Preview: Nashville SC v Chicago Fire

Last week, Nashville SC beat Atlanta United by an impressive 3-1 scoreline. Tonight, the Chicago Fire make their first trip to GEODIS Park as they look to get a result on the road. Will the ‘Yotes get another win at home? Or will Chicago be able to keep a surging Hany Mukhtar quiet?

Nashville SC

4th (East) | 15 points | 4-3-3 | +5 GD |
Power Rankings: 6

Injuries / Absences:

Out: Nick DePuy (season-ending injury list)
Questionable: Randall Leal, Sean Davis, Teal Bunbury (all “lower body injury”)

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The schedule for April was a difficult run of fixtures but the Boys in Gold come out of the other side in a great spot. Through five league games, Nashville picked up 8 points from matches that included away trip to Orlando and NYCFC and home games against Atlanta United and LAFC. To top that off, they advanced to the next round of the open cup.

While May looks to be just as busy, the competition gets a little bit easier, in theory, at least. It starts tonight with the Chicago Fire.

In the past few matches, we have seen a shift in Gary Smith’s tactics. The team typically lines up in a 4-4-1-1 that at times can look like a 4-2-3-1. This formation relies a bit more on the wingers to create opportunities out wide and is not too focused on controlling the midfield.

Against LAFC and for stretches against Atlanta, the Coyotes have been in a 4-1-2-1-2 or as most people may know it, a 4-4-2 diamond. The switch has allowed Nashville to have a bit more control in the middle of the pitch while still being able to transition quickly.

At the end of the Atlanta game, there were a few knocks to some key players like Teal Bunbury and Fafà Picault. It looks like everyone except Nick Depuy is available for selection tonight against Chicago. Smith said in his pre-match press conference that Randall Leal had a good solid week in training and is in contention. Don’t expect to see him from the start, but Leal off the bench would be a welcomed sight after missing the last 10 matches.

The biggest mystery in the past few weeks has been the absence of Sean Davis after not being on the injury report. Smith confirmed he had a small issue but should be back tonight.

The most notable change in formation for many is the absence of Jacob Shaffelburg from the starting lineup. Smith has favored Alex Muyl as one of the sides of the diamond. His versatility allows Muyl to function both as a central midfielder and also out wide in the event of a formation change as we saw against the Five Stripes.

That being said, Shaffelburg has thrived in the super sub role, coming off the bench against tired legs. Against Chicago, I expect to see that tactic continue. The Fire have struggled to not concede goals late on and a charging Shaffelburg is definitely not what they want to see.

Chicago Fire FC

11th (East) | 11 points | 2-5-2 | +0 GD |
Power Rankings15

Injuries / Absences:

Out: Victor Bezerra (left upper leg)

2022 was a tough year for the Chicago Fire and 2023 is looking to be a bit more of the same.

They currently find themselves 11th in the table and while they have only have two losses, they have only been able to scrape together two wins.

The biggest issue with this team is their inability to close out games. In just their last three matches, the have given up points late in games including a 89th minute goal to draw at home to the New York Red Bulls and a 90 + 9-minute winner against Atlanta United.

Chicago is going to have to cut out those late mistakes if they want to pick up points at GEODIS.

Against Nashville, Chicago will lineup up in a 4-2-3-1 and sit back in a mid-to-low block. They will look to concede possession and try to hit Nashville out on the counter.

The attack will be led by the ever-eternal Kei Kamara who moved to Chicago after spending last year in Montreal. He may be 38 years old but he still has four goals through the start of the season. He will look to find channels to run into between the fullbacks and center backs as he tries to create gaps on the field.

The main question for Ezra Hendrickson is what to do at the number 10 position. Xherdan Shaqiri was brought in to be the star attacker and fasciliator of the Chicago offense but so far that has failed to materialize. While Shaqiri has struggled with injuries this year, he has yet to register a single goal contribution.

The majority of the chances have been created by 19-year-old Brian Gutiérrez who leads the team with 4 assists on the season. Regardless, if Nashville can control the midfield and cut off service to Kamara, they should have no problem winning this game.

Pod Picks

Andy Simmons

Score: Nashville 1-0 Chicago
Scorers: Fafa Picault, Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville limits Chicago to two shots on goal

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 2-1 Chicago
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville scores a late winner as substitute Randall Leal sets up Zimmerman for the goal

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 3-0 Chicago
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar (x3)
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville takes 20 shots. Chicago takes 7 or less.

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 4-1 Chicago
Scorers: Fafa Picault, Hany Mukhtar (x2), Randal Leal
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville scores more goals than Taylor Swift concerts at Nissan.

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC v. Chicago Fire FC
Odds: NSH (-125), Draw (+260), CHI (+320) via BetMGM
Date: Saturday, May 6
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: AppleTV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 79°/66°. Mostly Cloudy. 20% chance of rain. 57% 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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