Preview: Nashville SC vs Chicago Fire FC

Last Thursday, Nashville SC picked up a disappointing 2-2 draw against a depleted Atlanta United. Tonight, they look to get back to winning ways as they face a Chicago Fire FC team that has started to round into form. Will Nashville rectify their set-piece defending? Could Aké Loba start? Will Chicago make it three wins in a row?

Nashville SC

After the draw against Atlanta, Nashville has been able to enjoy a longer stretch between matches and prepare for both the game tonight and the coming stretch of matches. Head coach Gary Smith started off the press conference Thursday talking about how important that break can be.

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With the elongate period between matches, Nashville will have had the chance to spend a bit more time out on the training pitch, which has given Smith more time to work with new DP signing Aké Loba. Much of Thursday’s press conference was dominated by questions regarding Loba.

When asked how he was fitting in Smith said, “he’s been able to show what he’s capable of in quite abundance. So really pleased with him. He’s on track and he’s in a good place, and he’s in the reckoning for everything that we’re talking about right now.”

Nashville SC projected XI

Undoubtedly, that brings of the question of how soon do we see Loba tonight? While I don’t think we see him from the start, I would expect to see him get at least 20 minutes from the bench.

Like in Nashville’s second season in USL, Smith utilized more formations than his preferred 4-2-3-1. At times we have seen a 4-4-2 along with a 3-4-3, depending on the circumstances and personnel available. However, there has been a bit of a pattern that has emerged. If the change of formation is successful, he will usually use it again in the next match. If Nashville struggles Coach Smith goes back to his 4-2-3-1. Knowing that, I expect to see Nashville revert back to the 4-2-3-1.

Jhonder Cádiz again made an appearance off the bench on Thursday but should finally make his return to the starting lineup against Chicago. Against Atlanta, he came on and immediately played one of the best through balls of the season to spring Leal. His size and ability to link up with midfield will be important as Nashville will look to play quickly in transition.

In the midfield, Dax McCarty and Brian Anunga will undoubtedly be the pairing going into tonight’s match. Anunga’s performance last Thursday was one of his best for the Boys in Gold. Aníbal Godoy is out with an injury, so the team will need Anunga to continue at that level, especially tonight against a Chicago side that will dictate possession.

At the back, Nashville’s defense has been a bit porous this season, especially on set pieces. If Nashville wants to secure a win tonight they will have to be more disciplined on those set plays against the likes of Robert Berić. With a return to the back four, I would anticipate that we see Dave Romney along with Jack Maher at the centertback positions. Out on the flank, Daniel Lovitz will be out on the left with Dylan Nealis getting is first start out on the right.

Chicago Fire FC

Last Season, Chicago Fire FC were one of the toughest and most impressive teams that Nashville saw come to Nissan Stadium. Their ability to maintain possession and keep ahold of the ball allowed them to negate Nashville from playing in transition. Howeve8r, the Chicago team of this season has struggled quite a bit up until recently.

Through much of this season, Chicago found themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and in contention for the worst record in the league. While they find themselves only three points from the bottom, they are undefeated in their last three, winning two of those matches.

Chicago will be without head coach Raphael Wicky tonight who had to make an emergency trip to Switzerland due to a family emergency. Frank Klopas will be filling in for Wicky and is an experienced coach in this league.

As noted, Chicago likes to dominate possession and dictate the speed of the game. The Fire prefer to play in a 3 back formation that will try to limit opportunities for a team to transition quickly. Against Nashville, I also expect them to try and exploit any set-piece opportunities they can get.

Injury report

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 3 – 2 Chicago
Scorers: Randall Leal, Jhonder Cádiz, Aké Loba
MOTM: Randall Leal
Bold Prediction: Chicago has over 60% possession

Andy Simmons

Score: Nashville 2 – 1 Chicago
Scorers: Randall Leal, C.J. Sapong
MOTM: Randall Leal
Bold Prediction: Leal records over 4 Shots on target

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 3 – 2 Chicago
Scorers: Jhonder Cádiz, Hany Mukhtar, Aké Loba
MOTM: Jhonder Cádiz
Bold Prediction: Loba comes of the bench and scores his first goal for the club

Lucas Panzica

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 Chicago
Scorers: C.J. Sapong, Hany Mukhtar (x2)
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar scores a free kick

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

Kit matchup

Match Info

Teams: Nashville SC v Chicago Fire FC
Power RankingsNashville (4th) vs Chicago (22th)
Odds: NSH (-150), Draw (+280), CHI (+360) vs MGM
Date: Saturday, July 17th
Time: 7:30 PM Central, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
TV:  MyTV 30 (local), ESPN+ (out of market)
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 84°/731°. Cloudy. 15% chance of rain. 82% 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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