortable 6-0 win against the Mexican third division side.

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Columbus Crew got the first game of the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic underway against London United and were also in a goalscoring mood as they found the net seven times.

New signing Kei Kamara opened the scoring in just the third minute before Ethan Finlay scored a second on 19 minutes. Finlay then turned provider as he teed up new right-back Hernan Grana to make it three before Grana then grabbed an assist for Kamara’s second of the game, making it 4-0 after just half an hour.

Columbus weren’t prepared to see out the half four up though and added two more as Grana made it five with his second of the game from defence before he got his second assist of the game by setting up new left-back Chris Klute on the stroke of halftime, making it 6-0 at the break.

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Crew SC weren’t as devastating in the second-half but still added one more through second-round draft pick Sagi Lev-Ari in the final ten minutes. Lev-Ari was making his preseason debut for the Black and Gold but is not yet registered on the club’s roster for the 2015 season.

Kei Kamara may have bagged two but it was fellow new boy Hernan Grana who impressed most as he registered two goals and two assists from right-back in an impressive attacking display.

Both the Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew have lost just once this preseason and will be hoping they can take their goalscoring form from today’s friendlies into the new 2015 MLS season in the Eastern Conference.

MLS 2015 Season Preview: Columbus Crew

In the build up to the new season we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what the Columbus Crew will be looking to achieve this year. 

Columbus Crew will be looking to replicate last season’s form and finish in one of the all important top six spots in the Eastern Conference once again. The Crew have had a relatively busy offseason with more names out than in. Head coach Gregg Berhalter will be pleased with keeping hold of both Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain, both of whom were at the forefront of everything good for the Columbus Crew last campaign.

Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference position: 3rd – P34 – W14 – D10 – L10

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What needs to change this year?

Crew SC need to find that winning mentality to turn draws into wins on a more regular basis. They drew more games in comparison to DC United and New England Revolution who were the only sides to finish above them in the East last campaign. The disappointment of the playoff drubbing at the hand of New England is something they can use as motivation for success this season.

Kei Kamara will add more goals and the signing of Kristin Steindorsson can bring in creativity as well as goals from midfield while the addition of Chris Klute from Colorado Rapids brings in another defensive option. The fullback featured 25 times for the Rapids last season, with 24 of those as starts, and he will provide cover to the defence. It is going to be a much tougher campaign this season and a strong squad is going to be vital if Columbus Crew are to make the playoffs again.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Kei Kamara – Forward, Ben Swanson – Midfielder (Homegrown Player), Mohammed Saeid – Midfielder, Kristin Steindorsson – Midfielder, Chris Klute – Defender, Hernan Grana – Defender, Cedrick Mabwati – Midfielder (joining in July)

Outs: Ross Friedman – Defender, Matt Wiet – Defender, Josh Williams – Defender, Eric Gehrig – Defender, Ben Sweat – Defender, Fifi Baiden – Midfield, Daniel Paladini – Midfield, Agustin Viana – Midfield, Matt Walker – Midfield, Bernardo Anor – Midfield, Jairo Arrieta – Forward.

Key player: Federico Higuain – Midfield/Forward

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The classy attacking midfielder enjoyed a solid campaign last term and will need to push on and contribute even more to his side, in a similar role of that of Lee Nguyen with the Revs, as much is expected of Higuain ahead of the new season.

One to watch: Adam Bedell – Forward

His rookie season saw him net just twice in 16 appearances but at 6’6″ he towers over defenders and could become a quality target man for Crew SC. It will be interesting to see if he can tie down a starting role.

Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 4th

We can expect another hard fought season from Columbus Crew, but in a more competitive division they may struggle to match last seasons third place finish. If Kamara can hit the ground running with goals we may well be surprised with what the Black & Gold can achieve and they must find a way to turn draws into wins.

How do you think Columbus Crew will do in 2015?

Columbus Crew receive huge boost as Federico Higuain pens new deal

The Columbus Crew have received a huge boost ahead of the new MLS season by confirming that star man Federico Higuain has signed a new designated player contract with the club, in what is the biggest deal in the club’s history.

The Argentine playmaker has been with the Crew for two-and-a-half years and has been one of Major League Soccer’s brightest talents during that time, scoring 27 goals and picking up 23 assists in 71 appearances.

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Columbus enjoyed a great season in 2014 but were knocked out of the playoffs by a rampant New England Revolution side, and Higuain’s absence in the second-leg showed the team misses him when he’s not there.

Good news is that he will be there for the foreseeable future now, and the 30-year-old is seemingly very happy to have penned a new contract with the Eastern Conference side.

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Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter was also thrilled to have Higuain at his disposal for the upcoming season and beyond, and thinks he is the key to what is already a solid squad.

“Federico has proven to be one of the top talents in Major League Soccer and a key contributor to the attacking, possession-based brand of soccer that we are trying to play at the club,” Berhalter said.

“This new contract demonstrates both Mr. Precourt’s vision to create an attractive, winning team and Federico’s commitment to play in Columbus for the foreseeable future.”

Higuain’s 11 goals and seven assists last season tied for the lead on his team, and he was the most dangerous player in terms of shooting, registering more shots and shots on target than any other Crew player.

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He is undoubtedly the key man in the Crew side. He makes everything tick and his vision means that he is always one step ahead of the opposition.

Having Higuain back for 2015 is probably the best move Columbus will make this offseason and with Kei Kamara set to star for the team this year too, supporters have lots to look forward to in what should be another exciting campaign.

How important is Federico Higuain to the Columbus Crew?