Match Preview: Nashville SC v CF Montréal

Nashville SC opened up their season with a 2-2 draw against rivals, FC Cincinnati and are back at Nissan Stadium on Saturday as they take on CF Montréal. The Boys in Gold will be up against a Montréal team, that is fresh off a 4-2 win over Toronto FC. Will Nashville bounce back after dropping two points last week? Will Montreal come out firing again?

Nashville SC

Against FC Cincinnati, Nashville started with their worst 15 minutes yet in MLS, but followed it up with possibly their best 75 minutes. Giving up two goals to start off the match was not how Gary Smith would have liked to see the game start, but he was quite pleased with how the team fought back to get the draw. Against CF Montréal, expect the team to come out of the gate strong and look to dictate the tempo.

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So what can we take away from last week? What did we learn about how this team has evolved in year two? Nashville will definitely look to play at a higher tempo while still covering plenty of ground. Yesterday Smith said, “I looked at some data on the players post game and compared it to the opening game against Atlanta last year, and the average speed and movement were WAY in excess of where we were last year.”

It could have been a case of opening day excitement and the chance to play in front of large crowd again, but I tend to think this is more of an indication of year two Nashville. If Nashville is going to play at a higher pace, expect to see both Alex Muyl and Handwalla Bwana at the center of that.

In the press conference, right back Alistair Johnston spoke about the energy and pace that both Muyl and Bwana bring to the team, and said that going up against them in training every day has forced him to improve his own game. Johnston also talked about his role in helping to facilitate both of their offensive contributions. Nashville’s right side had a ton of defensive responsibilities up against Lucho Acosta last week, but expect that to change this week.

Nashville SC projected XI

We saw against Cincinnati that Smith continued to utilize his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, although it tends to look like a 4-4-2 out of possession. Hany Mukhtar will push up into the second striker position to allow Nashville to transition quickly when they win the back. In the press conference yesterday both Johnston and Muyl mentioned some potential tactical tweaks this week (Smith used a back three extensively in USL) but I think the formation stays the same.

Jhonder Cádiz got started on the right foot last week as he bagged a goal in his first game and should continue as the starting striker. Going up against Montréal, will provide a different look with their three center-backs, but Cádiz’s size and presence will allow him to win balls and lay it off to the three right behind him. Mukhtar had a quieter game against Cincinnati, but should have no problem finding holes in Montréal’s backline. Out on the wing, Randall Leal will start out on the left with a short haired Alex Muyl on the right. Leal put in a huge performance on both sides of the ball against Cincinnati but Muyl was pinned back by a surging Ronald Matarrita. I expect to see him get more involved in the attack this weekend and look to pin back the Montréal wingback

The midfield performances of Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy were quite opposite. McCarty struggle to complete passes at times (only 69%) and was pressed often. Meanwhile, Godoy was at the center of everything, making driving runs, winning the ball back and completing an impressive 94% of his passes. On Saturday, both will be responsible for negating the influence of Djordje Mihailovic. If Nashville is able to cut off passing lanes to and from Mihailovic, they should be able to cut off much of the Montréal attack.

The Nashville defense did not often give up multiple goals last season and will look to bounce back from their slow start. I do not expect any changes to the back four or goalkeeper, but we could see some tactical changes. Up against a team playing with wingbacks could allow Nashville to create miss matches through Alistair Johnston and Dan Lovitz. By pushing up into the attack, they can work with the wingers to push the Montréal wingbacks into more of a back five and open up space in the midfield.

CF Montréal

As good as CF Montréal’s season opener was, it’s hard to think of a team with a worse offseason. They went through a controversial rebrand, saw Thierry Henry resign partway through preseason, and are playing away from home in Florida for an indefinite period. It wasn’t all bad though, as they were able to acquire Djordje Mihailovic from the Chicago Fire as the focal point of their attack. This week’s Zoomed N with Gregory Caltabanis really breaks down what to expect from Montreal this season.

Fc Cincinnati projected XI

At first glance, the result against Toronoto may have been a total shock. But a closer look at the Toronto lineup plus a tough midweek Concacaf Champions League match against Leon makes the result seem less surprising. However, the number of goals scored was a shock. Mason Toye and Romell Quioto have the ability to score, but with just one expected goal total, that level of output is not sustainable.

When Henry departed, long time assistant Wilfried Nancy was given the manager position. Even with a new manager, do not expect much change. “The identity of the club will very much stay the same under Nancy – expect CF Montréal to look to press high up the pitch and be aggressive after losing possession,” said Caltabanis. Nancy will have them lineup in a 3-4-1-2/ 3-5-2.

Up top, Mason Toye and Romell Quito will lead the line and look for service both from out wide and from Djordje Mihailovic sitting in behind. Mihailovic will occupy that space in behind the forward but could at times drift out wide. He is one of the most versatile young USMNT players, with an ability to play as out on the wing, as a 10, and as a deep lying playmaker. His success will define Montréal’s.

Defensively, Montréal really struggled last season and allowed almost two goals per match. That trend continued against Toronto, and could really be exploited by Nashville. Montréal did bring in Kamal Miller from Orlando City, who will add stability to their backline. However they will again be without young center-back Luis Binks. Nashville should be able to find gaps when the wingbacks bomb forward. They just have to convert their chances.

Injury report

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2 – 1 Montréal
Scorers: Randall Leal, Handwalla Bwana
MOTM: Randall Leal
Bold Prediction: Dax McCarty completes over 85% of his passes.

Andy Simmons

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 Montréal
Scorers: Randall Leal, C.J. Sapong (x2)
MOTM: C.J. Sapong
Bold Prediction: Sapong comes of the bench at 1-1 and scores a brace.

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 2 – 0 Montréal
Scorers: Jhonder Cádiz, Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Randall Leal
Bold Prediction: Cádiz scores in his second straight match while Randall Leal pickes up both assists.

Davey Shepherd

Score: Nashville 2 – 1 Montréal
Scorers: Jhonder Cádiz, Handwalla Bwana
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar has two assists.

Lucas Panzica

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 Montréal
Scorers: Jhonder Cádiz (x2), Randall Leal
MOTM: Jhonder Cádiz
Bold Prediction: Roodrigo Piñeiro comes off the bench.

John Sloop

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 Montréal
Scorers: Jhonder Cádiz (x2), Randall Leal
MOTM: Jhonder Cádiz
Bold Prediction: Roodrigo Piñeiro comes off the bench.

Have a prediction for this week’s match? Vote in our Fan Forecast.

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Match Info

Teams: Nashville SC vs CF Montréal
Odds: NSH (-155), MTL (+400), Draw (+270) via MGM
Date: Saturday, 04/17/21
Time: 1:00PM Central, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: MyTV30, (in market) , ESPN+ (out of market)
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 62°/49°. Rain. 100% chance of rain. 76% humidity.

Author: Jonathan Slapeoriginated from outside of Atlanta but has lived in Nashville since 2005. Original member of Speedway Soccer and has been talking and occasionally writing about Nashville SC since the USL days. Self proclaimed official fashion correspondent. Outside of Nashville SC you can find him singing the praises of Jurgen Klopp, discussing the latest in sneakers and soccer fashion with a good stiff drink.

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