ORLANDO (Florida Sports Wire) – No. 2 Orlando City SC defeated No. 7 Nashville SC 1-0 on Monday night at Exploria Stadium, taking a one-game advantage in the best-of-three series in the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. The series will next head to Nashville for the second match next week. The win serves as the Lions first regulation win in the postseason in the Club’s MLS history, and their second-ever win at Exploria Stadium in the playoffs.Wilder Cartagena was the lone goal scorer on the night, earning his first career playoff goal with a rocket of a strike in the first half. César Araújo earned the assist on the goal, marking his first helper of his playoff career. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese earned the clean sheet, marking his first shutout in playoff history. Gallese made three saves in front of the home crowd on his way to his 12th shutout of the season, extending his Club record of shutouts in a single season across all competitions.
“I thought we had a good game, especially in that first half where we connected much more in the final third and then we created many options. We could have probably been more precise and opened the game more, but the game was tight especially against Nashville. They placed a lot of players in their final third and it was difficult for us to break it up, but it is a task for us to accomplish. We just need to be more precise in that last part of the field, so we don’t need to suffer that much,” said Head Coach Oscar Pareja, “Second half, I thought we controlled the game. We had a couple options and a few options that could have given us more peace to not finish the game that tight. We recognized Nashville was throwing bodies in front and so we became that line of five in the last few minutes and just gave us energy. The boys that came on in the second half, as well, gave us a hand to control the game. Happy for this first playoff win, but we have to get ready for the next one. The series is there [to win], and we will get ready for the next game in Nashville.”
The Lions struck just before the half, with Cartagena collecting the ball in the midfield from Araújo. Cartagena took a few touches and struck the ball cleanly from well outside the box, finding the upper corner of the net, hitting the bottom of the crossbar and willing the ball across the line.
- Wilder Cartagena scored his first playoff goal of his career and the third of the season across all competitions. His last goal before Monday night on Aug. 20 against Chicago Fire FC.
- César Araújo earned his first playoff assist of his Lions’ career and his sixth of the year across all competitions.
- Pedro Gallese recorded his first career clean sheet in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Gallese set a new Club record this year across all competitions, extending to 12 shutouts with the playoff win.
- The regulation win is the Club’s first ever regulation win in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
- The match served as the third-ever playoff game hosted at Exploria Stadium for the Lions and the first since 2020.
- Orlando City totaled 25 shots on the night, the most the team has tallied in any match during the 2023 MLS season.
- Head Coach Oscar Pareja made nine changes to his starting lineup since his heavily rotated Decision Day Starting XI in the final regular season match against Toronto FC.