Perhaps the biggest question facing Nashville SC going into the 2022 Major League Soccer season was how they would handle the first eight matches of the season. While the third-year club waited for their new 30,000 seat stadium to be completed, they played their first eight matches of the year on the road, the fourth-longest road trip in MLS history.
Nashville finish their road trip with a record of three wins, two draws, and three losses, as well as roughly 43,000 air miles logged. Despite the reactions on Twitter following losses, Nashville’s 11 points from eight matches is an objectively excellent return.
Did Nashville have chances to take more from the road trip? Absolutely. The loss in Salt Lake and the draw in San Jose immediately come to mind. But you can’t make that argument without looking at the other side of the coin. Nashville won a match in Columbus that they probably deserved to lose, and their wins in Seattle and Kansas City were the types of matches they routinely drew last year.
It’s also impossible to have this conversation without acknowledging that MLS an especially difficult league for the visiting team. Good teams routinely struggle to win on the road, earning three points just 23% of the time. Nashville won 38% of their matches.
It's not a team thing.— JMoore Quakes (@JmooreQuakes) August 9, 2021
MLS since 2015
Home win: 52%
Away win: 23%
No coach can explain it. Almeyda was deeply disturbed by it in his first season.
The ‘Yotes put up historic numbers for a team starting the season on the road.
|Team (Year)||Wins||Draws||Losses||Points per game|
|Nashville SC (2022)||3||2||3||1.38|
|Portland Timbers (2019)*||4||2||6||1.17|
|Chicago Fire (2006)*||2||4||3||1.11|
|Austin FC (2021)||2||2||4||1.00|
|Sporting KC (2011)*||2||3||6||0.90|
|LA Galaxy (2003)*||0||4||4||0.50|
Nashville earned more points per game in their eight match road trip than any other team in league history by a fairly significant margin. They pulled in three more points than their rather modest goal of eight points, only allowed one more goal than they conceded, and are just a single point outside the playoffs with 17 home matches and just nine road trips left on the docket.
As Mike Jacobs noted in his press conference at GEODIS Park two weeks ago, Nashville’s three wins are equal to or more than 12 MLS teams earned in their entire 2021 season.
|Team||Wins||Draws||Losses||Points per game|
In fact, only four teams in MLS last season earned a higher points per game than Nashville’s 1.38 from these first eight games; Supporters Shield winning New England Revolution and Colorado, Seattle, and Sporting KC, who finished in the top spots in the Western Conference.
Nashville’s eight match road stretch has them just one win from their total number of road wins last season, when they finished tied on points for second place with the Philadelphia Union.
|Team||Wins||Draws||Losses||Points per game|
Currently in the Western Conference, only LAFC and the LA Galaxy have a higher road point per game total than Nashville SC, and neither have played more than four matches away from home. Similarly, four teams in the East have a better road ppg, but none have played more than four on the road.
What may be even more impressive is that Nashville finished their road stretch with a -1 goal difference. That’s better than 14 other teams in MLS, all of whom have played at home during that stretch.
While the road trip had its fair share of ups and downs, it’s impossible to deny that Nashville return home to open GEODIS Park in more than competitive shape. They more than survived the away stretch and have put themselves in position to climb the table at home. They’ll need to take full advantage of their home matches, though, and they know it.
“There are a number of boxes that we checked,” said head coach Gary Smith. “The first one was could we put ourselves in a spot where hopefully we can take advantage of these home games. Which, by the way, is not a god-given right.”
Nashville didn’t lose at home in 2021, just the seventh MLS side to achieve that feat. They only won eight times at home, though, dropping 18 points in an astonishing nine draws at Nissan Stadium. With a new stadium, a more regular schedule, and the most difficult part of the season in the rearview mirror, it’s reasonable to expect improvement at home in 2022.
Players and staff have been public about their desire to win silverware in 2022. No trophy is more exclusive than the Supporters Shield, given to the team with the most points during the regular season. Nashville’s 11 point road trip has them firmly in the mix, but it will require a season full of ruthless and efficient performances at GEODIS Park.
Nashville have set the bar high with their first eight matches of the season. Now that they return home, they have an opportunity to put together something special at GEODIS Park. It’s up to them to continue the trend of improvement and challenge for silverware.