Leauges Cup preview: Nashville SC vs Colorado Rapids

Nashville SC start their journey in the Leagues Cup tonight against one of the worst teams in MLS. After a disastrous run of five losses and five red cards in six games, this new tournament offers the Boys in Gold a chance to pull themselves back into form. Before we get started, if you’d like to learn more about the Leagues Cup, my colleague Ben Wright wrote a quick FAQ about the new competition. Also, check out “Why Nashville SC must embrace Leagues Cup.” by Chris Ivey.

Colorado Rapids

14th (West) | 19 points | 3-10-10 | -14 GD |
Power Rankings: 26
Injuries / Absences:

Questionable: Lalas Abubakar, Jonathan Lewis
Out: Alex Gersbach, Rafael Navarro (P-1 visa process), Jack Price (achilles), Diego Rubio, Max (removed from team activities)

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The Colorado Rapids are undoubtedly the weakest team in this group. Struggling to find any consistency during the season, they find themselves dead last in the Western Conference, and 27th in the Supporters Shield table. They are only bested… worsted? by Tornonto and Messi’s Inter Miami for the prestigious Wooden Spoon. Colorado has the league’s lowest-scoring offense, and have only scored four goals in their last 10 matches. 

Unlike Nashville, the ‘Pids have already announced two signings this window. First they traded up to $550k in GAM and an international spot in exchange for former Atlanta full back, Andrew Gutman. They’ve also signed DP forward, Rafael Navarro, from Brazilian side Palmeiras. 

Gary Smith seems to get the best of his former club every time these two teams play each other. In two MLS matches, Nashville have come away with the three points on both occasions, winning 3-1 and 4-1 respectively. When Nashville was still in the USL, they faced and beat the Rapids in the US Open Cup 2-0. 

The Rapids are eyeing this tournament to hopefully jumpstart their horrendous MLS form.

“For us, we are looking for ways to turn our season around, and this is certainly an opportunity,” said head coach Robin Fraser. He also confirmed that he will be playing his best available lineup in both games.

Due to visa issues, Colorado’s new DP signing will not be available for the match at Geodis Park. Considering Colorado’s leading goalscorer is currently a four-way tie (involving a center back) with two goals each, it’s clear that Navarro walks into the starting lineup when available.

Outside of the attack, Nashville will have to keep their eyes on Lalas Abubakar and Connor Ronan.

Abubakar is an experienced center back in MLS and has been an important piece for this Rapids team since joining them in 2019. Similar to Walker Zimmerman, Abubakar’s threat is not only his defending ability, but also his attacking prowess. The Rapids make a point to target him during set pieces and he will undoubtedly keep Nashville’s defense busy, if he plays. He’s listed as questionable with an unspecified lower body injury.

Ronan, the 25-year-old Republic of Ireland international has become a main fixture for the Rapids since he was signed in the summer. Starting every single MLS match thus far and contributing with a goal and team best seven assists. 

Nashville SC

4th (East) | 38 points | 11-5-8 | +9 GD |
Power Rankings: 8
Injuries / Absences:

Out: Nick DePuy (achilles – season ending injury list)
Questionable: Jack Maher (lower body)

After going 10 unbeaten in MLS, Nashville gained three points from the 18 available to them. This is one of the worst runs in club history, but thanks to the unbeaten run, Nashville still find themselves in the Eastern conference top four.

With no new signings announced yet, Nashville will be glad to have Aníbal Godoy back from international duty. The Panamanian international plays a vital part in midfield, and his absence has proved to be detrimental for Nashville.

The 4-4-2 diamond has been the preferred lineup until the Cinicinnati match, but that was mainly because of the missing players. With all the red cards occurring in MLS play, Nashville should have close to a fully healthy and available squad. The assumption would be for them to return to the diamond. 

With five red cards in six matches, a lot of questions have been asked of the leadership and professionalism of this team. Veteran players like Dax McCarty, Walker Zimmerman and Joe Willis will need to remind others on the pitch to handle situations with a bit more maturity. Staying calm and not losing their heads should be a high priority for Nashville going forward this season.

Nashville might also introduce or reintroduce some new faces into the lineup. Huntsville City FC’s Isaiah Johnston, Joey DeZart, Azaad Liadi and Joey Skinner have all been included on Nashville SC’s Leagues Cup roster. It’s doubtful that any of them will start or get significant minutes, however, Nashville fans might see their young stars in blue and gold for the first time. 

Lastly, we have to mention Hany Mukhtar. While he leads the league in goals, he has found himself in the midst of a goal drought having not scored in six matches. While the Colorado defense is not necessarily bad, they are also not a defensive juggernaut. Mukhtar will be looking at the leagues cup, and specifically the Rapids match, as a way to get back into form and revitalize the Nashville attack. 

Pod Picks

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 2-0 Colorado
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar (x2)
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville races out to quick lead and steps off the gas.

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 4-1 Colorado
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar x2, Randell Leal, JAcob Shaffelburg
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville concede first and then go on a roll.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 3-1 Colorado
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar x2, Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville will have over 55% possession. 

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC v. Colorado Rapids
Odds: NSH (-160), COL (+390) via DraftKings
Date: Sunday, July 23
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, TN
TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone
Forecast: H86º/L65º. Mostly sunny. 11 mph winds. 0% chance of rain. 49% humidity.

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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