Preview: Nashville SC vs Charlotte FC

Nashville SC will look to bounce back quickly from their mid-week Concacaf Champions Cup exit, taking on Charlotte FC on Saturday night still in search of their first Major League Soccer win of 2024.

Head-to-head

Meetings: 3
Nashville SC wins: 1
Draws: 1
Charlotte FC wins: 1

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Charlotte FC

8th (East) | 4 points | 1W-1D-1L | 0 GD |
Last match: 1-0 loss @ Toronto FC

Availability report

OUT: Liel Abada (no injury), Ben Bender (knee), Brandt Bronico (thigh), Brandon Cambridge (ankle), Tyger Smalls (lower leg)
QUESTIONABLE: Enzo Copetti (thigh)

Charlotte have looked much more cohesive in their first three matches under Dean Smith than they had at any point in their short history. The previous Aston Villa, Burnley and Leicester boss hasn’t done anything revolutionary tactically. Instead, he cleared out the dead wood (namely, DPs Kamil Jóźwiak and Karol Świderski) and installed a simple, no-nonsense and generally effective identity.

Under Smith, Charlotte are very direct. They sit in a compact mid-block and look to hit opponents in transition and on set pieces.

Their system is highly dependent on dynamic wingers being able to not just isolate and beat defenders, but to drift inside and play-make from the half spaces. Iuri Tavares has been one of the early standouts of the 2024 season. After excelling for Crown Legacy last year in MLS NEXT Pro, Tavares has started each of Charlotte’s opening three matches, contributing a goal and an assist.

On the opposite side, Kerwin Vargas has also been dangerous, delivering quality service into the box. With DP winger Liel Abada signed from Celtic and set to join the team in the next few weeks, Tavares and Vargas will have additional incentive to continue their strong form and maintain their places in the lineup.

This is a Charlotte side that mirror Nashville in a lot of ways. On the road, they won’t look to dominate the ball, but instead try to sit deeper and hit Nashville on the break. The similarities are obvious.

Nashville SC

8th (East) | 4 points | 1W-1D-1L | 0 GD |
Last match: 1-0 loss @ Toronto FC

Availability report

OUT: Randall Leal (thigh), Walker Zimmerman (knee)
QUESTIONABLE:

Nashville SC’s CCC run is over, losing 5-3 to Inter Miami on aggregate in the Round of 16. While it’s certainly a disappointment to see their cup run end so early, being freed up to solely focus on MLS, get healthy, and get back to a normal match schedule may not be the worst thing for the Coyotes.

With Sam Surridge and Hany Mukhtar back to fitness, Nashville’s biggest issues are currently in defense.

Walker Zimmerman is expected to miss three to four weeks after a knee injury forced him to undergo what Gary Smith called “a non-invasive procedure”. As the captain of the team and one of MLS’s best center backs, the impact of his absence goes without saying.

The other issue is down to form. Against Miami, Smith opted to play left back Dan Lovitz centrally instead of a healthy Jack Maher, and then brought on Josh Bauer instead of Maher in the second half. After the match, Smith spoke of his frustrations with Nashville’s defending so far.

“I haven’t been totally happy with what has been going on there,” he said. “We’ve been earning results, but too many goals, too much situations that, for our caliber of defending and the individuals that we have there, just being uncomfortable.”

Reading between the lines, it’s hard not to see a lot of this directed at Maher, who has plenty of experience with this Nashville side but hasn’t quite turned into the type of dominant defender Smith’s system calls for. Wednesday in Miami was a surprising and potentially telling look at Smith’s current defensive rankings, with Bauer seemingly preferred. Whether or not that continues until Saturday remains to be seen.

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 3 – 0 Charlotte
Scorers: Sam Surridge (x), McKinze Gaines
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: Nashville get a rare win when controlling more than 55% of possession.

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 1 – 1 Charlotte
Scorers: Sam Surridge
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: A dreadful game of soccer between Nashville’s tired legs and a Dean Smith Charlotte team that will sit back and make Nashville break them down. Both goals come from set pieces.

Christina Moore

Score: Nashville 2 – 0 Charlotte
Scorers: Tyler Boyd, Shaq Moore
MOTM: Tyler Boyd
Bold Prediction: Alex Muyl takes a shot on target.

Jeff Remlinger

Score: Nashville 2 – 1 Charlotte
Scorers: Sam Surridge, Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: We will see Shaffelburg, Mukhtar, Surridge and Boyd start together for the first time this season.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 Charlotte
Scorers: Tyler Boyd (x3)
MOTM: Tyler Boyd
Bold Prediction: Boyd will score a hat-trick, very bold imo.

Fan Forecast

Pre-match quotes

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC vs Charlotte FC
Odds: NSH (+145), Draw (+215), CLT (+185)
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2024
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, Geodis Park, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone, Sirius XM
Forecast: 69°/44°. 60º at kickoff. Sunny. 0% chance of rain. 70% humidity. 2-6 mph wind.

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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