Traveling without leading goalscorer Nani, Orlando City had an uphill climb facing the third best team in the Eastern Conference on the road Wednesday night. However, goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar and the Lions backline stepped up in a big way, with centerback Antonio Carlos scoring as Orlando played to a 1-1 comeback draw against Nashville.
“Good match. Well played by us. I think we recognized in the second half what we were missing in the first,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We were losing some silly balls, trying to play out, which isn’t us. Today we came here to Nashville and tried to do our ways, so as our identity and personality. They were playing defensively and got some counters, which is very dangerous for us. The second half, we were much better. We were smarter on containing those counters, but most importantly said we have that initiative to go out front for the equalizer and even we wanted more. And the last five, six minutes, they threw a lot of bodies to us and we needed to reinforce our defense. It gives you a sensation that they were on top of us, but I think it was just that piece of the game. It’s a good point for the boys again. A good game. I’m content with the effort, so good for boys today.”
Nashville was dominant in the first half, with Orlando making costly turnovers, one by Joao Mouthino leading to a 23rd-minute goal by team leading scorer CJ Sapong. After Orlando was caught out on a counter, Sapong played a 1-2 with Hany Mukhtar to free up space and fire it past Stajduhar.
The Lions did manage to build some attacking momentum as the half went on, with chances coming late in the first half stoppage time. Tesho Akindele got a head to a Mauricio Pereyra ball that was saved by the fingertips of Joe Willis.
That offensive momentum by Orlando carried over into the second half as, after winning a free kick, Pereyra would chip a ball in for Antonio Carlos to head in to draw the game level. The goal marked the second of the season for the centerback, his previous tally coming against Inter Miami.
As the game became more open in the second half, the Lions looked to be more dangerous offensively, taking the upper hand in chance creation. In fact, they almost took the lead in the 75th minute when a Joao Mouthino ball found Akindele in the box for a header that clanged off the crossbar.
Things turned the other way as the game waned on, as Nashville began to push numbers forward against a tired Orlando side. From the 80th minute on the Lions defense had to clear away chance after chance, with Mason Stajduhar coming up with a few big saves and Robin Jansson had a goal line clearance.
After a few defensive subs, Orlando were able to hold on to the point on the road to remain undefeated in their last four matches.
The Lions return home to host the Chicago Fire on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 8:00 pm. The match will be broadcast on FOX 35+ and LionNationTV.
23′ – C.J. Sapong, assisted by Hany Muktar (NSH)
58′ – Antonio Carlos, assisted by Mauricio Pereyra (ORL)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Mason Stajduhar; Joao Moutinho; Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith; Junior Urso, Joey DeZart, Mauricio Pereyra (Chris Mueller 84′), Silvester van der Water (Emmanuel Mas, 89′), Benji Michel (Rodrigo Schlegel, 83′); Tesho Akindele (Ruan, 89′)
Substitutes: Adam Grinwis, Raul Aguilera, Alexander Alvarado, Rio Hope-Gund, David Loera,
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