Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Well, I've heard that Decision Day is always exciting. This was my first one, and it did not disappoint! Nashville SC came into the match against strong side Orlando SC at their home where they had been undefeated all season. Nashville not only needed to accomplish the tough task of beating Orlando at home, as well as needing New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls to lose against top squads Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC respectively. Union did their job winning 2-0, but Red Bulls shocked Toronto 2-1. That left the Boys in Gold to take care of business.
Gary Smith returned to the typical 4-2-3-1 formation that he had used for the majority of the season with Anibal Godoy and captain Dax McCarty as the holding midfielders; however, Hany Mukhtar did not start at the number 10 spot. Instead, Smith opted for Derrick Jones as attacking midfielder with Daniel Rios as the lone striker. Both Mukhtar and striker Jhonder Cadiz were available, but would they be given the chance to help their team?
Orlando City came out strong, pressing Nashville SC high up the field. Normally, it's the Boys in Gold who press early in hopes of getting an early goal and turning the game in their favor. This day, the Lions played that role and played it well. Young striker Daryl Dike, fresh off the Injury Report, received the ball in the right side of the Nashville box and slotted home the goal to Joe Willis' far post in the fourth minute. Nashville was officially on their heels.
Fortunately for the visitors, set pieces had been their strength throughout the season, and in the 20th minute, off of a corner that wasn't quite cleared, left back Daniel Lovitz took not one, but two strikes on goal, the second ricocheting off of the near post and past keeper Brian Rowe. Level at one goal a piece, Nashville went into halftime knowing that they had work to do in the second half. It would only get harder.
Orlando City captain Nani, the Portuguese DP who has already secured his legendary status in world football for his national team as well as Premier League side Manchester United during their heyday, was feeling good about being allowed to play in this match after having the red card he was given in the previous match rescinded. In my opinion, as much as I was looking forward to not having to worry about his creativity in this match, this was the correct call as I disagreed with the red card to begin. Regardless, Nani played the first half, as well as much of the game, in the pocket of rookie defender Alistair Johnston, who corralled the captain and limited his production. His only shot on goal came in the 62nd minute from a world-class free kick that flew past Willis into the top corner.
Down 2-1 with less than half an hour left, Nashville turned to Hany Mukhtar, who subbed in for Jones in the 76th minute. Immediately, Nashville looked brighter in the attacking half. In the 88th minute, winger Alex Muyl crossed a ball from the left side into the box. Both Mukhtar and Cadiz, who had subbed in at halftime, went up for it, but the ball hit the back of the net off the head of the German midfielder. The game was tied again, but Nashville needed all three points. Five minutes later, in the third minute of stoppage time, Mukhtar sent in a free kick that was headed in by Cadiz to seal the deal for the Boys in Gold.
With two out of three of Nashville's results going their way, they moved up to 7th place and will host the other expansion side, Inter Miami CF, who dispatched woeful FC Cincinnati 2-1, on Friday, November 20th at 8 p.m. Central. Nashville and Miami have played twice this season with the teams ending 0-0 in Ft. Lauderdale and Nashville winning 1-0 at home. It was announced Monday morning that Godoy would not play with his home nation of Panama during the International break as he would be nursing a hamstring injury in Nashville. This means, if he is healthy, that Godoy would be available for the play-in game against Inter Miami where he would've been still in quarantine had he travelled. Randall Leal is still set to play for Costa Rice during the break and will miss the November 20th match for Nashville. For more on Nashville SC, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @NSCGoldenBoy.