Once again, another Orlando City matchday is lurking just around the corner. The Lions will look to build off a solid road win in last week’s outing and get the team’s form at home back on track. It won’t be easy though, as a Nashville SC team that always plays Orlando close will be this week’s visitor to Exploria Stadium.
Nashville seemed to be fairly quiet in the transfer market this off-season. Are you happy with the current makeup of the squad or are there any holes that need to be filled?
Ben Wright: They made a lot of signings in the off-season, but almost all of them were geared towards Huntsville City FC in MLS NEXT Pro. They triggered Jacob Shaffelburg’s purchase option after a solid half-season loan in 2022. Really, they only made two new signings: Fafà Picault and Nick DePuy.
Picault has been a solid addition, but DePuy is out for the year after Achilles surgery. After their attacking issues last season, I really expected them to take some bigger swings in the off-season. It’s maybe on brand for how they approach transfers, but I think their winter window was pretty underwhelming.
It’s still early, but its been hard to get a read on Nashville so far. The two losses have come against what look to be very good teams, so it’s hard to hold that against them too much. What are your early impressions of this side?
BW: They’re elite defensively. Not a surprise. They’ve conceded just two goals, which both came in their last two games — 1-0 losses to New England and Cincinnati. I think they look about where they were last year; a defensively strong team that struggles to create and score anything that doesn’t come from Hany Mukhtar.
Both of Nashville’s wins came in games in which the team had less than 40% of the ball. Is there anything to that stat which reflects how the team likes to play, or is it just an odd quirk?
BW: That’s not surprising at all. They’re better playing against the ball. They like to set up in a midblock, force turnovers in midfield, and get the ball forward quickly. They really struggle when they’re asked to break teams down with the ball, like Cincinnati did last weekend. So no, it’s not a quirk. It’s a feature.
Are there any players unavailable to injury, suspension, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
BW: We don’t have the injury report, but I don’t think they’re set for any surprises. Aníbal Godoy came back last week after injuring his shoulder in the season opener. Randall Leal re-aggravated a hamstring issue that he had in preseason, but he should be close to coming back after missing the last four games. Otherwise, they should be healthy.
Their lineup should be pretty set:
Joe Willis; Daniel Lovitz, Jack Maher, Walker Zimmerman, Shaq Moore; Jacob Shaffelburg, Anibal Godoy, Sean Davis, Fafa Picault; Hany Mukhtar, CJ Sapong.
I think they match up pretty well with Orlando, and they’re even more defensively resolute on the road. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.
As always, thank you to Ben for helping us get up to speed on Nashville. Vamos, Orlando!