Don’t sleep on Moca FC

In just 17 days, Nashville SC will make their Concacaf Champions Cup debut against Moca FC.

Moca is a small team from the Dominican Republic with a Transfermarkt value of only $125,000, equivalent to about 18,000 Café Mochas from Starbucks. While Inter Miami await the winner in the next round, leaving many Nashville SC fans already eagerly anticipating a rematch of the Leagues Cup final, I believe Nashville displays some worrying trends ahead of CCC that could point to an upset. These include frequent losses to lesser teams, scoring difficulties, and over-reliance on a single star player. Call them Purdue FC.

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Playing down to opponents

Nashville SC’s performance against weaker teams in MLS has been disappointing. Since 2021, they are 5-3-2 at home against USL teams and teams who finished in the bottom five of the Shield standings. On the road, their record is 4-3-3 against such teams.

In 2023, they played at home against eventual wooden spoon winners Toronto FC, didn’t manage a goal. They drew the away leg. The year before, they were defeated twice by a Houston Dynamo team that earned only 36 points throughout the season.

NSC tends to play at the same level as its competition. They’re the Robin Hood of MLS; they take points from the rich teams and give them to the poor. 

Struggling to score multiple goals

Nashville SC doesn’t dominate opponents with high-scoring tactics, regardless of how many Cafe Mochas they’re worth. NSC’s game plan is pretty straightforward. They intend to sit back, absorb pressure, and strike on the counterattack.

This strategy requires their opposition to be the aggressors, and NSC will exploit their vulnerabilities. However, Moca will have no intention of being the aggressor. Instead, Moca will happily give Nashville possession and hope to score from a set-piece or a fortunate break. This is precisely how to beat Nashville.

In 2023, when the Coyotes had more than 51% possession, their record was 1-3-7, with just five goals scored and 12 conceded. If you want to beat NSC, bunker down, bide your time, and wait for your moment. It will come.

A Hany Mukhtar solo show

As electric as 2022 MLS MVP-winner Hany Mukhtar is, he takes a while to hit midseason form. In the first five games of each season, Hany has one goal and four assists in 20 games.  Both Moca games will occur in the first five games of the season. 

His supporting cast of Sam Surridge and Jacob Shaffleburg are both quality players in transition, but neither looked great in possession last year.  Tyler Boyd seems to be an elite signing, but the lack of chemistry could lead to a slow start when the lights come on and the season begins.  Will Mukhtar and co. be ready for the start of the season? Or will lucky goals from Moca be enough see them through to the next round?

Not a walk in the park

Moca has the quality and playstyle to give Nashville trouble. During their path to CCC qualification, Moca defeated eventual Caribbean Cup winners SV Robinhood at home before being eventually knocked out in penalties after the away leg. Throughout the Caribbean Cup, Moca scored the third-most goals and had the third-lowest pass-completion percentage. The stats suggest they didn’t keep possession and scored most of their goals through quick counter-attacks. If they can replicate that success against NSC, Moca have a shot to advance.

Violette AC over Austin FC. Arabe Unido over Monterrey. Alajuelense over Club América. The previous edition of the Concacaf Champions League featured some historic David and Goliath battles. As we welcome the new era and the newly-named Concacaf Champions Cup, each underdog will look to continue that tradition.

Moca cannot not be underestimated, or Nashville’s CCC debut will be a cameo.

Author: Jeff RemlingerJeff Remlinger, a data nerd from Chicago, IL, fell in love with MLS by watching the Chicago Fire. Some would say he threw his Fire jersey in the trash a little too quickly when Nashville joined MLS. Jeff has a passion for the statistical side of sports, and when he’s not writing about soccer, he can be found watching his beloved Arsenal or Iowa State Cyclones. Jeff can be found @MusicCitySCStat on X, where he shares his statistical analysis of Nashville SC.

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