Orlando City-Nashville SC Preview

National Sports

Oscar Pareja believes Orlando City SC could benefit from their Leagues Cup exit when they return to Major League Soccer action at Nashville SC on Wednesday.

The Lions were eliminated from the competition, which is contested between teams in MLS and the Mexico’s Liga MX, with a 1-0 loss to Santos Laguna last week.

Orlando named a strong side for that quarter-final match and had chances to win the tie, but Pareja does not expect there to be any sort of hangover at Nissan Stadium.

“Obviously we were frustrated with the result, but the boys played well on the day,” he said. “They showed a lot of personality, especially when creating chances in the first half.

“I think the game will only make us grow as a side. Obviously you’d rather the results, but we showed against Santos that we can play against anyone.”

Nashville face a quicker turnaround in games than their opponents, having only faced D.C. United on Sunday.

Gary Smith’s men won that game 5-2 to move up to third in the Eastern Conference, a point above Orlando having played a game more, setting up an intriguing battle in midweek.

“We’re making nice strides,” Smith said. “It’s lovely to be where we are in the table, but I don’t think anyone is going to be comfortable until we’re mathematically above the line.

“Until then we’ve got lots of challenges ahead and there’s another huge one to come on Wednesday against Orlando.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nashville SC – CJ Sapong

Sapong scored twice in Nashville’s victory against D.C. United and now has eight goals for the season, seven of those coming in nine games since the start of July.

Worryingly for Orlando, the former United States international has five career goals against them in MLS, a tally that he will be aiming to add to on Wednesday.

Orlando City SC – Nani

Former Manchester United attacker Nani has either scored (two) or assisted (three) five of Orlando’s last six goals after netting their equaliser in the recent draw against FC Cincinnati.

He now has 27 goals and 21 assists in 64 regular-season games for Orlando and is good value for his place in the MLS All-Stars team.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Nashville and Orlando each recorded one win in three meetings between the sides in the 2020 season, while the lone meeting in Nashville ended in a 1-1 draw. Both teams scored in all three meetings last season.

– Nashville tied a club record scoring five goals in their victory over D.C. United. The win was Nashville’s 13th straight home match without defeat (including playoffs), the longest active run in MLS.

– Orlando have won just two of their last eight matches (D3 L3) after winning five of six in late May-June. Neither win came on the road, where the Lions are winless in four straight (D2 L2).

– Sapong and Alex Muyl each scored twice in Nashville’s win over D.C. United. It was the first time in club history that two Nashville players scored multiple goals in a single MLS match.

– Nani has contributed to 49 goals for Orlando overall (28 goals, 21 assists, including playoffs), tied with Cyle Larin (43 goals, six assists) for most in the club’s MLS history.

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