Nashville SC play their first match of 2021 today, taking on USL Championship powerhouse Louisville City FC in a preseason friendly. While the match at Nashville’s Currey Ingram Academy training facilities will unfortunately be closed to both media and fans, Nashville will make a fair amount of information public. Lineups and match updates will be sent out from the club’s Twitter handle, and media will speak with head coach Gary Smith and a few players following the match.
The game will be split up into three 30 minute periods, but will otherwise be formatted like an official match. An independent refereeing crew will officiate the match. Smith said midweek that most Nashville players will get a 30 minute run out, with a handful playing 45 minutes.
Louisville City FC
One of the truly elite sides in the USL Championship, Lou City are a perennial contender. They’ve advanced to at least the Eastern Conference semifinals in all six seasons in their existence, and have one of the league’s best rosters heading into 2021.
They’re led by Cameron Lancaster, a familiar face in Nashville. The striker scored 12 goals on loan from Nashville last season, and joined Louisville on a permanent deal after his MLS contract was not renewed.
Assuming Lou City start with a first-choice lineup, we should see their typical 4-3-3 formation. Both Brian Ownby and Antoine Hoppenot can play anywhere across the front three, and as a result their frontline can be pretty fluid. They’ve all been in Louisville for at least three seasons, and have a really good understanding of each other’s movement and positioning.
Behind them, ex-FC Cincinnati duo Jimmy McLaughlin and Corben Bone can both play as pseudo box-to-box options, getting forward in attack while tracking back defensively. Captain Paulo DelPiccolo should play as the six, picking up deeper spots to get on the ball and shielding the back four.
Louisville have had a consistent back four for the last several seasons, with crossing wizard Oscar Jimenez and Pat McMahon taking up the fullback spots, and Sean Tosch and Alexis Souahy in the center. Ben Lundt had been the starter in goal, but returns to FC Cincinnati after his loan spell ended. Goalkeeper could end up being a position battle, with Parker Siegfried getting minutes against Cincinnati, but right now Chris Hubbard should get the nod.
Lou City are coming off a 3-0 win against Cincinnati. They won’t be an easy test by any means.
Nashville’s lineup is a bit of a crapshoot. With three separate groups likely to be rolled out, Smith could well focus on individual pairings and break up the typical starting XI across the match.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’ll just put out what I think is the best lineup, with the caveat that I don’t expect it to be accurate. Randall Leal is with Costa Rica on international duty, but otherwise Nashville should be at full strength. Their XI seems fairly well established from last year, with new signing Rodrigo Piñeiro the likely choice to slot in for Leal.
Without the ability to watch the match, there’s not a ton of tactical information for fans and media to gain from this (or any) of Nashville’s upcoming preseason matches, unfortunately. The key things to watch for are which pairings Smith seems to favor over the next few weeks, as well as which players get on the scoresheet. With a crowded striker group especially, a player finding their form in preseason could give them the leg up to earn meaningful minutes once the season begins.
Additionally, there are a couple players who could try to force their way into contention. Jack Maher saw his path to starting minutes mostly blocked last season, but has plenty of potential as an MLS starter. Meanwhile, Luke Haakenson spent 2020 on loan in the USL Championship, but has been name checked by both Mike Jacobs and Gary Smith as one to watch this preseason. Keep an eye on his involvement.
How to watch
Unfortunately there won’t be any stream and no media reporting from the match, but Nashville SC will post updates on their socials, as well as some video highlights following the match. Head coach Gary Smith and a couple players will be made available to media following the match, so stay tuned to this space for a recap of the action.