Following their first defeat in some time, the Nashville SC boys travel to take on Orlando City on Sunday afternoon (3pm ET). At Exploria Stadium, the hosts will be looking to extend what is an already impressive unbeaten run.
As the postseason draws closer, Sunday’s hosts find themselves in a favorable position, sat in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and they are there thanks mainly to a recent run of five games without defeat. Back-to-back wins against D.C. and Montreal solidified Orlando’s position, while recent draws against both the Revs and Montreal again certainly weren’t harmful. However, they did lose on the road against Columbus last time out, which may have dented confidence levels.
The visitors have gone slightly off the boil of late, losing recently at Philadelphia, though they bounced back in timely fashion during the week, while they remain a tough nut to crack. Prior to their defeat in Philly, Gary Smith’s men had gone six games without losing.
Winning with regularity is not exactly what Nashville is all about, but that hasn’t stopped the men in yellow reaching a third in the east. It turns out that digging in, being hard to beat, and grinding out results works. Scoring six goals last time out should also have given the visitors a much-needed offensive boost.
On their own patch, Óscar Pareja’s men have been strong this term, so strong in fact that they’ve lost just two out of 16, which by general MLS standards, is impressive. Only two teams in the east have lost fewer home fixtures than Sunday’s hosts, who’ve collected the fifth most points in the Eastern Conference this term.
They arrive at this point unbeaten in three at home, while they’ve lost just one of their last ten at Exploria Stadium, winning five of the other nine. A recent lack of clean sheets is perhaps a worry, but when it comes to fighting hard on home soil, few teams are better than Orlando, so such a lack of shutouts shouldn’t fool anybody into thinking that the OCSC boys are a soft touch, because that’s not the case.
Defiant on the road
Other than the New England Revolution, who’ve been imperious away from home, collecting a quite ridiculous 34 points, the Nashville boys have been about the best the Eastern Conference has to offer away from home. It sounds strange, but winning isn’t exactly their forte, though they seldom lose, which is why they’ve accumulated the second-most travelling points in the division (20).
Defense has been the key for Gary Smith’s troops, who’ve conceded only 14 goals in 16 away games, which becomes more impressive when we learn that every other team in the east has conceded at least 20 on their travels. The visitors did lose on the road recently, but that was their first away defeat in five games, while were back in business just a few days ago, scoring six times on route to victory away against Cincinnati.
This won’t be the first time that the pair have faced off this season, nor will it be the second. For the third time, Orlando and Nashville will lock horns, and so far, there’s been little between them. Back in August, the pair drew 1-1 at Nissan Stadium, and as both teams fought hard, matching each other for shot count, the tie was probably a fair result.
Much of the same can be said of the game between the two which took place a month later, again at Nissan Stadium. On that occasion, the score-line read 2-2 after the referee blew the final whistle. OCSC dictated the possession, but as the teams registered six shots on target each, and were separated by 0.5 xG, a tie wasn’t exactly unwarranted.
Betting this fixture
The hosts are somewhat unsurprising favorites ahead of this clash. They did lose narrowly in the week, but they probably deserved more from that fixture and certainly weren’t outplayed, while they’re generally very strong at home. However, given that they’re playing the toughest away team in the division, +115 on the home win seems a little stingy.
At odds of +136, ‘Nashville Draw No Bet’ appeals greatly. We know how good the visitors are at digging in and avoiding defeat on the road, they’ve been doing it all season, while they arrive here having found their feet offensively. With attack-minded players such as CJ Sapong and Hany Mukhtar in form, the visitors will always carry a threat.
What’s more, Smith’s men are easily the best, not just in the east but in the whole of Major League Soccer, when it comes to both goals against and expected goals against on the road, and that’s not to be ignored. In fact, Nashville has conceded fewer goals on the road than Orlando has at home, while they also perform slightly better in terms of conceding chances, shipping an average of 0.98 xG on their travels, compared to the 1.07 conceded by the hosts at Exploria Stadium. The difference is minimal, but it’s enough to make you feel that a bet favouring the visitors represents a slither of value at the current prices. So these are the predictions and betting picks for this OCSC vs Nashville MLS game preview: