Looking to carry the momentum from last weekend’s road victory in Philadelphia, Orlando City is back in central Florida to host Nashville SC for their Matchday 6 meeting on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, Apple TV+)
Orlando has been on both ends of results in recent week. Prior to the 2-1 victory over the Union, the Lions struggled at home against an underdog Charlotte FC side two weeks ago, falling 2-1 at Exploria for the first time this season.
Even while missing seven players due to international duty, including goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and forward Facundo Torres, Orlando went into Subaru Park and rebounded become the first team to beat the Union on their home field for the final time in the last 25 games thanks to a pair of goals within the first ten minutes from Ivan Angulo and Martin Ojeda, who assisted on Angulo’s goal and has now scored twice himself in each of the last two games.
The circumstances for the victory weren’t straight up — Philadelphia was also missing six international players and only suited up with four outfield players on their bench — but wins are wins and it was a three-point performance that has confidence high within the group.
“It was very important to win, especially after a loss to Charlotte at home,” manager Oscar Pareja said of the result. “The team did well, continues to improve and we were without some important players in our team. The boys that played did very well and that helps us as a team very much. The team feels very deep and that we can have more availability with more players and that makes us better.”
Now they welcome Nashville back to town, a side that’s been competitive since joining the league in 2020 and has been on fairly level ground with Orlando over the last three seasons. In nine all-time meetings between the two, games have ended in draws six times, including Orlando’s Open Cup quarterfinals victory last season that ended in a penalty shootout victory.
“Nashville is like any other team in the league 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,” Pareja said. “[Nashville] is a team that has very bold characteristics too, as Philadelphia [Union] 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.”
Projected Starting XI
(right to left): Pedro Gallese; Michael Halliday, Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, Luca Petrasso; Cesar Araujo, Mauricio Pereyra, Martin Ojeda, Facundo Torres, Ivan Angulo; Ramiro Enrique
- All international players are back and available for selection.
- Ercan Kara remains questionable with leg injury.
- Centerback Antonio Carlos made his season debut against the Union, subbing on to finish out the final ten minutes of the match. The club has been cautious with his return as Carlos has been sidelined since early preseason with a leg injury. As far as a return to the starting lineup, the safest bet at the moment is targeting the match against Minnesota United in two weeks following the upcoming bye week.
“We’re very happy to have Antonio back,” Pareja said this week. “It’s normal that he’s needing games and minutes and actions in the regular phases of a match, but just seeing him healthy is great. It’s great to have him available, his presence is very welcome for us and just makes us feel stronger.”
Similar to Orlando, Nashville has struggled to find goals throughout the opening weeks of the regular season as they come off a 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati this past weekend. Through five games, they’ve managed to score just four goals.
Things don’t get any better when you look over to 2022 MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner Hany Mukhtar, who has yet to score a goal so far this season as well. But that doesn’t mean Orlando’s centerbacks can let their guards down.
When Nashville scores first, they become incredibly defensive and wait for moments to counter-attack and pick apart space where it’s available — and issue that took down Orlando against Charlotte two weeks ago.
“We know that [Hany Mukhtar] is a great soccer player and we need to be ready and aware of of the way Nashville is attacking and playing,” defender Robin Jansson said. “We know them because we played them a lot in the last couple of years. It’s going to be an interesting game, we’re going to go out there and play our way and focus on our game first. Then we have to be aware of their strengths.”
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