Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Final Score 1-0 as Lions Sweep First-Round Series

Ivan Angulo’s early goal was just enough as the Lions squeaked past Nashville into the Eastern Conference semifinals.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Ivan Angulo’s early goal was just enough as Orlando City turned in another defensive masterclass to nip Nashville SC 1-0 at Geodis Park. In earning their first-ever road MLS playoff win, the Lions swept Nashville and are through to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“We’d like to start by congratulating the players and a squad that has been very responsible, very professional representing our community and our fans,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think we’re all very proud of what they do on the field. I thought we played a very complete match, because we were solid in both areas and probably could have scored a couple goals more, but against Nashville it’s not an easy task to do it, defending all those crosses and when they were throwing bodies up front. But we controlled the game. We’re happy. We looked more mature today.”

Pareja’s lineup was unchanged from Game 1. Pedro Gallese lined up in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena played in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Duncan McGuire up top.

The Lions started brightly with some early possession. Pereyra fired a shot three minutes in that deflected out for a corner, but Orlando could do nothing with the set piece. Two minutes later, Torres had a go on the break from outside the box but couldn’t get his shot to dip under the bar.

Orlando grabbed the lead in the sixth minute. A poorly weighted back pass by Dax McCarty was closed down quickly by Angulo. He won a 50/50 challenge, survived a tug from behind by McCarty and then sent a shot off the Nashville midfielder that beat Joe Willis over the top to make it 1-0.

“We came out today with the with the intention to run and to really press them high and try to pin them back,” Angulo said through a club interpreter. “And so I just kind of pressed into that area in between the center backs and the holding midfielders that I really like to get in between and forced them to kind of make a bad pass. And thankfully I was able to take the ball off their foot and find myself into a nice spot in their box, and I just figured, ‘Have a hit and see where it goes,’ and thankfully it went in the back of the net.”

“Opening the (scoring) are obviously something we’ll desire, especially when you’re going away,” Pareja said. “We were waiting on reactions from Nashville and surely they were going to give us spaces in the back. We could have been probably more lethal there. But opening the game at that time, early in the game, was very important for us.”

Nashville nearly pulled the goal back in the eighth minute. A bouncing ball kept eluding Orlando’s control and it ended up on Sam Surridge’s foot. The forward turned and fired just wide of the left post. A minute later, there was a lengthy delay for Walker Zimmerman to get treated as he hit his mouth on the back of McGuire’s head and was bleeding. The defender was able to continue.

Alex Muyl fouled Gallese with heavy contact in the box after Thorhallsson’s wayward clearance attempt popped up in the air. Gallese needed treatment, but he too continued.

The game got extremely chippy in the middle stages of the first half. Nashville’s Surridge and Anibal Godoy were booked for challenges on Jansson and Araujo, respectively. Cartagena was booked moments after Godoy, and Pereyra picked one up minutes later, although his was easily the harshest of the four.

The Lions had a penalty appeal in the 30th minute when the ball came off Lukas MacNaughton’s arm, but it was his supporting arm underneath him and no penalty was given as a result.

Shaq Moore headed wide in the 34th minute after sneaking in behind an inattentive Torres at the back post.

The Lions had a golden opportunity to double their lead in the 37th minute when McGuire played Torres down the right. The Designated Player opted not to shoot with his right foot — as we’ve become accustomed to. He tried to clear his left for a shot but it was closed down, so he laid it off for Angulo. The speedy winger fired but his shot was saved by Willis.

A minute later, Mukhtar scored but the flag came up immediately. The forward was offside when Daniel Lovitz sent in the initial shot. The offside call saved Gallese, who had uncharacteristically spilled a fairly routine-looking ball in.

Nashville started creating some danger with crosses down the first half stretch run. Mukhtar headed just wide in the 41st minute off one such cross.

Pereyra went for the far right corner from the left in the third of nine minutes of first-half stoppage time but couldn’t curl it on frame.

Nashville sent a handful of crosses into Orlando’s area and the Lions did just enough to clear.

The last opportunity fell to Torres in the eighth minute of stoppage time but he missed his shot badly off target.

Orlando held halftime advantages in possesson (58.2%-41.8%), shots (7-6), shots on goal (2-1), and corners (2-0). Nashville passed more accurately (79.8%-75.9%).

Torres had a chance to double the lead just moments after the restart. He fired a shot with his right foot but hit it right at Willis.

A minute later, it was Nashville getting an early chance. Muyl got to a cross and headed it on frame but Gallese was able to range over and grab it.

Cartagena tried a volley shot in the 54th minute but his swerving effort stayed just over the bar.

The back-and-forth play continued moments later as Araujo did well to cover defensively, successfully winning a vital challenge in his own penalty area against Mukhtar and earning a foul on the Nashville Designated Player.

Angulo had a good look at a brace in the 61st minute when he cut inside from the left onto his right foot. However, he fired his shot right at Willis.

Again the next chance fell for Nashville. MacNaughton got forward into the attack and appeared to foul Pereyra but Allen Chapman allowed play to continue. MacNaughton picked up the loose ball and fired from outside the box. Gallese got over to make a solid save to preserve the lead. Gallese then made a good stop to deny a Jacob Shaffelburg effort in the 69th minute.

Second-half sub Martin Ojeda had a hit from outside the box in the 71st and got all of it, but Willis fought it off and the defense arrived to clear it before a teammate could pick up the loose change. Junior Urso tried his luck three minutes later but his effort was nowhere near goal.

Urso had a chance to put the game to bed in the 79th minute when he slipped in past the defense. Left 1-v-1 against Willis, he started his shot but a sliding Sean Davis got a piece of it and it deflected over the goal.

Nashville’s last gasp was a header wide from Zimmerman in the 90th minute. Neither team got a scoring chance in the four-plus minutes of injury time and the Lions did well to keep winning fouls and throws to see out most of that time. The whistle finally blew to end the series.

Orlando finished the match with the advantage in shots (16-10), shots on target (5-4), and corners (5-0). Nashville turned around the possession to finish with more of the ball (53.3%-46.7%) and passed more accurately (79.7%-78.8%).

“It’s important to know how to play these kind of games where they’re very tight, very intense,” Pareja said. “There is a lot of emotions during the game. The way we handled it today was good. Learning how to play these kinds of games made us a better team. And the boys have shown that we’re ready, but this doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to keep getting better. We have to prepare ourselves for the next one and keep learning from those moments, those games.”

[Editor’s note: the following paragraph has been edited from the original to correct an error created by Major League Soccer’s complete lack of logic.]

The game scheduled for Sunday is off. There’s no need for it. The Lions will await their next playoff opponent as the first round continues to play out. Because MLS makes zero sense whatsoever, Orlando will get the Columbus/Atlanta winner and FC Cincinnati will get either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed, even if No. 6 seed Atlanta advances.


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