The best-of-three format in the MLS playoffs is now done. From here on out it is one-game-winner-take-all. Orlando City has home field advantage for Saturday’s Eastern Conference semifinal, but do the Crew have an advantage as well?
While Orlando was cruising through their first-round series with a couple of shutouts over Nashville, the Crew was in a dogfight with Atlanta United. It was a series that went to a third and deciding game. This is where the Crew may have an advantage over Orlando-they have already played with their backs to the wall. In speaking with the Columbus Dispatch, Sean Zawadzki certainly believes so,
"To have that experience is nice. Guys have already experienced it. Orlando kind of walked through two games. So, to be able to have that experience, I think it gives us a little bit of an advantage."
Because they have already faced that do-or-die game, I don’t think the Crew will be bothered by playing in front of a hostile crowd. You’ll see a team that is mentally ready to play.
Including the playoffs, Orlando has given up just 39 goals all season. The Crew has scored nearly twice that many-75. Orlando has not conceded a goal in their last three games and only two in their last six. BUT their schedule must be taken into account. Three of those six games were against Nashville, another was against league-worst Toronto, and they also played Montreal. New England scored twice in a 3-2 loss in Orlando in early October. When you compare the competition played by the Crew over this same time period, you have to question if Orlando has really been pushed.
Without question, the Crew will push them. Of those 39 goals given up by Orlando, five were to the Crew in their two meetings. So, we know the Crew can score against them, but Wilfried Nancy’s team is going to have to show they can defend as well. Crew defenders can’t get caught ball watching as they did in Match 2 against Atlanta. Go with the Orlando runners and get in the passing lane. Much as they did in the deciding match in the first round, the Crew must limit the space out wide and not allow Orlando crossing attempts. Control possession and you cut down on Orlando scoring chances.
After a nearly two-week wait, it is almost here. Finally. 90 minutes of fun awaits. Enjoy the game, everyone.