United-Orlando City Preview

National Sports

Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja emphasized the importance of his team’s comeback against Nashville SC, with an enticing clash against D.C. United next up.

Daryl Dike’s penalty and a Tah Anunga own goal saw Orlando forge a late fight back to draw 2-2 with Nashville on Wednesday.

It ended a four-match losing run and leaves Orlando seventh in the Eastern Conference, four places – but only one point – behind Saturday’s opponents D.C., who beat Minnesota United 3-1.

“Tonight we saw the heart of our players, the commitment that they have to the Club and with ourselves,” said Pareja after the game in Nashville.

“It is a very important point against a good rival and we take it very proudly. I thought we had the initiative the whole game. We did not want to give it up. This is the way we do it, this is the way we play and the boys were faithful to their ways.

“The whole game we had that initiative that just made me feel that the players are intact and we will keep fighting. We have another match in a few days, but today is important for us.”

D.C. have been in fine form on home turf, but have struggled on the road as of late, going without a win in four away games.

“When we play at home, it is a pleasant environment,” Hernan Losada explained before the Minnesota clash.

“The connection between us and the fans is incredible and we are going to need it.”

Now, Losada needs to find a way to replicate that form on the road, without the fans’ backing.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Orlando City – Mauricio Pereyra

Mauricio Pereyra created a game-leading four chances in Orlando’s draw at Nashville, registering an 83.1 per cent passing accuracy from 89 passes.

D.C. United – Ola Kamara

Ola Kamara is now the leading scorer in the MLS, after he converted a penalty in D.C. United’s win over Minnesota. He also assisted another of D.C.’s goals, and missed a second spot-kick.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Orlando’s 1-0 at D.C. United on May 16 ended a four-match winless run for the Lions against D.C. (D1 L3). Orlando has recorded multiple wins against D.C. in a single season just once, winning both meetings in the 2017 season.

– Orlando has conceded six goals in its last two matches at home (W1 L1), just one fewer than in their first 11 such matches this season (W6 D4 L1).

– D.C. s looking to win three matches in a row for the first time in 2021. It has scored at least twogoals in its last four league matches but has not enjoyed a longer run of games with multiple goals in a single season since August-October 2016 (9, excluding playoffs).

– Daryl Dike scored a penalty against Nashville SC on Wednesday, the first penalty goal in his 13 MLS goals and also the first Orlando City penalty not scored by Nani since the beginning of 2019.

– Kamara scored his 17th goal of the season in D.C.’s last outing against Minnesota, more than any other player in MLS 2021. Kamara has been involved in 22 goals this season (17 goals, five assists), the joint most in the league with Hany Mukhtar (13 goals, nine assists). He also became the first player to score and miss a penalty in a single MLS match since Alejandro Pozuelo with Toronto FC in September 2019 (vs NYCFC).

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