Nashville SC, got back to MLS preseason action on Wednesday with in a 1-0 victory over USL side Tampa Bay Rowdies. After a ten day break from preseason play due to cancellations against both New York clubs, just competing against someone not in “Electric Yellow” was a victory in its own right.
The story of the evening (if there was one) had to be the rotation shown from Gary Smith throughout the match. Citing a combination of preseason work load, and very minor injuries, Smith rested Starting GK Joe Willis as well as several prominent attackers. Randall Leal, Alistair Johnston and Anibal Godoy all missed the match due travel with their respective National teams.
Elliot Pannico was in goal for the duration of the match and was able to get the coveted clean sheet earning a nod of approval from Smith. As with the other matches this season, we really have no clue as to the pace of play, though this one certainly seems to have had less chances than the 4-0 victory against Louisville City to start the preseason campaign. The front three was SOMETHING to look at throughout the evening.
A combination of Handwalla Bwana, Luke Haakenson, Alex Muyl, Rodrigo Piniero and an unsigned player filled those positions throughout the match. Haakenson and Muyl (surprisingly) both found themselves in the center forward position for extended periods of the match. In the end, the opening goal from an unsigned player was enough to see out the result for Nashville SC.
The back line was about as you’d expect to start the evening. With Johnston’s absence (well taken, earning his first cap, first start and first goal with the Canadian national team) Eric Miller filled in at right-back while the other three positions were first choice. Jack Maher, Jalil Anibaba and Taylor Washington, all of whom saw important minutes in 2020, made appearances as well.
Looking forward to the rest of the preseason, there are still a lot of questions to be answered. There will be no match this weekend against Inter Miami due to a cancellation on their end. That leaves one remaining fixture in Nashville against an opponent yet to be named.
The biggest position of intrigue heading into the year was the center forward position. So far, we’ve seen limited minutes from new boy C.J. Sapong and none from returnees Daniel Ríos and Jhonder Cádiz. Smith maintains this is mostly due to maintenance, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on between now and opening day.
As for new signing Rodrigo Piñeiro, Smith said sees a lot of similarities between him and Randall Leal last year. Mentioning a new country, learning a new language and playing with a new team, Smith is happy with the growth, but knows there is plenty of work to still be done.
While the time in Bradenton certainly wasn’t everything Nashville SC would’ve hoped for, the team will return home with two victories out of two and one more chance for players to impress before the season kicks off on April 17th. We’ll have coverage for you here, and via podcast the whole way through.