Two late goals by Nashville SC saw the visitors steal three points away from Orlando City on Decision Day. The loss moved the Lions down to fourth place in the Eastern Conference as they now look to the postseason. Here are some of the takeaways from the regular season finale from Exploria Stadium.
Orlando City Didn’t Sit Back
Heading into Decision Day, Orlando City sat in third place, three points ahead of the Columbus Crew. That meant the Lions only needed one point to secure the third seed in the Eastern Conference. It would’ve been easily explained by Oscar Pareja if the Lions simply sat back and played for a draw. However, the team came out pushing and did so for much of the game. Rather than sitting back and defending for 90 minutes, the Lions attempted to claim all three points. It’s something you would expect having watched the team this year, but not something you’d see from every team.
Daryl Dike is Essential for Playoff Success
The Lions will need solid performances by Nani, the center backs, Pedro Gallese, and Daryl Dike to be successful in the playoffs. The latter is the team’s target striker and showed his importance in the team’s game against Nashville. Dike was strong in the regular season finale. He scored the game’s first goal from a difficult angle in the fourth minute and forced Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis into a great save in the 33rd minute. Once again, he was able to be strong on the ball, shielding defenders to keep possession. Orlando will need that strength in his playoff performances if it hopes to advance through the postseason.
Orlando City Held the Ball Too Long
This isn’t something new, but Orlando City once again held the ball too long on several possessions in this game. As Chris Mueller charged into the opposing half, he had an easy pass to his left for the oncoming Nani. Instead, he held onto the ball and played it to Dike on his right. It ended in a goal for the Lions, but it could’ve been a much easier break. That wasn’t the only time in the game or this season when an Orlando player held onto the ball too long, wasting an opportunity. In a one-game playoff, those are chances that could be the difference between advancing and seeing the season end.
Quality Playing Time for Jordan Bender
One of the primary goals for Orlando City the past year has been getting quality playing time for Homegrown Players. That’s the reason why Orlando City B exists and it’s been working. Bender played with OCB in 2019 and was signed to the first team after the season. He played in three games for the second team this year and came off the bench once this season for the first team before getting his first start against Nashville. It was the first time he’s played significant minutes in a first team game. Those are valuable minutes for him and the team as Bender is expected to be an important piece for Orlando City well into the future.
Orlando City Unable to Hold Possession Late
While Orlando City has played much better this year, one problem has been holding onto leads. The Lions tend to form a defensive shell when having a late one-goal lead and depend on desperate defending. This was seen in the draw against the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 18 and again last weekend against the Montreal Impact. The Red Bulls scored deep into injury time to equalize and Montreal likely would’ve as well if not for some excellent goalkeeping by Gallese. Against Nashville, it was much of the same as the visitors had several chances on goal. It allowed them to score in the 88th minute and again three minutes into injury time. The Lions need to learn to see out games with possession rather than desperate defending. Otherwise, we’ll see more of what occurred against Nashville.
These are some of the things that I took away from Orlando City’s performance against Nashville SC. Let us know what stood out to you in the comments below.