Preview: Colorado Rapids vs Nashville SC

Nashville SC’s packed start to the 2024 season continues this weekend. The Coyotes travel to Denver to take on a Colorado Rapids side looking to bounce back from a brutal opening weekend loss.

Colorado Rapids

14th (West) | 0 points | 0W-0D-1L | -3 GD |
Last match: 4-1 loss at Portland Timbers

Availability report:

OUT: n/a
QUESTIONABLE: Ralph Priso (hamstring)

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Colorado underwent a huge change in the offseason. Former Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls manager Chris Armas was brought in to replace Robin Fraser, seemingly a move from the front office to double-down on their lower spending approach with a tactical approach that can win on a budget.

They didn’t spend on a typical Rapids budget in the winter, thought. Djordje Mihailović was brought in as a Designated Player after a frustrating spell in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar. Sam Vines was brought back to Colorado after struggling to adapt in Belgium. USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen was added after playing as Manchester City’s number two mixed in with a couple stints on loan.

The big swings the Rapids took made them one of the more intriguing teams heading into MLS’s opening weekend, and their result was certainly intriguing, but for all the wrong reasons. They looked shellshocked in the first half of their 4-1 loss to Portland, conceding two goals before they even managed a shot. Down 4-0 at halftime, they were better in the second half, although it was really a moot point.

In fairness to the Rapids, every bounce went Portland’s way: four goals from seven shots, despite losing the xG battle 0.46 to 1.53. That’s simply not a repeatable result, and it should give the Rapids a good bit of confidence heading into their home opener. Their first result of 2024 wasn’t a fair reflection of their actual quality.

That’s not to say the Rapids don’t have issues. Portland played through their press repeatedly, often right up the middle. Their backline was exposed by a lack of bite in midfield, and their attempts turn second-ball wins into meaningful chances didn’t really pay off.

Lamine Diack was one of their bigger signings this winter, signed on loan from Ligue 1 side Nantes. He’s the type of midfield destroyer that should fix some of the defensive issues they showed against Portland and could make his on Saturday. But with Steffen looking rusty behind a defense that struggled last season, they’ll concede plenty of chances this season.

Nashville SC

7th (East) | 1 point | 0W-1D-0L | 0 GD |
Last match: 4-0 win vs Moca FC (Concacaf Champions Cup)

Availability report:

OUT: Randall Leal (hip)
QUESTIONABLE: Tyler Boyd (foot), Hany Mukhtar (hip), Sam Surridge (shoulder)

Nashville rolled over Moca FC in the second leg of their Concacaf Champions Cup Round One match, despite fielding a heavily rotated side. Nothing about their win was a surprise, other than the breakout performance from 22-year-old striker Forster Ajago in his professional debut.

A breakout young striker sounds great while Sam Surridge recovers from injury and Teal Bunbury struggles to finish chances, but Ajago’s international status and Nashville’s lack in available international slots means he’s ineligible to play in MLS.

Surridge and Hany Mukhtar may play after being rested in their MLS opener against New York Red Bulls and their midweek match against Moca (both were injured in the away leg). It’s a tricky balance for Gary Smith to strike, wanting to get both players up to speed and in form while also not risking further injury, especially with a massive CCC clash against Inter Miami looming on Thursday.

If either player is able to play in Denver, Nashville will like their chances against a Rapids defense that showed plenty of weakness. But Mukhtar and Surridge are absolutely crucial to Nashville’s attacking output, and it’s impossible not to expect a drop in production if they can’t play.

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Score: Colorado 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar comes off the bench for the final 20 minutes and scores a late penalty to draw.

Chris Ivey

Score: Colorado 2-1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Tired legs and minds from CCC and altitude undo Nashville, as they concede a stoppage time winner with Mihailović scoring his first goal for his new club.

Christina Moore

Score: Colorado 0-2 Nashville
Scorers: Tyler Boyd, McKinze Gaines
MOTM: Tyler Boyd
Bold Prediction: Nashville score twice in added time to win.

Jeff Remlinger

Score: Colorado 0-1 Nashville
Scorers: Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Both teams combine for less than 1.0 expected goals.

Jonathan Slape

Score: Colorado 1-0 Nashville
Scorers:
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Nashville only get one shot on target after giving up an early deflected goal.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Colorado 1-0 Nashville
Scorers:
MOTM: Joe Willis
Bold Prediction: Goals will be scored no earlier than the 85th minute.

Fan forecast

Pre-match quotes

Match info

Teams: Colorado Rapids vs Nashville SC
Odds: COL (+125), DRAW (+225), NSH (+215)
Date: Saturday, March 2, 2024
Time: 8:30 pm CDT, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colorado
TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone, Sirius XM
Forecast: 67°/38°. 54º at kickoff. Partly cloudy. 24% chance of rain. 34% humidity

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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