Preview: Minnesota United vs Nashville SC

Fresh off a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders, Nashville SC head north to take on Minnesota United. The sole meeting between the sides produced a 0-0 draw back in October 2020, a home match in which an injury-hit Nashville started Derrick Jones at forward. Can the two sides produce a more entertaining match the second time around?

Minnesota United

Current standing: 7th (West) | 0-1-0 | 0 GD
Injuries

OUT: Kervin Arriaga (thorax), Patrick Weah (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Abu Danladi (thigh), Chase Gasper (head), Jacori Hayes (thigh), Romain Métanire (thigh)

The Loons started off 2022 with a solid road point, drawing 1-1 with Philadelphia Union in their first match of the season. Robin Lod found the winner on a precise finish from a Franco Fragapane cutback. Surprisingly, the goal didn’t involve Emmanuel Reynoso, the focal point of this team.

“Most defenses simply target Rey’s ankles and hope he’ll fall off of the ball or cut his run short, but Philadelphia focused on closing the gaps around him to neutralize those passes and cut him off from the final third,” Switch The Pitch‘s Bridget McDowell told Broadway Sports. “He still made two key passes but was held to just one shot himself.”

And while Reynoso is the heartbeat of the team, they have plenty of weapons elsewhere. Robin Lod, Adrien Hunou, and Franco Fragapane scored 21 goals between them last season. DP striker Luis Amarilla was brought back to Minnesota this offseason after a mildly successful 2020 loan spell, and will give the Loons yet another attacking option.

“Yes, Reynoso is very, very effective for them, and yes I expect they’ll try and work through him an awful lot,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “Why wouldn’t you with somebody of that caliber? I think if we focus solely on Reynoso we could find ourselves springing leaks somewhere else, because there’s guys that are just as capable.”

At the other end of the field, Minnesota have turned into a resolute defensive side, a far cry from their first few seasons in MLS. Since 2020, the Loons have allowed 67 goals, with their 1.22 goals per game the 12th-best tally in MLS.

Michael Boxall and Brett Kallman have formed a reliable centerback partnership, with the addition of Tyler Miller from LAFC solidifying things in goal. The Loons have impressive depth at both fullback spots, with Romain Métanire and Oniel Fisher on the right complimenting Chase Gasper and Bakaye Dibassy on the left. While Minnesota finished just one point above the playoff line last year, they have the depth finish much higher in 2022.

Nashville SC

Current standing: 3rd (West) | 1-0-0 | +1 GD
Injuries

None

Nashville rolled out a different look against Seattle, using all three of Dax McCarty, Sean Davis and Aníbal Godoy to clog the middle of the field. With three hard working, more defensive minded midfielders, Seattle was forced wide in attack, and Nashville were able to control more of the ball than they have in the past.

Switching to this system meant that Jack Maher and Aké Loba were on the outside looking in, both of whom played significantly in preseason and are expected to have big roles in the team this year. With seven road games left before Nashville return home, it remains to be seen how they’ll be used. Smith could well opt to continue with what worked in Seattle, sacrificing a more attacking look to raise their floor.

While Nashville will likely pivot to a more front-foot approach and utilize the 3-4-3 shape they used in preseason, it may behoove them to stick with what worked in Seattle. Minnesota are dangerous through the middle. Nashville deployed McCarty in his deeper role specifically to stop Nico Lodeiro (who ended up starting the match on the bench), and he could continue that role to try and neutralize Reynoso.

Gary Smith spoke about Randall Leal’s role in midfield, saying that he could envision deploying him even deeper to give their central midfield group more creativity. Nashville have depth and flexibility now, something they haven’t had before. That depth and flexibility also makes it hard to predict what Smith will do.

Regardless of the formation deployed, Nashville’s principles of play don’t change. This side is build on strong defense, hard work in midfield, and the consistent willingness to win the ball in midfield and quickly get it to Hany Mukhtar in space. It’s worked for them so far.

Pod picks

Andy Simmons

Score: Minnesota 1 – 2 Nashville
Scores: Hany Mukhtar, CJ Sapong
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville score from a set piece.

Lucas Panzica

Score: Minnesota 1 – 1 Nashville
Scorers: Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Nashville effectively eliminate Emanuel Reynoso from the game.

Chris Ivey

Score: Minnesota 1 – 1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Sean Davis
Bold Prediction: Either Mukhtar or Reynoso score from a highlight-reel free kick.

Ben Wright

Score: Minnesota 1 – 1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Sean Davis
Bold Prediction: Sean Davis wins at least eight tackles and completes 75%+ of his passes.

Fan Forecast

Kit matchup

Match Info

Teams: Minnesota United vs Nashville SC
Odds: Minnesota (+120), Draw (+230), Nashville (+220) via BetMGM
Date: Saturday, March 5
Time: 5:00 PM Central, Allianz Field, Saint Paul, Minnesota
TV: MyTV30 (in market), ESPN+ (out of market)
Radio: iHeartRadio Online (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 45°/26°. Rainey. 100% chance of rain. 79% humidity

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