Preview: Nashville SC (h).
When? Wednesday June 29, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ for residents of the United States. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
There are so many facets to this game, so many reasons why this is Orlando's biggest game of the season so far. Nashville has become something of a grudge match over the last year or so. I'd stop short of calling it a rivalry; Lord knows MLS loves to manufacture a rivalry. But there's definitely bad blood between the two teams. Thankfully, Allen Chapman isn't slated to be the match official...
This is also a huge game in its own right. For many fans, the US Open Cup represents Orlando's greatest and most realistic avenue to a trophy. Win this, and realistically only one the New York & New Jersey outfits stand in the way of potential glory.
The defeat in Cincinnati was unacceptable, but a win over Nashville and a place in the semi-finals would go someway to scrubbing the memory of Orlando's collapse in Ohio.
Nashville are a good team, that use a lot of width and attempt to pin the opposition in by playing on the front foot. They do this by expecting one of their centre backs to push up on the opposition when in possession of the ball, whilst their wing-backs (usually Alex Muyl and Daniel Lovitz) push right up and almost operate as wingers when in possession of the ball. The formation essentially becomes a 2-3-5 at times.
You see a perfect example of this with their opening goal against DC United (figures 1, 2 & 3). Walker Zimmerman starts the move by pushing up in support of the attack, feeding the ball to the right, the ball goes into the area (in this instance it's Randall Leal who crosses the ball in) and Daniel Lovitz rushes in from the left to apply the finish. When they revert to this 2-3-5 they love to overload the area and those crucial half spaces on either side of the area (figures 2 & 3). This is one of the reasons they create so many big chances; 30 so far this season, which is the second most in all of MLS.
Figure 1 is a game still from their game against DC United.
Figure 2 is a game still from their game against DC United.
Figure 3 is a game still from their game against DC United.
Nashville are set to be without Robert Castellanos and Handwalla Bwana through injury.
Orlando City, meanwhile, have had Mauricio Pereyra back in training this week. He could be available. Mason Stajduhar, Silvester Van Der Water and Michael Halliday are all out. Antonio Carlos is listed as questionable, as he continues his comeback from injury.
Possible starting XI
Nashville tends to favour a 3-5-2/3-4-3 formation. They will see this QF tie as a great opportunity for silverware, just as Oscar Pareja will be thinking. Therefore I think they go full strength:
Perhaps not the most popular player in MLS, but for me he's one of the best. Mukhtar is a top striker in MLS, you'd be foolish not to agree. He will have every chance to fire Nashville to glory this season, so Orlando are going to have to get on top of him. Mukhtar has 8 goals and 3 assists so far in MLS, and has a fotmob.com rating of 7.56 so far, which places him joint 9th in the Fotmob's MLS player rankings. His movement is excellent, he can pass, dribble and finish with both feet. Great player.
Nashville have only lost 1 in their last 7, and currently occupy 5th in the west with a 7-5-5 record. Overcame Louisville City in the last round to get here.
Orlando City, on the other hand, head into this game off the back of that disappointing defeat to FC Cincinnati. The Lions are currently 5th in the east with a 7-4-6 record.
*All statistics courtesy of Fotmob.com
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
B-roll footage and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com