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Crew, Orlando City prep for battle between top-five teams in East

Jul 4, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando City forward Ercan Kara (9) shoots and scores as Toronto FC defender Shane O'Neill (27) defends during the second half at Exploria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew and Orlando City SC have similar motivations as the season winds down: Just keep it going and secure the best spot for the postseason.

As both teams come off a two-week layoff from MLS play, they will meet Saturday night in Orlando, Fla.

“You can just feel it in the air when it gets a little bit colder outside,” Crew midfielder Aidan Morris said. “You just know it’s close to playoff time.”

Orlando (13-6-8, 47 points) and Columbus (13-8-6, 45 points) hold spots in the top five in the Eastern Conference, and they’re among four teams separated by three points.

“Our philosophy here at the club and the way we do it is just to take it one game at a time,” Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja said. “We understand that soccer gives you your reputation when you get results and you beat good teams. … If we keep this mentality, then we can fight, but you have to maintain that consistency.”

Orlando City are 4-0-1 in their last five MLS matches. Columbus is 3-1-0 in its past four league outings.

Columbus and Orlando tied 2-2 on May 13 at Columbus, with Orlando rallying from a two-goal deficit and tying the match on Duncan McGuire’s goal in extra time. The other Orlando goal in that match came from Ercan Kara, who was transferred to a Turkish club earlier this month after registering five goals for Orlando this year.

That could put more emphasis on McGuire, a rookie, to spearhead the offense.

“We have a lot to give and we are going to continue down this path we have started down and hopefully continue to pick up wins and keep going,” Orlando City forward Ramiro Enrique said.

Darlington Nagbe and Jacen Russell-Rowe scored for the Crew in the May meeting. That duo has combined for six goals this season. Cucho Hernandez leads the club with nine goals and 10 assists.

Nagbe’s status for this weekend seems fine after he hobbled off at the end of the Crew’s win over Montreal Sept. 2.

“He received a bad kick, but he has been OK and he is OK,” Crew coach Wilfried Nancy said.

–Field Level Media