Randall Leal finally got off the mark in MLS, scoring a second half equalizer to give Nashville SC a point against Orlando City. Despite a sluggish first half start, the Boys in Gold improved after the break to win a point against one of the hotter sides in the league.
After rotating heavily at the weekend, head coach Gary Smith returned to a more typical starting lineup, bringing Hany Mukhtar and Dax McCarty back into the XI.
#NashvilleSC Starting XI for #NSHvORL:— Speedway Soccer (@SpeedwaySoc) September 2, 2020
Willis; Johnston, Zimmerman, Romney, Lovitz; McCarty, Godoy; Muyl, Mukhtar, Leal; Badji
BENCH: Panicco, Anibaba, Miller, Washington, Jones, Anunga, Danladi, Accam, Ríos#EveryoneN pic.twitter.com/OuGSLemTGF
Nashville never quite looked cohesive in the first half. McCarty and Godoy seemed uncharacteristically reactive in midfield, and Mukhtar had to drop deep to get on the ball, leaving Dom Badji on an island up front. A rare mistake from Godoy in the 17th minute gifted Orlando possession in midfield. Benji Michel took advantage, hitting a world-class strike off the inside of the far post to give Orlando the lead.
Nashville continued to look disjointed until the final ten minutes of the half, when they started to build momentum.
The real change, however, came after the break. From the gates, the home side looked purposeful and progressive in possession, exposing gaps in Orlando’s midfield and moving the ball quickly.
That paid off, with Randall Leal capping off a great passing move with a tidy finish.
It was a relief on several levels for Nashville. Obviously, equalizing the match was huge in the short term. In the bigger picture, getting both designated players involved in a goal from the run of play took a weight off the collective shoulders of Nashville SC.
Nashville continued to push for a winner, with Daniel Ríos, Abu Danladi and David Accam all entering the match. The home side created a couple half chances to take three points, but ultimately had to be content with a single point against an Orlando side that has been in great form since finishing second in the MLS is Back Tournament.
“I thought this was going to be a real test, and the game proved that,” noted Smith. “However after a scrappy first half, and a fantastic strike from Michel, I felt that we made corrections on the last game and got ourselves into reasonable spots… The second half started out on a different note and showed what we are capable of, if only we could do that more consistently.”
Nashville is back in action this weekend, traveling to Inter Miami on Sunday for a primetime clash against their fellow expansion side.
Shots: Nashville 8 – 7 Orlando
Shots on goal: Nashville 4 – 3 Orlando
xG: Nashville 0.68 – 0.41 Orlando
Goals: Nashville 1 – 1 Orlando
Possession: Nashville 41.6% – 58.4% Orlando