157 days. 157 days since Nashville SC last played a competitive game. After seeing their MLS is Back Tournament cut short before it even began, NSC will finally get the chance to restart their MLS campaign. The Boys in Gold travel to Frisco, Texas, for a two match series against FC Dallas, who also missed the MLS is Back Tournament. Here’s what to watch for in Wednesday’s match:
When Nashville kicked off their inaugural season, no one could have predicted the unfortunate series of events. First came the tornados, only to be followed by a global pandemic that put a stop to soccer everywhere; and when it came time to restart the season the squad was decimated by the virus. These two matches against FC Dallas will not only mark the first MLS matches outside the bubble but the first two in a six match stretch as a part of MLS’s return to play plan.
While Nashville has not played a competitive game since that away match against the Timbers, they have spent plenty of time together on the training field. Training is no substitute for competitive matches but the time for the team gel and work on chemistry. Coach Gary Smith had this to say in Monday’s press conference: “If I look at the window of time that we have had to get ourselves ready to mentally and physically prepare for two difficult games in Dallas…I am certainly pleased with the way the guys are looking.”
When we last saw Nashville SC play, they used Smith’s favored 4-2-3-1 formation and there is little indication to think that they will divert from that. With two matches against FC Dallas in such a short span, I would expect more tweaks to come in the second match on Sunday August 16th.
Nashville failed to score a goal from open play in their first two matches and it was widely reported that they were in the market for a DP level striker but were prepared to give Daniel Ríos a chance to prove himself at the MLS level. That chance looks to be this Wednesday against FC Dallas. Behind Ríos, Hany Muhktar will look to create chance from the middle and potentially play as an auxiliary striker in the attack. Out wide, Randall Leal and David Accam will provide speed and creativity as they look to catch Dallas on the counter.
Aníbal Godoy and Dax McCarty will start in a two in front of the Nashville defense and continue their role as the engine for this team. Both players range of passing and vision will allow them to help the Nashville team transition quickly into the attack and also cut out any potential threats to the defense.
This team is built on a foundation of defensive solidity, and Nashville will look to continue that on Wednesday. Joe Willis will start in net with the pairing of Dave Romney and Walker Zimmerman at center-back. Zimmerman, who just signed and extension, has been a consistent threat on the offensive end through set pieces, and could be a big part of Nashville’s gameplan. At full-back, Daniel Lovitz will start on the left, but on the right side there could be a spot up for grabs. Eric Miller started the first two games of the season at the position, but had some shaky moments defensively, two of which contributed to goals. He could make way for veteran defender Brayan Beckeles.
FC Dallas started the season with a 2-0 home win against Philadelphia which looks even better after the Union’s strong showing in MLS is Back. They followed that up with a 2-2 draw against the Montreal Impact. They looked to be well placed going into the tournament but unfortunately the virus had other plans.
Ben Wright spoke with Buzz Carrick of 3rd Degree in his Zoomed N series to take a closer look at what we can expect from Head coach Luchi Gonzalez in this match up. They will try to utilize a high press and catch Nashville SC in possession, and they’ll count on Zdeněk Ondrášek to be able to continue his pre-pandemic goal scoring form.
Two player selection changes for FC Dallas as US Youth international Paxton Pomykal has returned from injury and goalkeeper Jesse González’s contact was terminated after his domestic abuse case. The availability of Poymkal will improve the flexibility that Gonzalez will have when picking his lineup. Earlier this year, they played a 4-2-3-1 . 4-3-3 double pivot that could be effective against this Nashville team.
At the back, Jimmy Maurer will slot in between the posts with Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges at center-back. At full=back, Ryan Holngshead will line up on the left with USMNT up-and-comer Reggie Cannon on the right. Cannon is a fantastic two way fullback who has the potential to cause Nashville SC problems. On the flipside, Nashville could look to exploit the space in behind left by Cannon pushing up the field and Ziegler’s lack of pace.
In midfield Paxton Pomykal could slot in and allow Dallas to play with two more attacking midfielders but would not be surprised to see Thiago Santos and Bryan Acosta as a two man shield in front of the Dallas backline. What Gonzalez does in the midfield will determine the rest of the shape and tactics.
Up front, Ondrášek started off the season with two goals and will look to continue the streak. Behind him, Jesús Ferreira will play as the number 10 with Michael Barrios and Fafá Picault on either side of him.
BEN WRIGHT’S KEYS TO THE GAME
- Finish your chances. Nashville didn’t finish well enough in their first two matches. It’s that simple. They were able to create some decent chances, with Leal hitting the post a couple times, and Ríos and Zimmerman coming close late against Portland. Nashville will need to be more clinical against Dallas to take their first points in club history, and the expected start for Ríos could go a long way to fix that.
- Keep your lines compact. Despite the youth in their team, Dallas has a pretty established identity. Their off-the-ball movement can be killer, pulling defenders out of position and disorganizing the back-line. The experience of McCarty, Godoy, Zimmerman and Romney will be crucial to organizing the defense and tracking their runners. Godoy and McCarty in particular will need to make sure the midfield stays compact and doesn’t leave attackers unmarked in between the lines.
- Use your subs. It’ll be 100 degrees in Frisco. Nashville isn’t cool in the summer, but the Texas heat will be a bear to deal with. Nashville will have five substitutes to utilize after IFAB gave clubs an additional two per match to deal with the congested schedules. Smith said in his pre-match conference that he would pick a team he thought could give 90 minutes without taking themselves out of contention for Sunday’s match, so we may see a bit of a different lineup to start. Either way, we should see all five substitutes used, and potentially early in the match.
QUESTIONABLE: Dom Badji (quad), Jimmy Medranda (hip)
Score: Nashville 1 – 1 FC Dallas
Scorers: Randall Leal
MOTM: Randall Leal
Bold Prediction: Godoy will have the most passes completed into the final third.
Score: Nashville 0 – 0 FC Dallas
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Nashville has more possession but Dallas has more shots and shots on target.
Score: Nashville 1 – 1 FC Dallas
Scorers: Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Aníbal Godoy
Bold Prediction: Nashville gets a late goal from a set piece as Walker Zimmerman continues to extend his lead as the clubs top goal scorer.
Score: Nashville 1 – 0 FC Dallas
Scorers: Hany Muhktar
MOTM: Hany Muhktar
Bold Prediction: Nashville gets their first ever win.
Have a prediction for this week’s match? Vote in our Fan Forecast!
Date: Wednesday, 08/12/20
Time: 7:30 PM, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 100°/80°. Sunny. 10% chance of rain. 45% humidity.