Nashville SC travel to Orlando City tonight to take on the MLS is Back Tournament runners up. I expect we’ll see a pretty similar XI to last weekend’s match, with the odd change or two. With that being said, here are the Boys in Gold I’m excited to watch.
Hany Mukhtar and Randall Leal
Yeah, I’m cheating and including two for the price of one. Nashville’s two DPs have been very involved thus far, but haven’t been able to provide any real end product. Mukhtar’s biggest involvement to date was the set piece delivery for Walker Zimmerman’s opening goal back in February, and they’ve both been inconsistent in the final third.
These players are DPs for a reason. While there has to be an adjustment period, and it’s not been a normal season by any means, as designated players it’s not unreasonable to hold them to a higher standard.
Bottom line is, at some point “flashes of potential” won’t be enough. They have to start producing meaningful results in the final third.
It was a frustrating night for Badji last Saturday, but I think it was one of his best performances yet. He made some really smart runs and pulled Atlanta’s center-backs all over the field, and was let down by the final pass. His work rate and pace are clearly his strengths, and he’s been a big part of Nashville’s ability to press. If he can receive the early, when he’s calling for it, he could cause Orlando problems.
When Ríos got the start against Dallas on August 12, I (and probably most people) assumed that he was taking over the starting forward role. He didn’t light the pitch on fire in his 67 minute shift, but put in some strong hold-up play, and struggled with a lack of service. I thought he’d get another shot in the starting role.
Since that match, he’s played just 10 minutes, all earned in a late cameo appearance against Atlanta. While none of Nashville’s forwards have been lights out, Ríos has been the best in terms of expected goals, racking up 0.377 xG per 96 minutes compared to Badji’s 0.193.
Last Saturday against Atlanta was the first poor performance Zimmerman has had in a Nashville shirt, calling the two goals conceded “pretty unacceptable errors at this point in my career.” The center-back has more than earned a bit of slack, but he’ll want to put in a strong showing tonight to get back to form after a disappointing showing against the Five Stripes.
Nashville have played two matches since Muyl’s signing was announced, and the winger hasn’t featured in either. Due to Covid restrictions, Muyl was required to quarantine upon arriving in Nashville and only began training last Thursday, so playing two days after would have been a stretch.
Nashville’s right flank hasn’t been a strength of the team, and if Gary Smith and the training staff think he’s fit, I expect he’ll be involved in some capacity, whether that’s off the bench or from the start. Nashville paid a good chunk of allocation money to acquire him, and they’ll be eager to get him on the field.
Which players are you excited to watch? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments.