Preview: Orlando City SC vs Nashville SC

Nashville SC bounced back from their loss against Philadelphia with an absolutely wild 3-6 win on the road to FC Cincinnati. In their penultimate match of the season, they travel to playoff hopeful, Orlando City SC.

Can Nashville tighten their grip on second place? Will Orlando pick up the points they need to secure their spot in the MLS Cup playoffs?

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Orlando City SC

After a few results going their way, Orlando City SC has the opportunity to clinch their spot in the MLS Cup playoffs with a win over Nashville. However, Oscar Pareja’s team find themselves in the midst of a dip in form. Just one win in their last four matches, Orlando will need to brush themselves after a disappointing 3-2 loss to Columbus Crew on Wednesday.

The good news for Orlando City is that they are finally starting to get healthy. They had a rash of injuries late summer into early fall but now only have João Moutinho (lower body), Uri Rosell (concussion) confirmed out for this afternoon’s match up.

Not only is Orlando healthy but their star attackers are beginning to find form as well. Darryl Dike is back fit and has three goals in the past five matches. Nashville has struggled to deal with the physicality of Dike in their past two matches and will be crucial if they are to get a win today.

While today isn’t technically a “must win” for Orlando, it’s pretty close. A loss would mean that Columbus Crew and DC United could draw level with them with a win in their last game, and New York Red Bulls and CF Montreál would be one and four points back, respectively, both with a game in hand. A win for Orlando, though, would officially clinch a playoff spot after Saturday’s results.

Orlando are 10th overall in the table, and that lines up with their 12th overall Goals Added score. Although they’ve been above average going forward, they’ve struggled to defend consistently this season, allowing 44 goals in 32 matches so far. Against a Nashville team who may be finding their attacking form, Orlando’s defense will need to step up to get a result.

Nashville SC

32 minutes into Wednesday’s game and Nashville’s chance of finishing second looked bleak. Being 3-1 down against the worst team in MLS history is not how you wrap up a home playoff spot. However, Nashville bounced back and put on a thrilling comeback.

The comeback should give Nashville a lot of confidence coming into their match against Orlando, a team they have failed to beat at home this season. The previous match saw Nashville snatch a draw from the jaws of victory, conceding twice in the final 15 minutes to blow a two-goal lead and draw 2-2.

Last season Nashville clinched the playoffs with dramatic stoppage-time winner in Orlando. Can they clinch the home playoff spot at Exploria Stadium again?

Against FC Cincinnati, Gary Smith make the decision to revert back to a 4-2-3-1 for the first time in 15 matches, and it coincided with some of the worst defending Nashville have displayed in MLS. It’s hard to legislate for Dave Romney, Nashville’s most consistent defender, having his worst 20 minutes of the season, but there were clear instances where Walker Zimmerman and Romney were both expecting the other center back to be closer, and the backline and midfield were wildly disconnected.

Against Orlando, I would expect to see a move back to the 3-5-2 that has brought the team so much success this season.

The biggest selection decision will be who starts up top with Hany Mukhtar. Aké Loba came off the bench at half and made an instant impact, scoring his first goal of the season and notching a late assist. However, it wasn’t just his goal that make an impact but his movement off the ball and runs in behind the defense. He will have to contend with a C.J. Sapong,who scored a brace in a bounce back game against Cincinnati.

Regardless of who gets the start, Nashville’s offense is starting to click again and will serve them well going up against Orlando.

Availability report

Pod Picks

Ben Wright

Score: Cincinnati 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: C.J. Sapong
MOTM: C.J. Sapong
Bold Prediction: Nashville takes 5 more shots than Orlando

Jonathan Slape

Score: Orlando 1-2 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Aké Loba
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Loba

Andy Simmons

Score: Orlando 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: C.J. Sapong
MOTM: Dave Romney
Bold Prediction: Nashville records more shots but is out possessed

Chris Ivey

Score: Orlando 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville holds on despite a bombardment from Orlando

Fan Forecast

Kit matchup

Match Info

Teams: Orlando City SC (5th) vs Nashville SC (2nd)
Power Rankings: Orlando City SC (16) vs Nashville SC (5)
Odds: Orlando (+120), Draw (+225), Nashville (+220) via BetMGM
Date: Sunday, October 31
Time: 3:00 PM Central, Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Florida
TV: UniMas, TUDN, Twitter (streaming)
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 76°/57°. Partly cloudy. 10% chance of rain. 59% humidity

Author: Jonathan Slapeoriginated from outside of Atlanta but has lived in Nashville since 2005. Original member of Speedway Soccer and has been talking and occasionally writing about Nashville SC since the USL days. Self proclaimed official fashion correspondent. Outside of Nashville SC you can find him singing the praises of Jurgen Klopp, discussing the latest in sneakers and soccer fashion with a good stiff drink.

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