The postseason begins for both Nashville SC and Orlando City today with a game at Nissan Stadium (8pm ET Tuesday; Live on TV: FS1, Fox Deportes). Can the hosts match last season’s achievement and make it through the first round? Keep reading for a full matchup preview with predictions and betting picks.
Unlike many teams that either started strong and faded away or began poorly but shifted through the gears as the campaign wore on, Nashville SC has been steady from pretty much the word go. Throughout the regular season, Gary Smith’s men, who have a 100% record of reaching the playoffs, were solid. Thanks to an excellent level of team cohesion, the final Eastern Conference position of the boys in yellow was never really in any doubt. The hosts come into this all-important postseason clash off the back three games unbeaten, while they have lost just one of their last nine.
Much of the same can be said for today’s visitors, who for a lot of the campaign looked highly likely to feature in the postseason. They did wobble slightly when losing four on the bounce back in September, but a run of five without defeat straight after ended any playoff doubts. Like the hosts, Óscar Pareja’s men arrive here having been hard to beat in recent times, losing just one of their last nine.
Nissan Stadium a fortress
The hosts don’t win too often, winning six less games than they tied during the regular season, but they will always fancy themselves to go toe-to-toe with any side at Nissan Stadium, where they are extremely difficult to face. Nashville finished the regular season as the only unbeaten side at home in the Eastern Conference, ending the campaign with the third-best goal difference, fourth-best defensive record, fourth-best expected goal difference, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the second-most goals for. Such stats point towards a team that knows how to get results on home soil.
One of the better travelers
Rarely does an MLS side offer an outstanding away-day record. Aside from the New England Revolution, who were simply on a level of their own during the regular season, nobody stood out as being overly impressive on the road. Though the Orlando boys were about as good as it got, picking up a very reasonable 20 points away from the comforts of home. Only four teams in the east lost fewer road games, while only two teams claimed more traveling points.
In terms of goals for, they were the fourth best, and the Lions finished the regular season winning two out of three, losing just one out of four, so they should be quietly confident ahead of today’s trip to Music City.
No secrets between familiar foes
The pair have had no shortage of opportunities to get to know each other this season. This will be the fourth meeting between Nashville and Orlando following three regular-season matchups. Initially, they locked horns at this venue in August and things were tight. In a game that the hosts led thanks to C.J. Sapong’s effort midway through the opening half, there was little between the pair, so it was little surprise that after Orlando’s 58th minute equalizer that things remained all-square. A little over a month later and the pair were back at it, again at Nissan Stadium, where this time, they tied 2-2. Again the outcome was probably warranted, as they fired off a similar number of shots and shared the same number of shots on target.
Finally, in late October, this time at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, the trilogy was concluded, but once again, there was no winner. A 1-1 draw was yet again just about right, even if it was Nashville that offered more in terms of troubling the opposition keeper. The fact that after three renewals of this fixture Nashville lead by just 0.5 expected goals further highlights how little there is between the pair.
Nashville vs OCSC: Where’s the bet?
The home record of Nashville SC is hard to ignore. It’s plain and simple, they are very difficult to beat on their own patch, though do the hosts really warrant being as short in the betting as they currently are when they’re anything but prolific winners? To be honest, probably not. For all they can stop teams, they don’t exactly win with regularity, emerging victorious from only one of their final five home games during the regular season.
At the prices, a bet on OCSC to qualify, meaning that they can win in regular time, extra time or on penalties, offers the most value at attractive odds of +160. They boast one of the better away records in the division, so we know that they are capable of picking up results on the road, while they’ve matched Nashville three times this season, twice at this venue.
OK, they return from either of their trips to Nissan Stadium, but they certainly weren’t outplayed, so much so that they really do deserve more respect from the market. With the sides being so closely matched, such a disparity in pricing doesn’t seem right, even if Nashville has home advantage, so if you are looking for a value play, take the visitors to keep their MLS Cup dreams alive by qualifying for the next round.
Man in form too big in the betting
One advantage that the visitors have coming into this game is that their main goal threat Daryl Dike is in hot form. During the regular season, once he returned from a loan spell at Barnsley in the English Championship, the youngster notched ten times, and he finished the campaign in superb form, scoring in each of Orlando’s final four games.
Such form is hard to ignore, and when we consider that the 21-year-old averages 0.45 expected goals per 90 minutes, it’s easy to conclude that odds of +260 are worth taking. So these are the betting picks and predictions for this Nashville vs OCSC MLS playoff game preview: