Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Nashville SC

Get all the inside information on Nashville SC ahead of Orlando City’s 2023 playoff debut.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City’s first playoff game of the year is almost upon us, and the Lions will be facing a familiar face during the first round, as they’ll be taking on Nashville SC.

A best-of-three series against Nashville means I spoke with Ben Wright of Broadway Sports. As always, Ben was very helpful in getting us primed for a match against a team that has given Orlando all kinds of trouble over the years.

It’s been a bit of a strange season for Nashville, particularly when contrasted with some of the preseason expectations around the team. How would you describe the mood about the club entering the playoffs?

Ben Wright: It’s not the greatest mood, to be honest. Nashville was one of the best teams in MLS in the first half of the year, and they’ve been one of the worst in the second half. It’s been all downhill since Leagues Cup. I do think fans feel that the Leagues Cup showed how dangerous this team can be in a tournament. They were also struggling heavily in MLS before the tournament started and somehow turned it on, so maybe history repeats itself here.

Nashville’s defense has been outstanding but the offense has struggled a bit. What do you think needs to happen to get the attackers firing during the playoffs?

BW: Hany Mukhtar has hit a rough patch, and he’s only scored twice in the second half of the season. He’s still getting into dangerous spots, but it just isn’t clicking. Sam Surridge is their new DP striker, and he has had some really great moments, but he and Mukhtar aren’t quite clicking in the final third. That’s the biggest thing; those two need to develop a better connection.

Aside from Hany Mukhtar, who needs to come up big for Nashville during this game?

BW: Surridge is a big one. Dax McCarty is the other. He’s been absolutely crucial to how Nashville’s midfield functions, and is the only midfielder who can consistently get the ball forward quickly. His form in Leagues Cup was a major part of Nashville’s run to the final, and he needs to repeat that in the playoffs.

Are any players unavailable for selection due to injury, suspension, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

BW: It’s almost a completely healthy team. Other than Nick DePuy (he’s missed the entire season), Randall Leal is questionable. He came off against New York Red Bulls with a calf injury, but he was moving well in training on Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s held out until the second game of the series.

Here’s what I’m expecting (4-2-3-1):

Joe Willis; Dan Lovitz, Jack Maher, Walker Zimmerman, Shaq Moore; Aníbal Godoy, Dax McCarty; Fafà Picault, Hany Mukhtar, Alex Muyl; Sam Surridge.

Games between Nashville and Orlando have always been super tight. I’m going with a 2-2 draw, and then who knows what happens in penalties. I really think this will be one of the closer series in Round 1!

Thank you to Ben for helping get us ready for Nashville SC. Vamos Orlando!


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