November 8 is Decision Day for MLS this season, and while the decision has already been made for some (*cough* Cincinnati *cough*), several teams can clinch their playoff spot (Atlanta, Inter Miami), while others can try to improve their position (Nashville).
Unfortunately for your Boys in Gold, they do not have an easy match to end the season. The Lions of Orlando City are one of the top squads in the league and undefeated at home, and they welcome Nashville into Exploria Stadium assuredly prepared to defend that streak.
Nashville and Orlando City have faced twice previously with Orlando winning once with a score of 3-1 and drawing 1-1 a week later. That first matchup saw young striker Daryl Dike score a brace, and he was quite impressive overall. The Lions went up first in the next game, but Nashville equalized through a beautiful passing sequence between Randall Leal and Hany Mukhtar.
Nashville had been thanking their lucky stars to see Orlando City captain Nani sent off with a red card, which would have him suspended for this final match; however, those hopes were dashed as the Independent Review Panel rescinded the suspension for the Portuguese midfielder. Add to that the return of Dike to full strength, and the Boys in Gold will likely face a Lions attack that is at full power.
Nashville also have some good news on the injury front as winger David Accam is medically cleared to play. This is encouraging because he is an excellent attacking option, but also because of some good news. Holding midfielder Anibal Godoy and winger Randall Leal have both been called up by Panama and Costa Rica respectively for the countries' upcoming international friendlies. This makes me and other fans very proud, and I hope that we will see other Nashville players selected to represent their nations. The Accam connection to this news in that Leal will have to quarantine for nine days, which means he would miss Nashville's game if they had to play one of the play-in games as he would, as far as I know, be still under quarantine on Friday, November 20 for that match. Also, Anibal Godoy would be unavailable due to quarantine for a play-in game as well as Round 1 due to playing two games in the international break.
So, if Nashville SC want to avoid the play-in game and get their players more rest, they have to take down Orlando City at home, but that's not all. They also need for New York Red Bulls to lose to Toronto FC, and finally, they need for New England Revolution to lose to Philadelphia Union. Both of those scenarios that are out of Nashville's hands are possible as the teams we need to win are higher than their opponents in the standings. If all three of these things happen, Nashville would jump from 8th to 6th in the Eastern conference, and would skip the play-in match; unfortunately, if that happens, the first round of the playoffs would be a rematch of Decision Day. Does Nashville rest it's starters and just make it to the postseason, or does Gary Smith push for a win and end on a high note?
My stance will NEVER be to just go through the motions. I will ALWAYS push for a win. Moral victories don't win trophies. I hope Nashville pushes for all the points we can get. How awful would it be if we took it easy and lost, and then both the other losses we need happened? So COYBIG! Come On You Boys In Gold! Take it to Orlando, and roll into the postseason on a positive note.