Orlando City

Hunting Journal | 3 takeaways from the Lions' win over Nashville


ORLANDO, Fla. — From a stressful finish to the celebrations that ensued, Orlando City SC held on to a 1-0 win over Nashville SC to take the lead in the best-of-three First Round series of the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

It took a moment of magic for the Lions to score the goal, but with the Orlando faithful behind them, the team was able to see out the result.

Here are some takeaways from Monday night's match:

Wilder's Wondergoal

Call Wilder Cartagena the "Most Interesting Man in the World" because the midfielder doesn't always score goals, but when he does, he only scores big ones.

The lone goal of Monday's playoff win came from about 30 yards out as the Peruvian stepped into a loose ball in the attacking third. The crowd, in a chorus of voices, told him to shoot, and he obliged with a beauty.

It was unstoppable. It was impeccable. It was an absolute golazo. Smashing off the bar past Nashville keeper Joe Willis to get the Lions on the scoresheet, sending the crowd into a thunderous cacophony of cheers.

It was just the third goal that Cartagena has scored this year: one in regular season play on the road in Chicago, one in the Leagues Cup as a game-winner against Santos Laguna and now, this one.

"It was a beautiful goal," Cartagena said after the game. "Cesar headed (the ball) over to me, and then I found myself in a lot of space, and I decided to just hit it with a lot of confidence, and thankfully, I hit it in a spot that was really difficult for the goalkeeper. You know, I've been trying to do that the last last couple of games, and this one finally came off, and it was a great one."

Grit and Grind

Games against Nashville are always difficult. The team's bread and butter lies in its defensive shape, which can be hard to break down for many teams. The games they play are always low-scoring, and the defense is stingy letting up goals, accruing double-digit regular season shutouts and allowing the fewest goals in all of MLS.

The Lions knew this all too well. Just a few weeks ago, they played to a 1-0 win in Nashville, with Duncan McGuire providing the lone goal in that one.

This time around, Orlando once again had to rely on its defense, holding a talented player like Hany Mukhtar at bay most of the evening. Credit to the entire team, especially the centerbacks, Robin Jansson and Rodrigo Schlegel, for clogging up the middle and being aggressive in their defending. Also, praise should go to the man minding the net, Pedro Gallese. Three saves on the night, all of them crucial, helped the Lions not only get the win but also secure the shutout at home.

Heart of the city

With just a few minutes left in stoppage time, there was a moment in Exploria Stadium that I have not experienced in many years. All the fans in attendance started waving their white rally towels in the air that were given to them as they entered the stadium a few hours prior. The fans got loud, louder than I had heard all night, trying to push the boys past the finish line.

It worked.

"It was amazing," Dagur Dan Thorhallsson said after the game. "I've never seen this before. It felt like 30,000 people in the stadium, and they were jumping and screaming in the end, and for me, it gave me a lot of energy."

From the first minute to the final whistle, the energy was intense. You could feel it radiate out of the stands and into the field. The players fed off it. In just the first few minutes of the game, the Lions were playing with confidence, energy and a little bit extra behind them.

Earlier in the week, Head Coach Oscar Pareja wanted the fans to "bring the energy" for this game, and bring it they did.

"It's just getting better and better," Pareja said. "I hope the entire country saw (the fans) because it was a great experience to see the crowd engaged in the game and giving us so much energy. They become a protagonist for the success of the team, and I was very, very pleased to see that."

Pareja Perspective presented by Heineken Silver | Kiwi's Pub & Grill

Pareja Perspective presented by Heineken Silver | Kiwi's Pub & Grill

Pareja Perspective presented by Heineken Silver | Kiwi's Pub & Grill