While it seemed for a long time like we’d never make it here, the final game of the Major League Soccer regular season is nearly upon us. Orlando City takes on Nashville SC this Sunday in an effort to end the season with a win and stay undefeated at Exploria Stadium during the 2020 season. What follows are three things that will be key to the good guys getting all three points from this match.
Next Man Up
OCSC will definitely be without Joao Moutinho, who is still recovering from a groin injury, and Mauricio Pereyra, who is suspended due to yellow card accumulation. It’s also possible that Nani won’t be available either. At the time of this writing he’s suspended due to the straight red card he received Wednesday, although the club has said it will appeal the booking. Uri Rosell may not feature either. While he is no longer on the MLS Injury Report, he was not included in the team Wednesday night. That means that the Lions will rely on what they have for much of the latter half of the season — the ability of other players to step up. Whether it’s Kyle Smith or Kamal Miller playing at left back or Joey DeZart and Andres Perea seeing time in central midfield, people will have to step up and play well to keep the Lions unbeaten at home in 2020 and secure third place in the East.
Possession with a Purpose
Nashville is one of the best defensive teams in the league. They’ve only given up 20 goals on the year, tied for the best mark in all of MLS with the Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew. While Orlando did well to put three goals past the expansion side in the first meeting of the two teams at Exploria Stadium back in August, things were more difficult during the return fixture on the road. The Lions were able to take a 1-1 draw from their trip to Tennessee, but the lone goal they were able to muster came courtesy of a long range Benji Michel howitzer. OCSC had 58% of the ball on the night but struggled for the most part to pick its way through the Nashville defense, with a lot of play taking place in the middle third of the pitch. That will need to be improved upon on Sunday.
With chances likely to be at a premium on Sunday it’s of utmost importance that Orlando is ruthless about putting them away. It’s also something that should be an even bigger point of emphasis when taking the first half of Wednesday’s win into account. The late heroics by Michel wouldn’t have been necessary if OCSC had been more ruthless in capitalizing on the multitude of excellent chances it was able to craft in the first half. The Lions did an excellent job of forcing the Crew into mistakes in their own defensive third, but the finishing simply wasn’t there, and it nearly cost Orlando two valuable points. A good omen for Orlando is that the team has already proven capable of scoring goals against Nashville, even though things dried up during the game back in September. As long as the men in purple can repeat the kind of scoring form they showed in the first match-up of these teams, then it should bode well.
Did I miss anything? As always, be sure to have your say down in the comments. Vamos Orlando!