Preview: Moca FC vs Nashville SC (CCC)

Nashville SC make their Concacaf Champions Cup debut tomorrow night. They’ll take on Moca FC, a club from the Dominican Republic who are also making their continental debut. Here’s what to expect from the match.

Moca FC

Moca are making their Concacaf debut after finishing in third place in the 2023 Concacaf Carribean Cup. One of the oldest clubs in the Dominican Republic, Moca were founded in 1971 and were dominant in the Dominican Republic’s amateur and semi-professional leagues.

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In 2015 the LDF Banco Popular launched, bringing top-flight professional soccer to the country. Moca have never won a domestic championship, coming just short in 2023 with a loss to rivals Cibao FC.

Moca will be heavy underdogs against Nashville, with the visitors expected to control the bulk of possession. They’re well disciplined and comfortable staying compact and absorbing pressure, and can be dangerous on the counter if allowed to break. This will probably sound quite familiar to Nashville readers.

55-year-old Uruguayan Maximiliano Viera was brought in as manager and technical director this January. The former Qatar national team assistant has a history in youth development, and while it’s hard to find too many in-depth details on his tactics, he has used a 3-4-1-2 extensively in the past, playing in a low block and looking to hit opponents in transition.

While TransferMarkt values are an incomplete way to compare teams, in this case it shows just how much of an underdog Moca are. TransferMarkt estimates Moca’s entire squad value at €225,000. It’s a stark contrast to Nashville SC’s value of €43,850,000, with 23 players holding estimated values higher than Moca’s entire squad.

Bigger upsets have happened in Concacaf Champions Cup. In fact, one happened at this very stadium last year, when Haitian outfit Violette AC knocked out Austin FC, despite playing in a different country due to political unrest. Despite being the heavy favorites, Nashville can’t take this side lightly.

Moca’s home venue isn’t up to Concacaf’s requirements for hosting. As a result, the match will be hosted in nearby Santiago, the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic. The match will be played at the Estadio Cibao FC, an 8,000 seat venue and the home of Moca’s rivals Cibao FC. It’s also the home of the famous tree.

Nashville SC

The Coyotes are the hefty favorites in their Concacaf debut, but it doesn’t sound like head coach Gary Smith plans on taking any chances in the first leg.

“Make no mistake, there will be no one taking this game lightly,” he said before the match. “That will be reflected in the group that goes out tomorrow.”

With Dan Lovitz and Walker Zimmerman still likely out as they work back from injury, Smith doesn’t quite have a full squad to select from, but it’s close. Taylor Washington and Lukas MacNaughton will slot into the backline with no issue.

The larger questions come further up the pitch. Dru Yearwood seems more suited to this type of match than Sean Davis, with his ability to carry the ball through pressure an asset against a compact defense.

Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge could certainly use a strong showing to get their 2024 campaigns off on a good note. After closing out 2023 in an attacking rut, Nashville are counting on the pair of Designated Players to carry the attack and bring consistent production in the final third. A couple goals in their opening match would go a long way.

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Score: Moca 0-2 Nashville
Scorers: Sam Surridge, McKinze Gaines
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville take double Moca’s total shots.

Chris Ivey

Score: Moca 1-2 Nashville
Scorers: Sam Surridge (x2)
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: Nashville finishes with over 66.6% possession.

Christina Moore

Score: Moca 1-2 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Tyler Boyd
MOTM: Tyler Boyd
Bold Prediction: Gary Smith makes a substitution before the 80th minute.

Jonathan Slape

Bold Prediction:

Valair Shabilla

Score: Moca 1-3 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge, Jacob Shaffelburg
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville will score all their goals in the first half.

Fan forecast

Pre-match Presser

Match info

Teams: Moca FC πŸ‡©πŸ‡΄ vs Nashville SC πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
Date: Wednesday, February 22
Time: 6:00 pm CDT, Estadio Cibao FC, Santiago de los Caballeros, Santiago, Dominican Republic
Forecast: 81Β°/58Β°. Sunny. 0-5% chance of rain. 90% 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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