Orlando City hosts Nashville SC Sunday night at Exploria Stadium. The Lions are coming off a devastating 3-2 loss to Columbus and Nashville’s last match was a 6-3 win over FC Cincinnati. To say that the Lions’ last home match is an important one is a massive understatement. With that in mind, what does Orlando City need to do to get its playoff push back on track?
Break through the Defense
Nashville has given up a league-low 28 goals all season. On the road, the team has only given up 11 goals all season. What I’m saying is that it is tough to score on Nashville, no matter where they play. That being said, Orlando City has scored three goals against Nashville in the two matches played this season.
Nashville is notoriously hard to break down. It’s a team that is organized and compact at the back, and it will be tough for Orlando City to score goals. The battle between Daryl Dike and Walker Zimmerman will be one to watch. Dike has eight goals on the season, and while the last few have been penalty kicks, when you are scoring goals, you are scoring goals. Dike’s ability to keep that up will be a big factor.
Defend the Counter
When a team is pressing against a stout defense, said team needs to be wary of the counter attack. When that team is an Óscar Pareja coached team, the fullbacks are moving into the attack, and lately so is Robin Jansson at times. With that much defense moving into the offense, managing the counter attack is all the more important.
Nashville has 47 goals so far this season, which is enough to keep the team near the top of the table in the East for quite a bit of the season. Players like Hany Mukhtar, CJ Sapong, and Randall Leal can pose problems for opposing defenses. Remember when I said that Orlando City had scored three goals against Nashville? Well, Nashville has also scored three goals against the Lions this season. Orlando City must stop Nashville’s attack.
More from the Midfield
Orlando City’s midfield was bossed in Columbus on Wednesday and as a result the Crew kept the Lions from getting into dangerous positions. The Lions will need to be better in the middle of the park than they were during the midweek. The likely central midfield pairing will be Sebas Mendez, who was subbed off at halftime Wednesday, and Junior Urso. That should give the Lions plenty of bite. Andres Perea played soft and was too loose with the ball against the Crew and Orlando struggled to get the ball to its playmakers up front.
A little further forward, Nani and Mauricio Pereyra are going to have to play like the Designated Players they are. Great players play great in big games and this is an important one. Pereyra can’t force balls into too tight of spaces like he did in Columbus and Nani can’t disappear from the match as he did that night. It would also help if whoever is at right wing can have a strong game. Those three players will be key because Dike will be occupying the back line’s attention.
Orlando City has nearly no margin for error in the penultimate match of the season. The club must take care of business at home and that means supporters need to show up. The players need to give everything, and the coaches need to have the right players picked — down to the substitute plan. It’s called a club for a reason. Everyone needs to do their part.
Those are the things I’ll be looking for Sunday night at Exploria Stadium. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.