Nashville SC are back in action this weekend, fresh off two matches against Dallas last week from which they took four points. The Boys in Gold travel to Mercedes Benz Stadium to take on Atlanta United on Sunday.
Ben Wright: Orlando took the MLS is Back Tournament by storm, making it to the final on some impressive play by a team that’s been relatively uninspiring in past seasons. Do you think the success was isolated to the tournament, or do you think Óscar Pareja is really turning things around?
Ben Miller: It’s hard to say honestly. The team has only played three games outside the bubble and two of them came with Nani and Dom Dwyer both unavailable. While the Lions lost to Inter Miami 3-2 in the team’s first post-bubble game it’s hard to know if what they displayed in the bubble was simply a flash in the pan. Personally, I’m inclined to think that Pareja has the team on the right track. They want to play a specific way and for the most part have been pretty good when trying to play that style. I don’t think the team is as strong as the run to the tournament final may have made it look at times, but I certainly think things are heading in the right direction.
BW: Striker has seemed like a big question mark for Orlando (Nashville fans will get this). Dom Dwyer hasn’t lived up to expectations so far and is out for the year. How do they address this going forward? Could Daryl Dike be an answer up top after his showing against Miami?
BM: Hoo boy, striker. I think after what he was able to show in 90 minutes against Miami, Dike will definitely earn more playing time and rightfully so, he was great. In the end though I expect the solution to be a striker-by-committee situation. OCSC just signed Matheus Aias from Spanish second division side Mirandes, and once he’s available I think it’ll be one of him, Dike, and Tesho Akindele on any given night. Tesho bagged double digit goals last year so it would obviously be great if he could get on that track again in 2020, but it hasn’t quite been happening so far. Dike certainly gave Pareja something to think about on Friday though, and I do hope to see more of him.
BW: Which Orlando players do you think could cause Nashville problems?
BM: Nani is an obvious answer but also a correct one. When he’s on he’s still close to unplayable, Minnesota United can attest to that. Mauricio Pereyra and Chris Mueller have also been good this year, and stopping Pereyra should be a big focus for Nashville. If he’s allowed time and space to pick passes then he generally finds some pretty dangerous ones. Defensively, goalkeeper Pedro Gallese helped keep Orlando in a lot of games in the MLS is Back Tournament. Aside from a few goals this season, all the balls that have gotten past him have been ones he couldn’t do anything about, and he’s been pretty good in 1v1 situations so far.
BW: Do you have a prediction for Orlando’s lineup and the final score?
BM: I think Pareja will likely choose a 4-2-3-1 consisting of: Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell; Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller; Daryl DikeI’ll say 2-1 Orlando with the Lions getting things back on track at home in front of an Exploria Stadium with limited capacity.
Thanks to Ben for his expertise. Make sure to follow him and The Mane Land for more great Orlando City coverage @TheManeLand.