• Dan Berridge

Preview: Nashville SC (h).

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

When? Sunday October 31, 1 p.m. PT, 5 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. BST.

Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.

How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on UniMas, TUDN, Twitter (English) and MLS Live on DAZN. Radio commentary is available on 104.1 Real Radio, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. The game is being broadcast on Sky Sports Football for us UK folk.


Games don't tend to come much bigger than this. Orlando City's play-off chances hang by a thread. Some will say that this is a negative view point but call it what you will, it's the truth. There are plausible scenarios where Orlando City miss the boat entirely. Win both games and we're safe. Win one of these remaining two games and we're probably safe. We cannot clinch this week*. But we do have to win this week. There can be no excuses. No rotation. No minute managing. Oscar Pareja has to send out his best XI and we have to go for the jugular.


*Basically, there's no way I saw results on Saturday going in our favour. Which is exactly what happened. I was being what we in England call a 'negative nelly'. So ignore this, we can clinch with a win over Nashville.


This is going to be an incredibly difficult game. Nashville have been in indifferent form, but will be flying having just hit FC Cincinnati for 6 away from home. Orlando have to be on the front foot in this game. They have to be. If the Lions don't win this game, it's quite likely they miss the play-offs entirely, forget about a home play-off game. Again, I'm not trying to be negative, it's just a fact.

Orlando City supporters need to pack Exploria Stadium. Make it a cauldron of noise. If not for the current travel ban, I'd be right there with you. Let's do this.


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Nashville's style


Nashville have had a great season and are genuinely one of the best teams in MLS. Only New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City have scored more than Nashville's 53 Major League Soccer goals. Their 1.59 XG rating has them ranked 9/26 in MLS (figure 1), which combined with their 15.5% shot conversion rate suggests one thing: they are clinical. Their shooting percentages attest to that notion also; 40.2% of their shots hit the target. This statistic segways nicely into my next point...


They're a team that's not afraid to shoot. Duh. Only SKC (10) has scored more than Nashville's 9 long range goals. Of their 343 goals, 34% have come from outside the 18-yard-box. That's completely understandable when you have the likes of Hany Mukhtar.

Offensively, their quality is clear to see. I've spoken before about how good this team is in transition and how they like to attack from the flanks (figure 3). This is going to be a huge test for Orlando City.


I genuinely believe that Nashville don't get the credit they deserve. They're an outside bet for MLS Cup. That's the enormity of the task that faces our Lions. Hopefully they come out roaring. Too much cheese? Probably, but I don't care.

Figure 1 shows Nashville's XG ranking.

Figure 2 shows Nashville's average shot zones.

Figure 3 shows Nashville's average attack sides on the season so far.


Team news


Nashville are without the injured Dax McCarty and Daniel Rios. They have a clean bill of health aside from that.


Orlando City meanwhile, are set to be without Uri Rosell and Joao Moutinho* (according to the MLS injury report). Raul Aguilera and Rio Hope-Gund are questionable. Junior Urso will face a late fitness check, as per Julia Poe.


*Edit: 10/31

Possible starting XI


Nashville have been using a 3 back system of late, but reverted to a more traditional 4-4-1-1 in the win over FC Cincinnati. I think they'll use the same system in Orlando, as it'll provide greater defensive balance against the pace of Ruan. As such, I see them lining up a little something like this:

Top player


Hany Mukhtar

The German born striker has had a stellar 2021 season to date. Having started 26 of his 29 appearances this season, he's plundered 14 goals, at a conversion rate of 20.9%. Creatively, he's also been a huge threat registering 10 assists and 60 key passes so far. Capable of operating anywhere across the front, he's arguably one of the most dangerous forwards in MLS.

Form


Nashville are a difficult side to beat, as their 12-16-4 record would imply. Currently they sit 2nd in the east, having only won 1 in their last 7, although they've only lost once in that time too.


Orlando, on the other hand, slipped out of the top 4 last weekend and sit 5th with a 12-11-9 record.

*All statistics courtesy of footystats.org, MLSsoccer.com and whoscored.com.

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