Five Players To Watch: FC Dallas vs Nashville SC

Nashville SC play FC Dallas again this week, flying back to Frisco on Sunday for the second leg of their series. Head coach Gary Smith said in his pre-match availability that he expects to make a couple changes, but won’t rotate too heavily as his players are in good shape and they have the confidence of getting their first win.

I expect we’ll see a pretty similar XI to Wednesday’s match, with the odd change or two. With that being said, here are the Boys in Gold I’m excited to watch.

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Randall Leal

Leal showed flashes of why he’s a special player on Wednesday. The final product wasn’t there, and at one point he ignored a wide open Hany Mukhtar to go for a speculative shot, but the talent is undeniable. Cutting inside from the left wing, he’s at his most dangerous when driving the ball at defenders with runners around him to open up space. He leads Nashville SC with nine shots (four on target) through their first three games. We’ve all seen it: he’s not afraid to shoot. Sooner or later he’s going to find the back of the net.

Alistair Johnston

Johnston was on my list to watch for the last match, and came off the bench for a solid 23 minute shift in relief of Brayan Beckeles. He’s the third player to play right back for Nashville. The rest of the back four has played every minute. With Eric Miller questionable for Sunday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnston start.

Aníbal Godoy

Godoy has a case to be Nashville’s best player so far this season. Not only does he put in a ton of defensive work, but his passing range really stretches the field for Nashville.

Courtesy Nashville SC

He was key to several of Nashville’s best passing moves on Wednesday, as well as hitting a couple shots from outside the box. He didn’t manage to test the Dallas goal, but he clearly isn’t afraid to try and has a cannon of a left leg.

I know there was a lot of talk that the $650k Nashville shelled out for Godoy was an overpay. Maybe it was. But it’s clear that Nashville have Godoy at the center of their identity, and while that may not be ultimately worth the investment in strictly monetary terms, it’s certainly paying dividends on the field.

Dominique Badji

Badji started Nashville’s first two matches, with Ríos getting the start Wednesday. The MLS veteran had decent moments against Atlanta and Portland, especially when it came to leading Nashville’s press. However, the final product just wasn’t there.

If Sunday plays out anything like the first match, Badji could make a lot of sense for Nashville. He played on the right for a good bit of his substitute appearance, and while I don’t think Ríos should be dropped, Badji out wide would allow Hany Mukhtar to play in his natural role through the center. He’s a hard worker on both sides of the ball, is a strong option in the press, and would allow players like David Accam and Abu Danladi to have an impact off the bench.

Matt LaGrassa

LaGrassa made his MLS debut on Wednesday, coming on for the final eight minutes in an advanced midfield role. He’s not a natural no. 10, but has played for Gary Smith for the past three years and is an intelligent and diligent player who understands the ins and outs of the system.

Courtesy Nashville SC

Obviously there are dangers in reading too much into a single match, much less the first match back after five months off, a match that was in many regards a preseason affair. However, I think it’s telling that LaGrassa was the first option off the bench in midfield. Godoy and McCarty are both on the veteran side, and they’ll need a break at some point this season. It may not happen tonight, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we see more of LaGrassa this fall.

Who are you looking forward to watch? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments!

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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