Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja says his side’s “destiny is on our shoulders” as his players prepare to face Columbus Crew, with a win for either team sealing their playoff place at the cost of their opponents.
Orlando sit eighth heading into the crucial final match, a point behind Columbus in seventh, and need to win to put them into the postseason.
Pareja knows the pressure on his players, telling reporters: “Here we are in front of the last regular season (match) looking to hopefully continue in the playoff run.
“The responsibility is on our shoulders and our destiny is on our shoulders in front of a rival that is in the same situation.
“We are excited to be at home in front of our fans and win this game. Advancing is obviously our priority.”
Columbus could have already been qualified heading into this match, but a 94th minute Andre Shinyashiki goal denied them victory in an eventual 2-2 draw against Charlotte FC.
Head coach Caleb Porter remained positive despite the late disappointment, saying: “Obviously, result-wise, it’s not what we wanted.
“It’s not a win, it’s a draw, but it still gives us a chance, depending on other results, to win our last game and get in the playoffs.
“Even if we won this game, we were probably in a same situation where we had to win the last game or possibly get a draw.”
A point will be enough for the Crew to clinch a playoff spot, though they have not won an away match against Orlando since 2017.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Orlando City – Facundo Torres
The 22-year-old leads the Lions in MLS goal involvements this season, with eight goals and as many assists. He will look to add to that tally here.
Columbus Crew – Lucas Zelarayan
Zelarayan is the Crew’s top scorer this campaign with 10 goals and has also added six assists. Orlando will have to keep a watchful eye on the Armenia international if they want to get a result here.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Orlando have won six of their last seven meetings with Columbus in MLS play (lost one) including a 2-0 victory on April 16. The Lions have won four straight home games against the Crew, their longest home winning streak against any opponent in the club’s MLS history.
– Orlando’s 4-1 loss to Inter Miami on Wednesday was the fifth time this season its allowed at least four goals in a match, tied for most such games in MLS in 2022. It equals the most games Orlando have allowed four or more goals in a season in the club’s MLS history, also doing so five times in 2018.
– Columbus conceded a 94th-minute equalizer against Charlotte on Wednesday in a 2-2 draw. The Crew have dropped 11 points in the 90th minute or later this season, three more than any other team has in a single regular season in MLS history.
– None of Orlando’s 16 home matches this season has ended in a draw (won eight, lost eight). Since the breakaway shootout was abolished in 2000, only one team, New England Revolution in 2002, have gone a full regular season without a home draw (excluding shortened 2020 season).
– Zelarayan scored the opening goal on a 56.1-yard free kick in the first half. It was the longest direct free-kick goal in MLS since at least 2010 and the fourth-longest goal overall in that time.