Following their win over CF Montreal in the final match of the MLS regular season, Orlando City seemed to have good form heading into the MLS Cup Playoffs.
On Tuesday night, in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal against a Nashville SC team that had not lost a game at home this season, the Lions form faltered as they fell 3-1 at Nissan Stadium, ending their 2021 season.
Two goals from Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar, and a game-clinching goal from Jhonder Cádiz, cancelled out the early goal by Daryl Dike.
“Nashville took advantage of something that they’re good at in the counters,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja told reporters after the game. “Those counters affected us today and that’s the different maker on the game. We will absorb that. I think the effort from the players and the side and their willingness to be as we always asking them, it was there on the field so there’s nothing to regret. It’s painful, but the boys left themselves on the field and nothing we can complain about.”
The win for Nashville advances them to the conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Union.
Orlando were the ones to strike first in the 14th minute, when Mauricio Pereyra crossed a corner into the box, finding the head of Daryl Dike, for his 11th goal for Orlando this season, his 5th goal is his last five games played.
The lead would not last long, as Nashville struck back just seven minutes later. Following a poor turnover by Junior Urso, Hany Mukhtar fired a shot from distance that took a deflection off the foot of Antonio Carlos and looped over Pedro Gallese and in for the equalizer.
After a close call just before the halftime whistle, where Nashville’s Anibal Godoy, scored from an offside position, the teams went to the locker rooms level.
Orlando came out creating good chances, but the stout Nashville defense held firm. In one of those chances came the goal on the other end for Nashville to take the lead. Off the clearance by the home side, Nashville countered the other way with Mukhtar and C.J. Sapong. After Mukhtar got the ball on the right wing, he cut inside as Sapong ran the opposite way, dragging Robin Jansson away from the play and setting up an open shot to bury past Gallese to put his side up 2-1.
The Lions would try to battle back and created some good chances after team captain Nani came on in the 75th minute, but the defense from Nashville held firm.
Nashville would add a game-clinching goal in stoppage time as Jhonder Cádiz got past Antonio Carlos from a long ball and placed it low, ending Orlando’s season.
The Lions down the stretch of the season, only winning three of their final 11 matches this season, making what was a second-place team for the majority of the season have to fight for a playoff spot on the last day of the season. While they have found consistency in making the playoffs for the second straight year after missing out the first six, more needs to come for Orlando City come 2022.
14’ – Daryl Dike, assisted by Mauricio Pereyra (ORL)
21′ – Hany Mukhtar, assisted by Anibal Godoy (NSH)
74′ – Hany Mukhtar, assisted by C.J. Sapong (NSH)
90’+4 – Jhonder Cádiz, assisted by Daniel Lovitz (NSH)
How the Lions lined up
Orlando City XI: Pedro Gallese; Emmanuel Más (Silvester van der Water, 90’+2), Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Sebastian Mendez (Alexandre Pato, 80’), Jr. Urso, Benji Michel (Nani, 75′), Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller (Tesho Akindele, 81’); Daryl Dike.
Substitutes: Mason Stajduhar; Alexandre Pato, Nani, Alexander Alvarado.
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