Nashville SC closes out its four match home stand to start the season against New England on Saturday. The Revolution comes to Nissan Stadium in first place in MLS’s Eastern Conference, and look to pose the toughest test yet for Gary Smith’s side.
Nashville SC players and staff have been left frustrated after three straight draws at home.
“I think that the special emphasis is for us to not shoot ourselves in the foot,” said Dax McCarty. “The first two games of the season, we were the architects of our downfall, and our own worst enemy, if you will. We gave the other team the incentive to go and score goals, and to get on top of the game early. And we had to dig out of a hole.”
Nashville has to start the match with more urgency and better tempo. Against a talented New England side, slipping up early will likely prove too much to overcome. At this point, Gary Smith’s preferred eleven shouldn’t change much, if at all.
Smith needs more attacking production from his right side, although the defensive solidity of Alex Muyl and Alistair Johnston has been a positive thus far. The left has been where most of Nashville’s chances come from, with Randall Leal and Dan Lovitz among the best in MLS through the early stages of the season.
While Jhonder Cádiz already has two goals under his belt, he’s missed his fair of chances. With a month and a half before his loan expires, he’ll need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s the man up front for Nashville in the immediate future.
Nashville’s finishing issues have been compounded by the absence of Daniel Ríos. Arguably the best pure finisher on the roster, Ríos has missed every match this season with a right foot injury. Additionally, Brian Anunga and Abu Danladi remain injured, severely limiting Nashville’s midfield depth.
Even without three key players, though, this is a Nashville side that should have the talent to go toe-to-toe with New England, especially at home.
Under Bruce Arena, the Revolution is on the upswing. They’ve gone from unpredictable and underperforming to an elite side in the East, and should be in contention for the top spot in the conference at the end of the season.
They’re lead by Carles Gil, who’s been in MVP form to start the season.
“Carles Gil is one of the best players in the league. He’s their focal point, everything good that they do usually goes through him,” said Smith. “If he has time and space on the ball, you’re in trouble. He’s going to pick out the right pass, and make dangerous chances for them.”
Gil is surrounded by an incredibly dangerous supporting cast. In his third MLS season, Tajon Buchanan has turned into an every week starter and a Canadian international. He caused plenty of problems against Nashville last season, and should go against international teammate Alistair Johnston for 90 minutes.
DP striker Adam Buksa finally appears to be firing on all cylinders, getting a goal early and combining really well with Gil. And New England’s third DP, Gustavo Bou, is arguably the best finisher on the roster, able to start underneath the striker or come off the bench late in matches to add another scoring threat.
The Revolution has plenty of options off the bench, with Teal Bunbury and Tommy McNamara able to change the game late. Their midfield is mobile and will be a handful for Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy to contain. All said, this is by far the best team Nashville have faced yet in 2021.
I got New England’s designations flipped. Boateng and Mafla are questionable, Verfurth and Caicedo are out.— Ben Wright (@benwright) May 7, 2021
Score: Nashville 2 – 1 New England
Scorers: Randall Leal, Dave Romney
MOTM: Randall Leal
Bold Prediction: Nashville keep a clean sheet for 80 minutes.
Score: Nashville 0 – 1 New England
MOTM: Aníbal Godoy
Bold Prediction: Nashville concedes within five minutes of halftime.
Score: Nashville 1 – 0 New England
Scorers: Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Nashville gets its first set piece goal of 2021.
Score: Nashville 1 – 2 New England
Scorers: Randall Leal
MOTM: Randall Leal
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Teams: Nashville SC vs New England Revolution
Odds: NSH (+120), MIA (+195), Draw (+250) via MGM
Date: Saturday, May 7
Time: 12:30PM 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: 64°/55°. 40% chance of rain. 38% humidity.