Preview: Nashville SC (a).
When? Wednesday September 29, 5:30 p.m. PT, 8:30 p.m. ET and 1:30 a.m. BST (30/9).
Where? Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+ and Dazn for residents of the United States. The game will also be broadcast on Fox 35 Plus and LionNationTV for residents of central Florida. The game will also be available via radio broadcast on FM 96.9 The Game, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
Orlando City's latest defeat, against the Revs, left a bitter taste in the mouth for some. Orlando certainly gave a good account of themselves, however. And were only a spot-kick away from taking a highly credible share of the spoils. With that defeat, Orlando slipped down to 5th in the eastern conference standings. 'Summertime Sadness' seems to weigh over this club like a millstone. The feeling has been compounded by a treacherous run in for the Lions. Of Orlando's remaining 8 games, 6 are against play-off teams. Yikes.
Nashville isn't exactly going to be a cake walk either. Gary Smith's team have been in scintillating form of late, winning 5 of their last 7 games (heading into their game with Chicago on Sunday). Orlando City can certainly take heart from their recent 1-1 draw in the Music City. I'm not convinced a draw is going to cut the mustard, though. The teams around us all have winnable games midweek. I think Orlando City need to win this game, if they're to maintain hopes of a home play-off berth.
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Nashville are one of the form teams in MLS now, so this match will be no easy task. They are a compact, well-drilled side who have plenty of pace and quality in the forward and wide areas. They're a team that's really found its feet in front of goal, as their overall 1.70 XG rating will attest too (figure 1). As will the 44 goals they've scored; for context, only D.C. United and New England Revolution have scored more.
It's at home where they really light it up, though. Gary Smith's team have a home XG rating of 2.01 and have averaged 2.21 goals at Nissan Stadium so far this season. After 4 consecutive road trips, you have to feel they'll be glad of home comforts for this one. The pace and quality of the likes of Randall Leal and Hany Mukhtar are likely to pose significant problems for this Orlando City defence.
The old saying goes 'there's two sides to this coin', and this certainly applies to Nashville SC. As well as having quality in forward areas, they're no slouches defensively, especially at home. Nashville has kept 5 clean sheets from 14 home games, and has yet to concede more than 2 (figure 2). Crucially, they've yet to lose at home either (figure 3). A win for Orlando City here would be huge.
Figure 1 shows some goalscoring statistics for Nashville, on the season so far.
Figure 2 shows some goal concession statistics for Nashville on the season so far.
Figure 3 shows Nashville's home results so far.
According to the MLS injury report Nashville are benefitting from a clean bill of health, and also free of any disciplinary issues. That must be nice, eh?
Orlando City, meanwhile, are certainly without Alexandre Pato and are likely to be without Joey DeZart and Uri Rosell. Chris Mueller will face a late fitness test. Mason Stajduhar has been medically cleared to play.
Possible starting XI
Given their lack of injury concerns, and their current form, I'd be surprised to see any real changes. As such, I can see them lining up as such, in a 3-5-2 formation:
Mukhtar has established himself as one of the top forwards in Major League Soccer this season. His 12 goals and 9 assists have been a huge part in Nashville's ascension to 2nd in the east. He's totalled 1,885 minutes across 21 starts and 3 substitute appearances. The German-born striker has also amassed a very impressive conversion rate of 21.4% from 56 shots, and has averaged a goal every 157 minutes.
With 5 wins in their last 9 games, and just 2 defeats, Nashville have been in very good form. They've usurped ourselves and currently sit 2nd in the east, with an 11-12-3 record.
Orlando, on the other hand, are on a run of 4 successive defeats and have slipped down to 5th. Orlando are currently 10-8-8 on the season.
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