In the final game of Orlando City’s 2020 MLS regular season campaign, a late collapse resulted in a 3-2 loss against Nashville SC. Despite a strong start, the defense gave way to Nashville’s second-half substitutes, conceding twice in the final two minutes of the game and four minutes of injury time. Daryl Dike continued his torrid form with another goal and we saw a moment of brilliance from Nani (who was allowed to play after his red card was rescinded by the league), but it wasn’t enough to hold onto the points.
Orlando fell to fourth in the Eastern Conference and will play bitter rivals New York City FC in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. Here’s how the Lions performed in a very disappointing close to the season.
GK, Brian Rowe, 5 — I don’t want to put too much of the blame on Rowe for the goals, but it was far from a great performance from the veteran backup. He did make a hat trick of saves, including a very nice stop on Derrick Jones, but he did concede three goals. The first goal was simply a wonder-strike from Daniel Lovitz — nothing he could really do there — but the other two feel like maybe he could’ve done more. It would’ve been very impressive as both headers were wide open on the doorstep, but Rowe was in position to potentially make a play, but he couldn’t.
D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — It was far from the best performance for Smith against Nashville. Going forward he was a complete non-factor with no shots and only one cross, though he did draw the free kick on which Nani scored. He struggled to contain Randall Leal, losing several duels on the outside, and also committed a team-high five fouls, including the one that set up the game-winning goal. On the bright side, he was fairly good in possession, completing 40 passes at an 83% clip, and had a solid five ball recoveries. He wasn’t horrible but it was far from a great game for the fullback.
D, Robin Jansson, 5.5 — The big Swede had a solid game leading the back line but it was a struggle at times. On the bright side, his distribution was solid with 43 completed passes at 84% and three very solid completed long balls. He also led the team in clearances with seven. Unfortunately for Orlando, he was very poor in the air, losing both of his aerial duels.
D, Antonio Carlos, 6 — It may have been a frustrating defensive performance, but Antonio Carlos was mostly impressive once again. His distribution was excellent, completing 88% of his passes, including six out of eight long balls. He nearly found his way onto the score sheet with a brilliant bit of skill off a corner in the 64th minute, but the final effort was well wide. Defensively, Carlos was the anchor of the back line with five clearances, four interceptions and five ball recoveries. But much like Jansson, his play in the air in the last few minutes of the game was poor. He wasn’t in a good position on Mukhtar for the second goal, making it far too easy for the designated player to score.
D, Ruan, 5.5 — The pacey Brazilian had his moments against Nashville, but it was a poor showing for the right back. He was solid going forward once again, registering a key pass and three crosses, but defensively things were inconsistent. He did lead the team in completed tackles with three, but down the stretch it was a struggle. He really struggled with Alex Muyl allowing the ball into the area that led to Nashville’s second goal. He also got shielded by Muyl on the third goal, leaving Cadiz to run in unmarked. Maybe it felt like it was a worse performance than it really was, but it was disappointing regardless.
MF, Chris Muelller, 7.5 — Mueller’s breakout season continued in this one as he was a force to be reckoned with going forward. It was his pressure and excellent run that led to the assist on Dike’s goal early in the first half and he created several other chances as well, finishing with a pair of key passes. His energy created a spark in transition and set the tempo for the Lions going forward. It wasn’t always the cleanest for the Money Badger, but he now sits at 17 goal contributions (goals plus assists), only behind LAFC’s Diego Rossi and Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo.
MF, Andres Perea, 6.5 — It wasn’t a particularly dynamic performance, but the Colombian youth international continues to look very sound in the center of midfield. He led the team in passing with 61 completed passes at an incredible 92% clip, with a team leading 10 successful long balls as well. His defense was solid as well with three interceptions and eight ball recoveries. However, he provided very little going forward, failing to register a key pass or shot on target despite getting an excellent open look from the top of the area. Even if he’s not a particularly dynamic player, he’s looking better and better every game and I really hope that his loan can be made permanent this offseason.
MF, Junior Urso, 6 — The Bear had a quiet performance in his 72-minute outing, but it was fairly effective. He was a beast winning the ball back, as per usual, with a solid seven recoveries. Against the physical Anibal Godoy and Dax McCarty it’s important to match the intensity and Urso provided that energy and strength in the middle of the park. Like Perea, he wasn’t much of a factor going forward, though he found himself with a chance at a header in the box on multiple occasions.
MF, Jordan Bender, 5 — The most interesting lineup decision made by Oscar Pareja in the regular season finale by far was giving Homegrown Player and Lake Mary native Jordan Bender his first ever MLS start. The 19-year-old attacker showed plenty of promise with a few impressive runs, but he’s clearly still a very raw prospect. Multiple times the moment got away from Bender and he took a slightly heavy touch or had a slightly late reaction that squandered a potentially lethal attack. He did make one nice cross in the 33rd minute that Dike headed on goal. It wasn’t the a dynamic introduction for the youngster, but it’s very exciting to see the him make his first start.
F, Nani, 7.5 — MLS thankfully rescinded the captain’s garbage red card against Columbus, and the Portuguese superstar delivered against Nashville. He was fairly inefficient and ineffective for much of the game, completing only 78% of his passes and only racking up a single key pass, but he still delivered a moment of brilliance when the team needed it. His 61st-minute free kick goal was the moment of the match for Orlando and looked to potentially seal the three points. Things took a turn for the worse following his substitution, but when his team needed him, the captain delivered.
F, Daryl Dike, 8 (MotM) — The rookie striker has been in impeccable form as of late and that certainly didn’t stop against Nashville. He returned to the score sheet early in the game, capitalizing on a Mueller counter attack with an excellent low drive to the far corner. It’s not a goal that will break the internet, but the class on the strike was excellent from the young man. He nearly grabbed a second with an inviting header off Bender’s cross in the 33rd minute, but a nice save by Joe Willis kept Dike from his brace. For much of the game, Nashville really struggled to contain Dike. His strength, and a surprising show of pace and skill, allowed him to easily get by defenders and put his team in dangerous positions while his holdup play continues to be superb. Dike is quickly becoming one of the better strikers in the league and could become the Lions’ best striker since Cyle Larin.
F, Tesho Akindele (46’), 6.5 — It was a quiet game for Tesho, who came on for Bender in the second half, but it was far from poor. He didn’t create any chances, but his ability on the ball helped Orlando transition from defense to offense. Though he’s a striker by trade, the Canadian has shown that he’s plenty capable dropping into midfield, and against Nashville that versatility was on display once again.
MF, Sebas Mendez (71’), 6.5 — For the second match in a row, Sebas came off the bench to help bolster the midfield down the stretch and he played fairly well in limited action once again. He completed all of his 11 passes including a key pass. His defensive work was solid as well, with a clearance and an interception. He couldn’t help the Lions secure the three points (or one point for that matter) but it was another solid performance from the young Ecuadorian international.
F, Benji Michel (72’), 5 — After his heroics against the Crew midweek, it would’ve been impossible to match that performance, but even so it was a slightly disappointing outing. The homegrown striker only had eight touches in his 20 minutes on the pitch and was a complete non-presence.
MF, Joey DeZart (87’), N/A — It was a cameo performance from the rookie in an attempt to secure the result, but things soured once he came on the pitch. That’s not really on DeZart but he did very little in his few minutes in this one.
F, Matheus Aias (90’), N/A — Pareja brought on Matheus in a desperate attempt to secure the three points in stoppage time, but the Lions were unable to generate any offense in injury time.
That was my take on Orlando’s disappointing end to the regular season, but how do you think the Lions played? Vote on who you thought deserved man of the match.
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match in a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Nashville?
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