Wilder Cartagena, Orlando City edge Nashville SC


Wilder Cartagena scores a stunner as Orlando takes Game 1

Wilder Cartagena thumps one into the top corner as Orlando City wins Game 1 vs. Nashville in the MLS playoffs first round.

Wilder Cartagena scored a sensational long-range goal shortly before half-time and Orlando City held on for a 1-0 victory over visiting Nashville SC on Monday night in the first match of their best-of-three first-round playoff series.

The goal, only Cartagena's second in his MLS career (regular and postseason), gave Orlando its first playoff victory since 2020.

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The Lions' previous playoff triumph came in dramatic fashion, as Orlando prevailed on penalty kicks against NYCFC following a 1-1 draw.

Pedro Gallese made three saves to record second-seeded Orlando's fourth clean sheet during a five-match winning streak in all competitions, while seventh-seed Nashville was held scoreless for the fourth time in five matches.

Nashville has now won only two of its last 14 MLS regular-season and playoff matches, a streak dating back to early July that dropped it from a perch near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Nashville SC will attempt to prevent their season from ending when they face Orlando City in Match 2 on Nov. 7.

Cartagena provided the moment of individual brilliance required to break through Nashville's organized defense in the 41st minute.

Cesar Araujo reached a partial Nashville clearance on the left flank and found Cartagena in space to his right.

Cartagena took a couple of dribbles forward and appeared to be looking to initially pass. But with no defender closing in, he unleashed a 25-yard, right-footed strike that rattled the underside of the crossbar in the top right corner and then bounded down across the goal line.

2022 MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar had the best chance to equalize before half-time when his effort from the edge of the penalty area forced Gallese into a finger-tip save.

Gallese briefly needed medical attention after the play but remained in the match.

Both teams had a couple of high-quality chances after halftime.

Orlando's best came when Rodrigo Schlegel saw his header denied by Joe Willis' diving stop in the 57th minute.

On the other end, Nashville's Teal Bunbury sent in an open header from an excellent position in the 75th minute, but it missed to the left.