Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (2-1-2, 8 points) and Nashville SC (2-2-1, 7 points) at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). It’s the first meeting of 2023 between the two sides, with the Lions making the return trip to Nashville on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Nashville is back in the Eastern Conference this season, so a big three points are on the line.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
The Lions are 1-1-4 against Nashville in MLS matches and 1-2-5 in all competitions. Orlando is 1-1-1 at home in the series in league play and 1-1-2 at Exploria Stadium in all competitions. The odd quirk continues between the two sides in that the team to score first has never won the match.
The teams did not meet in regular-season play last year, meeting only in the U.S. Open Cupin Orlando on June 29, 2022. Hany Mukhtar scored in the 52nd minute and that looked like it would be enough until Rodrigo Schlegel equalized deep in stoppage time. After a scoreless 30 minutes of extra time, the Lions won the ensuing penalty shootout, 6-4.
The teams last met in the 2021 postseason in Tennessee, 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. 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 the regular season came on Oct. 3, 2021 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 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.
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.
The Lions are coming off a 2-1 win at Philadephia last Saturday night. That victory snapped a three-match winless streak (0-1-2) in league play and a five-game skid (0-1-4) in all competitions for Orlando City. The club is 1-1-1 at home this year in MLS and 1-1-2 in all competitions at Exploria Stadium, with just two goals in the run of play — plus a Facundo Torres penalty in the opener — and only one in MLS competition.
Tonight’s visitors have seven straight results in all competitions against Orlando (2-0-5) and five consecutive in the regular season (1-0-4). Nashville enters tonight’s game off of a 1-0 home loss to FC Cincinnati a week ago. The club has lost two consecutive 1-0 games and is 0-1-1 away from Nashville this season. This is a team that is in every game because it doesn’t concede. Nashville has allowed only two goals through five matches — tied with Seattle for the fewest in the league.
As usual against Nashville, 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 and since he hasn’t gotten a goal yet this year — and loves to score against the Lions — ball security is vital. 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.
On the other side, Orlando City has to find a way to score goals. The Lions have always 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. Orlando did score twice in the first nine minutes last week but then blew several chances to put the match away.
With Nashville preferring to play without the ball, it seems like a chance to get rookie striker Duncan McGuire back in the starting lineup against those big center backs, including USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman.
“Nashville is like any other team in the league (in) that we have faced each other (already), and since they have a coach that has been there for a while — it’s the same with us, and we know each other,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “(Nashville) is a team that has very bold characteristics too, as Philadelphia had, in the way that they do things. We would like to have control of those things, and with the experiences that we’ve had with them we can expose them and we can use the good attributes of our team to hurt them. That is our focus.”
Striker Ercan Kara (thigh) remains questionable on Orlando’s availability report. Nashville lists two players out — Leal (lower body injury) and Nick DePuy (lower body injury).
Mandatory Match Content
With our domain transfer in flux, anything we link right now will likely turn into a broken link later, so let’s just say you can read Dave Rohe’s three keys to an Orlando City victory and Ben Miller’s Intelligence Report on either this site or our old one and you can listen to our key match-ups and score predictions on this week’s episode of The Mane Land PawedCast, along with our interview with McGuire — available on this site, the old site, or wherever podcasts are available.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Luca Petrasso, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith.
Defensive Midfielders: Felipe, Cesar Araujo.
Attacking Midfielders: Martin Ojeda, Mauricio Pereyra, Ivan Angulo.
Forward: Ramiro Enrique.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Rafael Santos, Abdi Salim, Antonio Carlos, Wilder Cartagena, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Gaston Gonzalez, Facundo Torres, Duncan McGuire.
Nashville SC (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Joe Willis.
Defenders: Daniel Lovitz, Jack Maher, Walker Zimmerman, Shaq Moore.
Midfielders: Luke Haakenson, Sean Davis, Anibal Godoy, Fafa Picault.
Forwards: Hany Mukhtar, C.J. Sapong.
Bench: Elliot Panicco, Taylor Washington, Josh Bauer, Dax McCarty, Tah Anunga, Jan Gregus, Jacob Shaffelburg, Teal Bunbury.
Ref: Chris Penso.
AR1: Kathryn Nesbitt.
AR2: Jeremy Hanson.
4th: Kevin Klinger.
VAR: Geoff Gamble.
AVAR: Cameron Blanchard.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV/Streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the game. Go City!