Preview: Nashville (a).
Updated: Aug 17, 2021
When? Wednesday August 18, 5:30 p.m. PT, 8:30 p.m. ET and 01:30 a.m. BST (19/8).
Where? Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of the United States and Canada. For central Florida residents it's Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV. The game is also available via radio locally on FM 96.9 The Game, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. The game is not currently scheduled for broadcast in the UK.
After their somewhat disappointing Leagues Cup defeat to Santos Laguna, Orlando City face a devilishly tricky trip to Nashville, Tennessee. This is going to be a game full of intrigue, as two of the top teams in the east collide. Nashville have been something of a surprise package for many MLS supporters. There can be no doubt, though. This is a very good team.
This is a team that's going to continue to be tough to beat. They're combative by their very nature, and are also blessed with significant footballing talent, particularly in the wide areas. Hany Mukhtar has adapted well to life in the Music City, whilst the likes of Walker Zimmerman and Dax McCarty provide solid MLS experience. Gary Smith's team has won their last 3 games at Nissan Stadium, and 6 of their last 8 in total. You have to think any sort of positive result would be huge for Orlando City.
Make no mistake about it, this Nashville team is one of the best in the eastern conference. They are a side built with a strong defensive spine, with pace and quality in wide/forward areas. This is a team that has an XG rating of 1.63 overall, with a rating of 2.01 at home (figure 1). The Tennessee based club rank 3/14 for goals scored in the east, and they also rank 3/14 in terms of shots on goal, with 39% of their shots forcing the opposing goalkeeper to do some work. They're no slouches on the offensive side of play.
How do they do it, you ask? The answer is actually relatively simple. There's no complex formula, they just have pace and quality in the wide and forward areas. They also have the know-how and ability (in midfield) to find the likes of Mukhtar and Randall Leal in dangerous areas, who are then able to stretch defences with their movement and pace (figure 2). They also have an abundance of goals all across the forward line (figure 3). They're not reliant on one or two guys to find the net, everyone chips in.
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As well as their lethal forward line, they also have a strong defensive mechanism. They have kept clean sheets in 42% (8/19) of their overall matches, conceding at a rate of 1 per game overall. Their defence is rated as joint 3/14 in the east, having conceded 19 in 19. This is owed, at least in part to the partnership between Zimmerman and David Romney. The pair have played a combined total of 2,536 minutes together so far this season. That number would've been far higher, if not for Zimmerman's involvement in the Gold Cup.
Figure 1 shows Nashville's scoring statistics on the season so far.
Figure 2 shows Mukhtar's and Leal's heatmap from the win over D.C.United.
Figure 3 shows Nashville's top scorers on the season so far.
Figure 4 shows Nashville's goals conceded statistics on the season so far.
Nashville are in the rather unique position of having no injury concerns. At least, there were none recorded on the MLS Injury Report at the time of writing. Weird.
Orlando City, meanwhile, will continue to be without Sebas Mendez. Pedro Gallese, Daryl Dike, and Alexandre Pato are all doubts. At least I think Pato is a doubt, though who knows? Antonio Carlos is also listed as questionable, due to concussion protocol, though he played in Leagues Cup and has trained all week. So, expect him to be involved.
EDIT: The MLS Injury Report has been updated to include Nani and Mauricio Pereyra as 'questionable', with lower body injuries.
Possible starting XI
Nashville could well make some changes for this game, having played a game on Sunday. That being said, this is a team that is on song currently (HA! You thought I wasn't going to do it , didn't you?). In all seriousness, as a result of their demolition of D.C. United, I don't see wholesale changes, just the odd tweak here and there:
Hard to look past the Berlin-born striker here. He's been in great form this season, having scored 8 goals and tallied 6 assists. A recent 6 minute hattrick against Chicago Fire further underlined his importance to this team. The forward also has a startlingly high conversion rate of 21.1% from 38 shots this season. His 35 key passes and 6 assists also outline his creative capabilities. As I alluded to earlier, he likes to drift along the forward line. He could wreak havoc for Orlando, if the Lions allow him too.
Arguably one of the form teams in the league right now, Nashville have leapfrogged ourselves into 3rd place with a 7-10-2 record. And I say arguably, because there are probably a few too many draws in there. Still, their recent win over D.C. could be a springboard for them.
Orlando City, on the other hand, are in less that stellar form. The Lions have won twice in their last 9 games in all competitions, and as a result have slid to 4th in the east. That being said, the Lions are unbeaten in their last 3 MLS games. Hopefully this game can be the start of a turnaround for Orlando City.
*All statistics courtesy of footystats.org, whoscored.com and mlssoccer.com
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