Preview: Nashville SC vs Charlotte FC

Nashville SC bounced back from their worst-ever loss with a staunch defensive performance in Miami, shutting out Messi and co. for the first time since the Argentina and Barcelona superstar joined Major League Soccer.

Now, Nashville take on rivals (?) Charlotte FC at Geodis Park. The Coyotes won the away fixture 2-1 back in May. Can they take a much-needed three points at home and secure the 2023 Southern Championship Belt in the process?

Charlotte FC

11th (East) | 30 points | 7W-9D-9L | -9 GD |
Power Rankings: 25
Southern Championship Belt: 4th | 1W-0D-3L | -5 GD |

Injuries / Absences:

Questionable: Brecht Dejaegere (right thigh injury)
Out: Hamady Diop (athletic pubalgia), Vinicius Mello (right lower leg injury)

Charlotte are coming off a decent week, notching a 2-1 win over LAFC and a 1-1 draw against Orlando City in which they conceded a 88th minute equalizer to give up two points. They’ve been bad at home, winning just four of 13 matches for the 13th-worst home record in the East. Ironically, they’re better on the road, with their three wins good for the eight-best away record in the East.

Statistically, they’ve been one of the worst teams in MLS. Their attacking production is average at best: 1.3 goals per match (14th), 3.2 shots on target per match (27th), 26.2 xG (26th), and 30 “big chances” created (29th). They’re not any better defensively, conceding a league-high 42 goals and 38 expected goals against, the fifth-worst in the league.

Their attack runs through Karol Świderski. The Polish-international DP has shown flashes of brilliance, but he’s hardly been consistent. He leads Charlotte with seven goals and three assists, nowhere near the top-end of attacking producers in MLS.

Behind him, former Coyote Derrick Jones has gone through a bit of a resurgence in the Queen City. He’s played the sixth-most minutes of any Charlotte outfielder this season, starting 19 matches and forming a strong partnership with Brandt Bronico in midfield.

Premier League veteran Ashley Westwood joined Charlotte at the start of the season, and has added some solidity at the base of midfield, and the added addition of Canadian international Scott Arfield has also helped. Ben Bender is one of the more exciting young SuperDraft products currently playing in the league, and Justin Meram continues to produce at a high level. But overall, this is a Charlotte team that has lacked quality in both the attacking and defensive thirds, and it’s reflected in their position in the table.

Nashville SC

7th (East) | 39 points | 11W-6D-9L | +5 GD |
Power Rankings: 11
Southern Championship Belt: 1st | 3W-1D-1L | +1 GD |

Injuries / Absences:

Questionable: Randall Leal (lower body injury), Sam Surridge (lower body injury), Walker Zimmerman (lower body injury)
Out: Nick DePuy (achilles surgery – season ending)

Nashville’s draw in Miami wasn’t necessarily an earth-shattering result, and it doesn’t quite get them back on track after losing six of their prior seven matches in the league. A strong win against Charlotte would certainly do that.

Gary Smith’s side were without two Designated Players in Miami midweek. Walker Zimmerman missed his second-consecutive match with an injury (the club are one of the most reticent in MLS when it comes to injury transparency, referring to it only as a “lower body injury”). Sam Surridge also missed out in Miami, with Smith revealing he picked up a knee issue on the turf at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last weekend. He will hopefully be available to play, but I expect to see him eased in off the bench.

Smith has maintained that Zimmerman could be ready to play tomorrow, but he was left off the latest U.S. Men’s National Team roster because of the injury. All signs seem to point to him being held out and given the nearly three-week international break to recover.

At the back, Joe Willis missed the Miami match with a foot injury. And as he did throughout Leagues Cup, Panicco stepped up, making a couple strong saves to keep Miami off the scoresheet. Smith has avoided consistent rotation in net in the past, but his hand may be forced here. Every time Panicco has been called on, he’s played well enough to deserve another start. Whether or not Smith will give it to him tomorrow remains to be seen.

Nashville need a win tomorrow to wrap up the Southern Championship Belt. Their loss to Atlanta gave the Five Stripes a foothold back into contention. Three points from the Coyotes tomorrow would secure the belt for 2023, but anything less would leave Atlanta with a chance to steal it against DC United on September 20.

Pod Picks

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 4-0 Charlotte
Scorers: Jacob Shaffelburg, Alex Muyl, Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar gets at least two assists, in addition to a second-half goal.

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 3-0 Charlotte
Scorers: Randall Leal, Fafà Picault, Lukas MacNaughton
MOTM: Fafà Picault
Bold Prediction: Hany’s slump continues (but the international break ends up doing him wonders)

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 4-1 Charlotte
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar x2, Jacob Shaffelburg, Alex Muyl
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Charlotte score first but Nashville come back.

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC vs Charlotte FC
Odds: NSH (-135), Draw (+275), NSH (+333) via BetMGM
Date: Saturday, September 2
Time: 7:30 pm CT | GEODIS Park, Nashville TN
TV: Apple TV (free)
Radio: 104.5 The Zone (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 86°/67°. 78º kickoff temp. Mostly sunny. 0% chance of rain. 70% humidity

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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