PREVIEW: Nashville SC vs D.C. United

The Boys in Gold are back at home after falling 2-0 to the Columbus Crew. Tonight they come up against an injury riddled D.C. United team that sits in 13th place. Mayble for the first time, NSC come in to the match as clear favorites. How do we think the match plays out? What can we expect from both Nashville and DC?

Nashville SC

On Saturday night, Nashville SC went to MAPFRE stadium to take on the first place Columbus Crew and for the large part of the game, where the better team on the field. Unfortunately though, Columbus was able to capitalize on a few mistakes and get a 2-0 win. Tonight, Nashville take on a much different team, 13th placed D.C. United who are struggling with injuries.

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Yesterday, the rest of the schedule was released and NSC will face teams in playoff positions in eight of those 10 matches. If Nashville wants to be in contention for the playoffs, they need to win home games against the likes of D.C. United. However, just because the DC sit in 13th we can expect a tough game this evening.

Against Columbus, Nashville found themselves without the services of Randall Leal, David Accam and Abu Danladi; forcing Gary Smith to call upon Alan Winn. In his pre-match press conference Coach Smith said, “Randall [Leal] has been involved the last couple of days and is making some nice progress.” Furthermore, he said that Accam and Danaladi have made progress but will more than likely (now confirmed) will miss out tonight.

Aside from injuries, Nashville will also be without the services of Daniel Lovitz. The left back will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation. Lovitz has played every minute thus far and his absence will force Coach Smith to make changes to his settled backline. The question is, who starts, Jalil Anibaba or Taylor Washington? Anibaba is the veteran option but Smith has never started a right footed left back as Nashville head coach. Could we see Washington get his first MLS start?

Smith should have at least one or two more players available to him that he did not have on Saturday night but the continued absence of Accam and Danladi along with the suspension of Lovitz will force him to be a bit creative. Expect to see the 4-2-3-1 that will at times transition to a 4-4-2

Dominique Badji has been the preferred option up top to Daniel Ríos but against DC, I think that Smith could choose to start Ríos and utilize Badji off of the bench. Ríos should be able to find pockets of space in and look to combine with the likes of Hany Mukhtar, Alex Muyl and Randall Leal. Furthermore, Badji provides pace off the bench with Accam and Danladi out.

Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy will be key to the match as D.C. will flood the midfield with their 3-5-2. They will need to keep an eye on the likes of Yamil Asad and Griffin Yow.

At the back, the big question is what will Smith do at left-back? In the rematch press conference, Smith referenced that the experience and personality of Lovitz will be missed on the pitch. For that reason, I think he goes with Jalil Anibaba. Taylor Washington is stylistically closer to Lovitz but I think experience wins out here.

D.C. United

DC United come into this match after a securing a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC with an 88th minute goal from Griffin Yow. They’ll be looking to build upon that late result tonight against Nashville.

Nashville fans may feel that they are struggling with injuries, but DC’s is even worse. Paul Arriola, Edison Flores, Felipe Martins, Ulises Segura, Mohammed Abu are all out for tonight’s match along with Steve Birnbaum and Russell Canouse being listed as questionable. Coach Ben Olsen will have to get a bit creative with his selection.

When looking at how DC plays, I reach out to Donald Wine II from Black and Red United and Stars and Stripes FC to get some more information. “To borrow a football analogy, DC’s style is three yards and a cloud of dust. Their style of play is not sexy at all, but the idea is to work hard on offense and defense to get results. There won’t be a lot of free flowing play on offense or even quick counter attacks. Ben Olsen wants to emphasize possession and moving the ball methodically down the field. On defense, it’s all about remaining in that shape to make sure all men and zones are marked. Again, it’s not pretty, but keeping clean sheets doesn’t have to be, and that’s always the goal.”

Nashville will have to work hard to breakdown the well drilled United defense but should be able to find some space between the lines. Godoy and McCarty especially should be able to find space and spray balls out to the Nashville forwards. Donald specifically called out exploiting holes in the midfield.

When asked what DC needs to do well, Wine says that they need to score early and avoid going behind early. “Last weekend, they ended a streak of 14 matches of failing to score in the first half.” Nashville’s stout defense should allow them to limit those chances but they will have to be warry of the left back position.

Courtesy of Donald Wine II

With all of D.C. United injuries it was hard to figure out what kind of lineup or formation Ben Olsen would employ. Donald Wine expects them to lineup in the 3-5-2.

“Lately, Ben Olsen has gone with a 3-5-2 that looks more like a 3-2-3-2. His healthy lineup is more of a 4-5-1, but we don’t have a lot of the players available to make that work. With Abu now out for the rest of the regular season, he doesn’t have the 2nd defensive midfielder for a 3-2-3-2. So, he probably opts for a 3-5-2 with 2 flanks operating as wingbacks. Assuming those who were previously injured don’t make the trip, and due to new acquisition Yordy Reyna not yet being available, expect a makeshift lineup that looks something like this”


Nashville SC

OUT: Abu Danladi, David Accam, Jimmy Medranda, Ken Tribbett
SUSPENDED: Daniel Lovitz (Yellow Card Accumulation)

D.C. United

OUT: Paul Arriola, Edison Flores, Felipe Martins, Ulises Segura, Mohammed Abu
QUESTIONABLE: Steve Birnbaum, Russell Canouse


Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2 – 1 D.C. United
Scorers: Alex Muyl, Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Alex Muyl
Bold Prediction: Nashville controls at least 55% of possession.

Andy Simmons

Score: Nashville 1 – 0 D.C. United
Scorers: Dominique Badji
MOTM: Dax McCarty
Bold Prediction: Badji scores a late winner

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 3 – 0 D.C. United
Scorers: Randall Leal, Alex Muyl, Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville look imperious the entire match keeping a clean sheet and seeing Daniel Ríos get his first goal.

Davey Shepherd

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 D.C. United
Scorers: Alex Muyl, Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville bosses the pitch in their first time out as the clear favorite.

John Sloop

Score: Nashville 2 – 1 D.C. United
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar (x2)
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: D.C.’s only goal is a penalty

Have a prediction for this week’s match? Vote in our Fan Forecast.


Teams: Nashville SC (9th place, 3-3-5) vs D.C. United (13th place, 2-5-4)
Date: Wednesday, 09/23/20
Time: 7:30 PM Central, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: MyTV30, ESPN+ (out of market)
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 68°/59°. Rain. 80% chance of rain. 68% humidity.

Author: Jonathan Slapeoriginated from outside of Atlanta but has lived in Nashville since 2005. Original member of Speedway Soccer and has been talking and occasionally writing about Nashville SC since the USL days. Self proclaimed official fashion correspondent. Outside of Nashville SC you can find him singing the praises of Jurgen Klopp, discussing the latest in sneakers and soccer fashion with a good stiff drink.

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