2021.08.18 ORL-96

The Audi MLS Cup Playoffs are finally here.  

Third-seeded Nashville SC (12W-4L-18D, 54 pts.) is set to host sixth-seeded Orlando City SC (13W-9L-12D, 51 pts.) in the First Round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night at Nissan Stadium. The winner will move on to face the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  

Nashville SC is back in the postseason for the second consecutive year and will host Orlando exactly one year and three days after earning its first-ever MLS Cup Playoffs win over Inter Miami CF at Nissan Stadium on Nov. 20, 2020.  

The Boys in Gold are the only team in MLS to go unbeaten at home in the 2021 regular season, boasting an 8W-0L-9D record. Meanwhile, Orlando City SC holds a 5W-7L-5D record on the road in 2021.

Here’s everything you need to know about Tuesday’s playoff match:

Date: Tuesday, Nov, 23

Time: 7:00 p.m. CT

Location: Nissan Stadium

TV: Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes

Stream: FoxSports.com or Fox Sports App

English Radio: ESPN 94.9

Spanish Radio: El Jefe 96.7

Back Home Again – Nashville SC finished the regular season with nine of its final 13 matches on the road dating back to the beginning of September. That required a lot of mental fortitude and a different attitude to grind out results.  

Head Coach Gary Smith says he has tried to flip a switch with his team going into the playoffs to recapture the home form that saw Nashville SC score 18 goals and win six of its nine home matches from May 1 to July 31.  

“I think there’s a bit of a mentality shift due to the way the schedule had panned out for us,” Smith said. “As you can all probably imagine, there's a particular type of attitude that you’ve got to take when you go away from home to earn points. We did that. The players were very professional in their approach. But if we are going to win this game, then we’ve certainly got to get back to the way that we attacked games in the opening exchanges of the season. The type of creativity that we had in that spell was certainly most productive.” 

Lessons Against the Lions – Nashville SC has faced Orlando City SC three times this season, all of which ended in draws. The most recent clash at Nissan Stadium came on Sept. 29 in a 2-2 draw thanks to an Orlando equalizer in stoppage time.  

Defender Dan Lovitz says the team can take lessons from that September clash into this playoff match at home.  

“The obvious thing is close the game out,” he said. “All things considered, we say that was a decent home performance to get up in the game and have a chance to win. But at the end of the day, it turns out being something that we’ll look back on and consider that two dropped points. We are going to look to follow that sort of game script as much as possible, try to keep the ball out of our net, try to get up to an early lead or any lead in general then do a better job closing the game out.” 

A Fresh Start – The regular season is done and dusted. The seeds were set two weeks ago on Nov. 7.  

The second season is here, and with such a long break in the action leading into the playoffs, Smith says momentum isn’t necessarily a major factor going into his playoff preparations.  

“It's a one-off opportunity and a unique situation where the game will be over two weeks from the last competitive game,” Smith said. “So where we would normally say momentum and going into the postseason with a win or a couple of wins gives us that real shot in the arm, I’m not sure that that really is the way that this postseason is going to look. I think it is going to be about teams that prepared right, that have worked hard and that have maintained a high level of physical output in this couple of weeks. I know for sure we have. Our preparations have been very thorough, and I expect that this team will come out with a very positive mentality and one that I hope replicates what we did earlier in the season.”

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