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Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Preview & How to Watch

SB Nation logo SB Nation 29/6/2022 Michael Citro
© Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Welcome to your match thread for a Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match-up between Orlando City and Nashville SC at Exploria Stadium (7 p.m., ESPN+). It’s the first meeting of 2022 between the two sides, which will not meet again this year unless it’s in the MLS Cup. Nashville is not on Orlando’s MLS league schedule for 2022 after the teams met four times a year ago — thrice in the regular season and once in the playoffs.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.

History

The Lions are 1-2-4 in the all-time series in all competitions and 1-1-1 at home. The odd quirk continues between the two sides in that the team to score first has never won the match.

The teams last met in the 2021 postseason, with Orlando scoring first through Daryl Dike’s early goal but Nashville won 3-1 on Nov. 23, 2021 to knock the Lions out of the playoffs. Hany Mukhtar tied it up before halftime on a fluky deflected goal off of Antonio Carlos and then put his team up in the 74th minute on a counter attack. Jhonder Cadiz put things away deep in stoppage time.

The last time the teams met in Orlando came on Oct. 31 of last year and ended in a 1-1 draw after referee Allen Chapman’s Halloween Heist chalked off Andres Perea’s apparent stoppage-time winner. The referee’s excuse for overturning the goal was an imagined foul on Daryl Dike, who, if anything, was the fouled party. The decision was both inexplicable and indefensible and cost the Lions a valuable home playoff match, which instead sent Orlando to Nashville. Mukhtar scored for Nashville to equalize in the second half after Dike’s first-half goal.

The teams met in Nashville on Sept. 29, 2021 with a late rally by the Lions earning the team a 2-2 road draw at Nissan Stadium. The hosts had taken a 2-0 lead on goals by Mukhtar — scoring off the rebound of his own saved penalty — and Randall Leal, but a penalty by Dike and a stoppage-time own goal by Brian Anunga turned the game around. On Aug. 18 the teams finished in another 1-1 draw. C.J. Sapong put the hosts ahead in the first half and Carlos leveled the score in the second half. The Lions, who played poorly in the opening 45, were the better team throughout the second half and Tesho Akindele’s shot off the crossbar was inches from providing a winner for Orlando.

The teams met on Decision Day of 2020 at Exploria Stadium, with Orlando melting down late, allowing two goals from the 88th minute on, and falling 3-2 at home on Nov. 8, 2020 — the team’s only home loss on the season. Dike and Nani goals sandwiched a strike by Daniel Lovitz, giving the Lions a lead until late. Headers by Mukhtar (in the 88th minute) and Cadiz (in the 93rd minute) turned the game on its head late.

In the Lions’ first trip to Nissan Stadium, the teams played to a 1-1 draw on Sept. 2, 2020. Benji Michel put the Lions ahead with a stunner of a goal, but Leal knotted things up and that’s the way the match ended.

That 1-1 draw came a week after a 3-1 Orlando City win on Aug. 26 at Exploria Stadium. Dave Romney had opened the scoring for Nashville with a header off a free kick but Orlando scored the last three. Dike took a star turn for Orlando City, scoring a brace, and Chris Mueller also scored for the Lions.

Overview

This is the first time the teams will meet in U.S. Open Cup play and the second time in a knockout situation. The Lions enter off a shutout loss at Cincinnati last Friday night in which Orlando didn’t look particularly threatening. Captain and No. 10 Mauricio Pereyra missed that match and his absence showed, as Cincinnati swarmed Facundo Torres every time he touched the ball. That strategy worked, as the Young Designated Player continually had to work to find outlets and the other attacking midfielders and fullbacks were too slow and tentative in buildup play to either take advantage of shooting opportunities or to find striker Ercan Kara.

Pereyra was training with the team on Monday, and his return — coupled with the return of center back Robin Jansson, who is the team’s best line-breaking center back — should help, although left back Joao Moutinho may not quite be ready to return after being a late scratch on Friday.

Orlando City won its most recent home game against the Houston Dynamo to finally pull level at Exploria Stadium in 2022, with a 4-4-0 mark in MLS games to go along with two USOC wins and a draw against Miami (followed by a shootout win) for an overall home record of 6-4-1.

Nashville is 5-4-2 on the road in league play and 6-4-2 in all competitions, and won its most recent game 3-1 over D.C. United on the road on Saturday. Tonight’s visitors have won three consecutive road games in all competitions. They got to this point in the competition by entering in the Round of 32 and defeating Atlanta United 3-2 in extra time. Nashville then backed that up with a 2-1 win at Louisville City in the Round of 16.

The Lions’ concentration will be tested for 90+ minutes tonight and any success Orlando may have will be tied to not giving the ball away. Nashville’s biggest threat is Mukhtar on the counter attack. Gary Smith’s team has made a living out of staying compact defensively and simply letting his forwards do their thing in transition, where they have been lethal. Mukhtar, the current MLS Player of the Week, has been a particular problem for Orlando City in the series history.

On the other end, Orlando City has to find a way to score goals. The Lions have struggled to put more than one goal in the net against Nashville since the first meeting and they’ve not managed more than two goals in any game this season. When combined with the team not having kept a clean sheet since May 14 — when the Lions were among the MLS leaders in shutouts — it leaves little room for error. That narrow margin is where Nashville has made its living.

“I think the game (tonight) is obviously a very important one so we can continue advancing in the cup, and hopefully we’re able to win and advance on to the semifinals,” Orlando City midfielder Cesar Araujo said at training on Monday. “But, just like any other game, it’s going to be a complicated one.”

Only seven teams in MLS have conceded fewer goals than Nashville so far during the regular season, so it’ll be the usual chess match of trying to break the visitors down while at the same time trying to be careful not to get a pass deflected away to ignite the break. That’ll only serve to make a nervy quarterfinal match even more tense. Hey, it’s not like you need to breathe for a couple of hours anyway, right?

With no Orlando City match scheduled until Monday night, I’m expecting a first-choice lineup from the Lions, who will be without 2022 USOC goalkeeping hero Mason Stajduhar (jaw), winger Silvester van der Water (lower leg), and fullback Michael Halliday (international duty). Moutinho (lower leg) is listed as questionable. Nashville’s injury report wasn’t available as of this writing but on Saturday the team listed only Handwalla Bwana (thigh) and Robert Castellanos (ankle) as out.

Mandatory Match Content

Official Lineups:

Orlando City (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.

Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan.

Defensive Midfielders: Junior Urso, Cesar Araujo.

Attacking Midfielders: Tesho Akindele, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres.

Forward: Ercan Kara.

Bench: Adam Grinwis, Alex Freeman, Antonio Carlos, Sebas Mendez, Andres Perea, Benji Michel, Alexandre Pato.

Nashville SC (3-5-2)

Goalkeeper: Elliot Panicco.

Defenders: David Romney, Walker Zimmerman, Jack Maher.

Wingbacks/Midfielders: Daniel Lovitz, Tah Anunga, Dax McCarty, Randall Leal, Alex Muyl.

Forwards: C.J. Sapong, Hany Mukhtar.

Bench: Joe Willis, Taylor Washington, Eric Miller, Luke Haakenson, Ake Loba, Ethan Zubak.

Referees

Ref: Ismail Elfath.

AR1: Cory Richardson.

AR2: Corey Parker.

4th: Guido Gonzales Jr..

VAR: Kevin Stott.

AVAR: Andrew Bigelow.

How to Watch

Match Time: 7 p.m.

Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.

TV: None.

Radio: None.

Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City’s official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).

Enjoy the game. Go City!

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