Orlando City eye No. 2 seed with trip to Nashville on deck

Orlando City and host Nashville SC will renew their rivalry on Wednesday to start a two-match week as the playoff field continues to solidify.

Nashville SC (12-9-9, 45 points) clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season with Saturday’s scoreless draw against the Seattle Sounders. They have four regular-season matches to go, while Orlando (15-7-9, 54 points) has three matches left and is attempting to hold onto the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando City defeated CF Montreal 3-0 on Saturday to extend their run of form to 8-2-2 since July 1. Facundo Torres scored his team-best 13th goal and Pedro Gallese recorded his ninth shutout of the year.

The problem Orlando faces Wednesday is a poor history against Nashville. The Lions won the first match between the teams but are 0-3-5 ever since.

“We know that they’re going to be a difficult rival to play against and it’s gonna be a tough game because they’re playing really well right now as well,” Orlando City midfielder Cesar Araujo said through a translator. “But we have to approach this game focusing on what we can do and what we can bring to the game and try and do everything that we can to take the three points.”

Nashville SC continued to lead the league defensively by holding the Sounders scoreless on Saturday, as Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis matched Gallese with his ninth clean sheet.

The club has allowed a mere 28 goals all year. That includes two goals allowed during its current five-match unbeaten run, but it has just one win and four draws to show for it.

“When I said in the pregame that this was going to be a tight one, I didn’t expect it to be quite as frustrating as the evening was,” Nashville coach Gary Smith told the Nashville Post. “Two very, very sound defensive teams from our point of view. Not enough creativity and a fall below the standards, in terms of quality at home.”

Hany Mukhtar, the reigning league MVP, is vying for his second straight Golden Boot award as the top goal-scorer in MLS. He enters Wednesday tied with FC Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta and Atlanta United’s Giorgos Giakoumakis with a league-best 15 goals.

Mukhtar has tallied six goals and five assists against Orlando in eight career matches, counting the playoffs.