After Wednesday’s match against New York Red Bulls was cancelled due to a positive Covid-19 test by a referee, Nashville SC will get their first taste of MLS opposition on Saturday. The Boys In Gold will go up against New York City FC at Tampa Bay’s Al Lang Stadium. As is the case with all of Nashville’s preseason matches this year, the match will be closed to media and the public, and no stream will be made available.
Nashville are coming off a 4-0 thumping of Louisville City, while New York have three matches against MLS opposition under their belts. As with any preseason contest, it’s tough to predict much about the match, especially in a preseason like this without the ability to watch the games. But when in doubt, we’ll predict the strongest possible teams for both sides.
New York City FC
This is the fourth match of NYCFC’s preseason, and they’ve done well. After a 3-1 loss to Chicago Fire to start the year, they’ve knocked off Orlando City and Columbus Crew, scoring three goals in each contest.
Manager Ronny Deila has given plenty of minutes to homegrown defender Tayvon Gray, midfielder James Sands and unsigned SuperDraft pick Vuk Latinovich so far this preseason, with the trio starting each of their last two matches.
Attacking midfielder Maxi Morales has largely come off the bench, but scored and assisted another in their 3-0 win over Columbus on Wednesday.
Striker Valentín Castellanos has filled in as the starting forward with Héber out until mid-summer. He lead the line well for NYCFC last season, scoring six goals in just under 1,500 minutes. While losing their starting no. 9 to a long-term injury obviously was a big blow, having a capable option like Castellanos lessened the severity to an extent.
NYCFC recently signed Chris Gloster, a homegrown from their cross town rivals New York Red Bulls and a former starter for the US U-20 national team. He’ll full a major hole at left back, and depending on how his adaptation has gone, could easily get the start.
Going into the season, NYCFC still need depth. They’ve been clear about that.
In good form and scoring plenty of goals so far in preseason, they’ll be a very different test than Louisville was a week ago.
By all accounts, Nashville looked really good in their 4-0 win over Louisville City, and with a bit more sharpness could have easily won by more. While it’s important to note both the context of the game and the talent difference of their opponent, scoring goals is a welcome sight for this side (even if no one actually saw it).
Nashville will be without three presumed starters. Aníbal Godoy, Alistair Johnston and Randall Leal are on international duty for World Cup and Olympic qualifying. With new signing Rodrigo Piñeiro still adapting to the physical requirements of MLS and Gary Smith, Handwalla Bwana and former Red Bull Alex Muyl started their last contest.
Brian Anunga proved to be a capable MLS midfielder last season, and should slot in next to captain Dax McCarty in midfield. With Matt LaGrassa as the only other central midfielder in the squad, one of the three will likely play the full 90 minutes, barring a tweak in system or another unsigned player getting minutes, although Smith seemed to downplay that possibility.
Striker continues to be a question mark heading into the season, and neither of Nashville’s presumed first-choice players saw the field last match. Jhonder Cádiz and Daniel Ríos each sat out with minor injuries, although at least Cádiz has returned to training and could see the pitch this afternoon.
CJ Sapong got the start last time out, and scored the first goal of the preseason. In reality, he’s probably as qualified as anyone on the roster to be Nashville’s first-choice no. 9, and could very well earn the job heading into the season. He’ll take every chance he can get with the first team to prove he should be the starter, and if he can score a couple more goals in preseason, he’ll give Gary Smith a selection headache.
Dom Badji is another player who’s reportedly looked really good in training, and don’t forget he went into 2020 as the preferred striker. If Cádiz, Ríos or both don’t play today, he’ll also be looking to take his chance and make his case to Smith. If he scores a banger like this in a game, he may just grab the job.
Have a prediction for today’s match? Vote in our #FanForecast poll.
Teams: New York City FC vs Nashville SC
Date: Saturday, March 27 2021
Time: 12:00 PM central, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg FL
Forecast: 81°/71°. Clear. 9% chance of rain. 82% humidity.