Orlando, FL – Orlando City SC handed Nashville SC a 1-0 defeat in game 1 of the newly formatted MLS Cup Playoffs. They dominated for most of the match and it’s easy to see why they were able to do it.
This has been arguably the best season in the history of Orlando City SC. They broke all kinds of club records, including 18 regular season wins and accumulating 63 points. Also, they finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference standings, and 2nd overall in the Supporters Shield standings. For good measure, they also tied a club record with 55 goals scored. That being said, their first opponent in the playoffs is a very dangerous Nashville SC squad, led by reigning MLS MVP, Hany Mukhtar. Nashville has had a good season in its own right, playing in the final of the inaugural Leagues Cup. They fell in penalties to Inter Miami, led by the 2023 Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi. Still, Orlando stepped onto the field with more confidence than their opponent and a “been there, done that” mentality. They had bigger goals (pun intended) and it showed on the field.
Games against Nashville are usually pretty tight, so it was an impressive showing by Orlando to dominate how they did. Wilder Cartagena was asked about how they were able to dominate Nashville.
“Today we were the more aggressive team. We pressed a lot… So we were able to create a lot of opportunities and finish one.”
Orlando Found An Answer
Orlando was the early aggressor, taking more shots on goal and creating more chances. Rookie, Duncan McGuire had a great opportunity to get the Lions on the scoreboard early. He received a ball inside the penalty area, but he sent his shot to the right of the goalpost.
Nashville created some decent opportunities as well, but between the sticks, El Pulpo has the last say. Last night, he recorded another clean sheet. His dominance in goal gives his defenders the confidence to take chances, which allows the team to press as much as they do. It also allowed them to game plan for Mukhtar and prevent him from running in behind the defense. Hany had a couple of decent runs/dribbles but was mostly quiet throughout the match.
In 41′, Wilder Cartagena gathered a pass from about yards outside the box, took a few dribbles, and ripped it from about 10 yards outside the box. Undeniable. He was asked about the goal after the game and he said that it was “a beautiful goal”, and that he found himself with a lot of space so he decided to “hit it with a lot of confidence.”
— Gustavo Chacon (@onaPSIh) October 30, 2023
The Lions’ Winning Mentality
This Orlando City squad is firing on all cylinders. They’ve only lost three matches dating back through July. The Lions are definitely still the hottest team in the MLS. They’re focused, and Coach Oscar Pareja is a big reason behind their winning mentality. I asked him about their motivation to win, to see if it had anything to do with these matches being more “high-profile” now that there are more eyes domestically and internationally on the league.
“They have a motivation that comes from within the group… They know that (more) people are seeing them, and there is more attention and all these things, but really it comes from within the group.”
#OrlandoCity coach Oscar Pareja, after #OrlandoCity’s 1-0 win, on his team’s motivation playing in the #MLSCupPlayoffs in a season where there are a lot more eyes on the league. #VamosOrlando | #ORLvNSH pic.twitter.com/nKDFWhai5S
— Gustavo Chacon (@onaPSIh) October 31, 2023
Next up, Orlando travels to Nashville for game 2 and the opportunity to knock out Nashville and book their trip to the next round. You can catch that on Tuesday, November 7th at 9 p.m.
📸 Credit: Orlando City