Nashville SC return home from Massachusetts with a 0-0 draw against the New England Revolution. Tonight, the Boys in Gold welcome Minnesota United to Nissan Stadium as they play their first match in front of fans since February 29th. What can we expect from NSC? How will injuries affect the lineup?
Saturday night was a night of firsts. Matt LaGrassa earned his first MLS start, with Derrick Jones earning his first start at the forward position. Going up against a hot New England team, it was always going to be a tough ask to get a result, but the Boys in Gold came out with an admirable 0-0 draw.
Nashville SC are still very much in the midst of an injury crisis. The good news is that Abu Danladi is no longer listed as out which will give head coach Gary Smith at least one option at the forward position. The bad news, however, is that Daniel Ríos, Dominique Badji, and David Accam are still listed as “not medically cleared” (there’s some intentional ambiguity with that designation – Alex Muyl came off the bench in New England, despite being in the injury report the day before). Aníbal Godoy joined them on the injury report, after missing the New England match. Smith will have a tough time managing not only an injury laden squad but tired legs after just two days of rest.
Aside from the injuries to the team, one of the biggest stories heading in to this match is the return of fans at Nissan Stadium. At 10% capacity, it will look quite different from the home opener, but could go a long way to adding an extra edge to the players game. Regardless of my personal feelings on the wisdom of the idea, soccer is not the same without fans.
Against New England we saw something a bit outside the ordinary. In the absence of a fit striker, Gary Smith departed from his preferred 4-2-3-1 and implemented a 4-3-2-1 (Christmas Tree) formation with Derrick Jones operating as the attacking focal point. Danladi and Muyl’s return to health should allow Smith to return to his favored 4-2-3-1.
Up top, I expect Danladi to come in for Derrick Jones as the number nine after being injured for a couple weeks. Danladi has spent most of his time out wide for Nashville, but his speed up top will add an additional layer to the Nashville attack. Hany Mukhtar should return to his preferred position in the 10 with Randall Leal and Alex Muyl either side. After being listed as not medically cleared before the New England match, Muyl made an appearance on the bench and came in as a late sub. If Muyl is unable to start, Derrick Jones will slide in as the 10 and push Mukhtar wide right.
In the two holding midfield spots, Brian Anunga should start his second consecutive match alongside Dax McCarty. Aníbal Godoy is currently out (and could be for a few matches), so Anunga should get a solid run of games in the middle of the field. He is a bit more defensive than McCarty, so expect to see him sit a little deeper with McCarty pushing further up the field.
With 14 games played, Joe Willis, Walker Zimmerman and Dave Romney have played every minute of the season and with their being 10 matches over the next month. Will Smith opt to rotate any of them? I don’t think so. I expect to see the three of them continue to play every minute as Nashville looks to battle for a playoff spot.
Minnesota United come in tonight’s match fresh off a 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati. Sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, the Loons have continued performing well after a break through season last year. They come to Nashville in the midst of an injury crisis of their own.
Up until the 2019 Season, Minnesota United had struggled to keep the ball out of the back of the net but acquired Ike Opara and Ozzy Alonso in the off season who shored up their defense. With Opara out for the season, Minnesota have given up goals but are scoring plenty as well.
Adrian Heath’s team plays a mixture of a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. They will look for specific pressing trigger to win the ball back and try to counter when possible. The fullbacks tend to push higher up the field, similar to Nashville, but with Chase Gasper suspended it will be interesting to see how Heath deploys them.
Nashville should match up well with Minnesota, but the defense will have to keep a close eye on Kei Kamara, who could cause problems on the Nashville back line. If Nashville can cut off the passing lanes in the midfield, they should be able to limit the attacking threat. The real question will be if Nashville’s underperforming offense can score on Minnesota’s weakend defense.
OUT: David Accam, Dom Badji, Aníbal Godoy, Daniel Ríos, Jimmy Medranda, Ken Tribbett
OUT: Tyler Miller, Ike Opara, Luis Amarilla
QUESTIONABLE: Greg Ranjitsingh, Ozzie Alonso
SUSPENDED: Chase Gasper
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Ján Greguš
Score: Nashville 1 – 0 Minnesota
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Alex Muyl
Bold Prediction: Nashville is able to create quite a few scoring chances. Davey embarrases us all by cheering in the press box.
Score: Nashville 0 – 1 Minnesota
MOTM: Dave Romney
Bold Prediction: Nashville concede in the 80th minute or later.
Score: Nashville 1 – 0 D.C. United
Scorers: Abu Danladi
MOTM: Daniel Lovitz
Bold Prediction: Lovitz provides the assist on Danladi’s goal and clears a certain goal off the line.
Score: Nashville 1 – 1 Minnesota
Scorers: Randall Leal
MOTM: Derrick Jones
Score: Nashville 1 – 1 Minnesota
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Joe Willis
Bold Prediction: Willis has three extraordinary saves building on Saturday’s match
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Teams: Nashville SC (10th place, 4-5-5) vs Minnesota United (4th place, 6-5-4)
Date: Tuesday, October 6
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: 78°/51°. Sunny. 10% chance of rain. 68% humidity.