NASHVILLE,TN – Orlando City SC lost to Nashville SC 3-1 last night in the opening round of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, ending their playoff journey for the 2021 MLS Season.
Daryl Dike scored in the 14th minute when he headed in a ball served up by Mauricio Pereyra for the Lions lone score. The Goal was Dike’s first in a playoff game and was also the first playoff assist for Pereyra.
The goal was the fifth straight game in which Nashville conceded a goal in the opening 20 minutes of a match, and was the 8th time in 17 games. That stat is surprising, because Nashville is undefeated at home this season.
Seven minutes later, Hany Mukhtar drove up the middle of the field and lofted up a shot from outside the area. The ball deflected off of Antonio Carlos and drifted over goalkeeper Pedro Gallesse’s hands for the equalizer.
“The first goal was lucky.” Said Nashville Head Coach Gary Smith. “It’s a good strike. But if it doesn’t clip the defender, it doesn’t go in. So you got to have a little bit of fortune as well.”
Nashville took the lead in the 74th minute when Mukhtar, who tied for fifth in the league with 16 goals, dribbled 30 yards to the middle of the penalty area with four defenders in pursuit, then struck a low ball past goalie Pedro Gallese.
Orlando scrapped to try to even the score in stoppage time, when The Six Strings added insurance in stoppage time off a long ball from David Lovitz that found Jhonder Cádiz, who was able to make his way in behind the City defense and slot in the finish.
““Obviously disappointed with the result.” Said Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja. “We did many things on the field to be able to advance today, but Nashville took advantage of something that they’re good at in the counters and those counters affected us today and that’s the difference in the game.”
Also, the absence of Orlando’s star player Nani as a starter was noted.
“It was a decision we made over the week.” Said Pareja. “Nani has obviously been dealing with some difficulties, but during the week he was fine and we chose just to bring him in in the second half and tried to get the best of Nani.”
It was Orlando’s first car playoff game and was their second consecutive playoff berth.
Third-seeded Nashville will visit the second-seeded Philadelphia Union in a conference semifinal on Sunday.