Nashville cruise to 3-1 win over Orlando City
Credit: Nashville SC on Twitter

The first round of the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs continued Tuesday night when the Lions of Orlando City took a trip to the Music City to face-off against Nashville SC, who is in their second year of MLS play. 

In the second minute of play, Orlando looked to have had a promising attack when striker Daryl Dike took on three Nashville players, dribbling into the box to find a shot on goal. Defender Walker Zimmerman cut off the attack and was able to start an attack the other way. 

Orlando City had a good look on goal when Benji Michel took the ball into the penalty area. Michel looked for a chance to shoot, but the ball was deflected out for a corner kick. 

Dike gives Orlando the lead

On the ensuing corner kick, Orlando would find the first goal of the game when Dike was able to head the ball past Nashville keeper Joe Willis to give the away side a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute. 

In the 20th minute, Nashville were awarded a golden opportunity to tie the game with a free kick about 27-yards out. ​​​​​​Hany Mukhtar attempted the set-piece but drilled the ball into the rising purple wall, forcing the Purple & Gold to reset. 

Mukhtar levels 

It wasn't long that Mukhtar got his redemption, when the forward recovered a loose ball in the midfield and attacked towards the Orlando backline. A shot from afar deflected off of an Orlando City center back and floated into the back of the net, leveling the game 1-1. 

Nashville would keep the press on after the equalizer, forcing Orlando to play long and holding possession in their own defensive half. 

The home side looked to have taken a late lead in the first half when winger Anibal Godoy pounced on a rebound shot that came off of the hands of Orlando net minder Pedro Gallese, but the far side official lifted the flag to signal offside. Gallese would stay down momentarily as he appeared to have taken a knock on his side, but the Peruvian would stay on the field and continue play. 

Both teams would go into the break level 1-1 after a fiery first half. 

Second half 

It didn't take long for Nashville to create a chance, just only a minute in as C.J. Sapong was able to get a header on the ball from a cross, but Gallese was there to make the easy save. 

The visitors had a plethora of chances off of corner kicks, but could not find the back of the net. 

Throughout a good portion of the second half, neither team had clear cut opportunities to take the lead into the match, but in the 74th minute, Mukhtar was able to get the go-ahead goal for Nashville as he dribbled the ball from 30-yards out, and slotted the ball past Gallese. 

In the 86th minute, Orlando came close to tying the game up late, when a free kick fell to the feet of Tesho Akindele but his shot went just wide of the post and out for a goal kick.

The icing on the cake came from Jhonder Cadiz as he made the game 3-1 with a low driven shot past Gallese in the dying seconds of second half stoppage time. 

Despite multiple attempts for Orlando to claw their way back into the game, it could not be enough as Nashville would take the win, extending their winning streak at home to 19 games. Nashville will go on to play the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The game will be played at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.