Preview: Nashville SC (h).
When? Wednesday August 26, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.40 p.m. ET and 12.30 a.m. (27/8) GMT.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+. MLS Live on DASN and Fox 35 Plus and MyTV30. FreeSports (Freeview channel 64, live and on demand in the app) for us U.K. folk. The game is also available via radio locally (check local listings).
Orlando City will be looking to bounce back from their lacklustre defeat in Fort Lauderdale, and will do so against a Nashville side also coming off a loss in their last game. The expansion side were gunned down 2-0 in that NFL arena in Georgia. On paper this looks to be the perfect game for Orlando City to get back to winning ways. But soccer very rarely works that way. This Nashville side are no mugs and have some serious MLS experience in their ranks. This will be a tough game. However, this is the first game back at Exploria Stadium since late February. And you can bet Oscar Pareja's team will be motivated to right the wrongs of Saturday.
It's always difficult to pinpoint exactly how an expansion side is going to play, especially one as inconsistent as Nashville. They are 1-1-3 on the season so far. Albeit, it's been a tumultuous one. They opened the season with successive defeats to Atlanta and Portland, whilst utilising a 4-2-3-1 formation. They subsequently reverted to a 4-4-2 in their 3 match series against FC Dallas and Atlanta United, following on from their Covid-19 related elimination from MLS Is Back.
They are another team who are happy to let you have the ball, before making a recovery and hitting you on the break. They are reliant on the pace and trickery of players like David Accam. During their first (and thus far only) franchise win, in Frisco, the visitors had 36% of the possession and half as many shots as the hosts. They came away 1-0 victors. As a matter of fact, Nashville has seen less than 50% of the ball in 4 out of their 5 MLS contests so far. The outlier came in the narrow defeat to Portland back in March, where Gary Smith's team enjoyed 52% of the play across the 90. Don't expect Nashville to dominate the ball on Wednesday evening
They also have a solid spine, which enables them to play with such a defensive mind-set. The likes of Walker Zimmerman and David Romney make for a strong defensive spine, whilst Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy provide a dearth of experience in the centre of the park.
As I alluded to previously, they are a team that recovers the ball well. If you take a look at figure 1, you'll see that Nashville completed 13 tackles in their recent 0-2 defeat in Atlanta. They had a less than perfect 83% pass completion rate though. This is due, at least in part, to the directness of their play. From 423 passes they attempted 40 long balls, in addition to 31 crosses. I'd expect to see them get the ball wide to Accam and Randall Leal every time they break. Orlando will need to defend crosses better than they did in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.
Figure 1 shows that Nashville completed 13 ball recoveries/tackles in their game at Atlanta.
This is a team that's also not afraid to have a go from range. They attempted 15 shots on goal in Atlanta (5 on frame, 7 off, 3 blocked). Of those 15 efforts at goal 60% (9) were attempted from outside of the 18 yard box, see figure 2. Pedro Gallese will have to be alert to shots from range, with the likes of Accam, Leal and Godoy certainly not afraid to wind one up from afar.
Figure 2 shows Nashville's shot percentages.
The visitors do have a few injury concerns heading into this one with doubts over the fitness of Eric Miller and Jimmy Medranda (abductor and hip). Ken Tribbet continues to be absent as he nurses a calf injury.
As for Orlando City their only injury concern is with Dom Dwyer, following that season ending injury he suffered during MLS Is Back. Orlando's new Brazilian striker, Matheus Aiás, will not be involved. The striker has yet to arrive in Florida. When he does arrive, he will face a mandatory 10 day quarantine. His involvement in phase 1 looks doubtful at this point.
Possible starting XI for Nashville
I would expect to see a fairly settled side in this game, with the only change being the inclusion of David Accam. Alistair Johnston was, perhaps, surprisingly preferred in the Atlanta defeat. I would expect Accam to return for this game, with the visitors continuing with the 4-4-2 formation they have favoured, thus far, in phase one. Line-up below.
Accam could feature on the right hand side of a 4-4-2, but with the proviso that he operates more as a support player or wide forward when in possession. After all, that's where they used him with the 4-2-3-1. With the way Nashville likes to get the ball wide, it almost becomes a 4-2-2-2- see figure 3.
Figure 3 Nashville are able to revert to a 4-2-2-2 when on the offensive, with Accam out wide.
David Accam has already proven himself something of a dangerman for this team. He scored an historic goal against Dallas to earn his team their maiden MLS victory. The Ghanaian international (11 caps) has certainly had an interesting career to date. He started out right here in England, with Ledbury Town then of the West Midlands Regional Premier Division. They finished 9th in England's 10th tier, with Accam scoring 5 goals in 8 games during the 09/10 season. He then plied his trade slightly higher up with Evesham United and Forest Green Rovers. He then moved to Östersunds FK, before a spell as Helsingborgs IF. He plundered 39 goals in 76 games, before arriving in MLS. Since then he has scored 41 in 128 across spells with Chicago, Philadelphia, Columbus and Nashville. Been in and out of the team, but we all know Orlando allow for counter attacking opportunities. His pace could be crucial.
Obviously this is the first meeting between these two teams. Nashville are 1-1-3 on the season, with Orlando 2-2-2, but also having made it all the way to the MLS Is Back final. 2 defeats in 2 have set alarm bells ringing in some corners, so the Lions will be keen to get back to winning ways in this one.
Nashville meanwhile have had an indifferent restart beating Dallas 1-0, then tying the same opponent 0-0 before that reversal at Mercedes Benz Arena.
All statistics provided courtesy of mlssoccer.com
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com