Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Nashville SC

Brush up on your knowledge of Nashville SC ahead of a big game for Orlando City up in Tennessee.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The end of the Major League Soccer regular season continues to draw near, and this week Orlando City has a pair of massive Eastern Conference clashes that will go a long way towards determining where the Lions finish in the table. First up is a road game this evening against Nashville SC, a team that has given OCSC all sorts of trouble in recent years.

A match with Nashville means I took the time to speak to Ben Wright, the director of soccer content over at Broadway Sports. As usual, Ben was a great help in getting us caught up on how things have fared for Nashville since these two teams last met.

Nashville’s defense has been outstanding this year, and the 28 goals the team has conceded are the fewest in MLS by a comfortable margin. What have you seen from the back line that has made Nashville so successful this campaign?

Ben Wright: Honestly, it’s nothing new from the back line. It’s just how they’ve played for the last four seasons. Walker Zimmerman continues to be one of the best center backs in Concacaf. Nashville took a big swing on Jack Maher being able to replace Dave Romney, whom it traded to New England last winter, and Maher has been solid all year. And then Mike Jacobs made a great move to pick up Lukas MacNaughton after Nick DePuy’s season-ending injury. He’s been a huge surprise, even pushing Maher for a starting spot before he picked up a knock. It’s been another solid defensive season.

Sam Surridge came in as a Designated Player signing during the summer and found some immediate success in Leagues Cup play. How has he looked overall?

BW: Surridge looked great before he picked up an issue on the turf in Atlanta, and it’s taken him a while to get back to full fitness. He’s played 15, 30, and 60 minutes in his last three appearances, so it seems like he’s trending towards 90 minutes. He’s expectedly a great target forward and a focal point, but he’s a lot more than that. He’ll drop deep or shift wide to get on the ball and allow Mukhtar to occupy different spaces, and he’s a really underrated passer. I think once he’s fully fit he’ll be a 10-15 goal scorer in MLS, easily.

With a playoff spot now secured, what do you think the expectations should be for Nashville in the postseason? What would constitute a successful season?

BW: I think it’s a disappointing season, as things stand. Nashville was really pushing Cincinnati in the Supporters’ Shield race for the first half of the season, but before and after Leagues Cup, its form was atrocious. It’s not just out of the Supporters’ Shield conversation, but probably out of a home playoff spot. It’s going to be really tough to get out of seventh, and the club should be a much better side than that. Obviously, the Leagues Cup run was a huge success, and that’s the type of tournament performance many people have said Nashville’s been built for. If it can show that side of itself in the MLS Cup playoffs and make a run to the conference final, I think that would be a success. Otherwise it’s hard not to look at 2023 and think it’s another missed opportunity to take advantage of Mukhtar’s unreal form.

Will any players be unavailable for selection due to injuries, suspensions etc? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

BW: MacNaughton is still working through an unspecified issue. Sounds like he’ll be available on Saturday, but not for tomorrow. Otherwise it’s a healthy and available squad.

I think the XI should be pretty similar to Saturday against Seattle:

Joe Willis; Daniel Lovitz, Jack Maher, Walker Zimmerman , Shaq Moore; Anibal Godoy, Dax McCarty; Fafa Picault, Randall Leal; Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge.

Nashville badly needs a cohesive performance, and at this point I think that probably matters more than the score, but they could still use a result. I’ll say a 2-2 draw.

Thank you as always to Ben for the excellent information on Nashville SC. Vamos Orlando!


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