Preview: Nashville SC vs Philadelphia Union

Nashville SC are back in action for their seventh match of the 2024 MLS season, taking on Philadelphia Union on Saturday night at Geodis Park.

Head-to-head

Meetings: 6
Nashville SC wins: 1
Draws: 3
Philadelphia Union wins: 2

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Philadelphia Union

7th (East) | 4 points | 2W-3D-0L | +4 GD |
Last match: 2-0 win vs Minnesota United
Power Rankings: 8th

Availability report

OUT: Leon Flach (shoulder), Isaiah LeFlore (knee), Holden Trent (hand)
QUESTIONABLE: Andre Blake (head), Mikael Uhre (foot)

The Union have a striking number of similarities to Nashville SC. Jim Curtin is one of the longest-tenured head coaches in MLS, with only Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes serving longer (Gary Smith is fifth on the list). The Union are a perennial playoff team, but have been fairly one-dimensional in their style of play and have stuck with a core group of players perhaps a season or two too long.

Like Nashville, the Union had to navigate a difficult Concacaf Champions Cup slate. They managed to stay undefeated in MLS throughout their run, despite losing 6-0 to Pachuca to see their run end. They’ve also been better in MLS, winning twice, including an impressive 2-0 win over Minnesota United last week.

Under Ernst Tanner they’ve taken a rather restrained approach to transfer spending, generally signing one or two lower-budget players each winter while sticking with the same core. That approach certainly has its limitations, especially as the rest of the league continues to spend, but they’ve been able to supplement their lack of marquee signings with one of the best academy systems in North America.

Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan (older brother of Cavan) have taken a major step forward from rotation options to starters this season, holding down spots on either side of Curtin’s diamond midfield. Sullivan is a direct vertical threat, while McGlynn is already one of the better passers of the ball in MLS at just 20 years old. Nathan Harriel has earned a starting spot at right back this season, making three of the Union’s starting eleven homegrown products.

The Union are an incredibly pragmatic, direct team. With two physical, pacey forwards up front, and with the lack of a truly elite playmaking No. 10, they like to bypass pressure, playing direct from the midfield and defensive lines and winning second balls closer to goal. They’re dangerous around the box, though, with both McGlynn and José Martínez capable passers to find the players they throw forward into the box.

The Union have been one of the most difficult teams to play against in the last half-decade or more. While they’ve shown more defensive frailty this year than in years past, they’re still one of the top sides in the Eastern Conference, and have had the better of Nashville in their past meetings.

Nashville SC

11th (East) | 7 points | 1W-4D-1L | -4 GD |
Last match: 2-2 draw vs Columbus Crew
Power Rankings: 22nd

Availability report

OUT: Randall Leal (hip), Shaq Moore (hip), Walker Zimmerman (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Tyler Boyd (hip), Lukas MacNaughton (hip)

Nashville were much better in their 2-2 draw against Columbus Crew last weekend, bouncing back to an extent from their 5-0 loss to LAFC the week prior. They still haven’t put together a complete 90-minute performance in MLS this season, though. They blew leads against LA Galaxy and the Crew at home, as well as a 2-0 lead to Inter Miami in Concacaf in between. Even their sole win this year saw them cede momentum after going up 2-0 against Charlotte, conceding a goal late and hanging on for a 2-1 win.

Nashville simply have to be more proactive, especially at home. They can’t afford to take a lead and sit on it. It’s an issue that has been a consistent concern since they debuted in MLS, and their routine inability to extend leads has seen them consistently drop points.

Injuries have been brutal for Nashville this year. Against Columbus, five starters missed the match through injury, as well as goalkeeper Joe Willis serving a single-match red card suspension. Lukas MacNaughton and Tyler Boyd could return against the Union, but Walker Zimmerman, Randall Leal and Shaq Moore will all miss out.

The Coyotes still have the depth to win games, especially at home. Hany Mukhtar got his first goal of 2023 last weekend, and partnered alongside Sam Surrige, the pair have looked dangerous if not entirely effective so far this season. They’ll need to continue to build on positive showings and start turning chances into goals for Nashville to truly be a playoff contender this season.

Pod picks

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville SC 3 – 1 Philadelphia Union
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge, Tyler Boyd
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville score twice in the first half, allow a goal shortly after the break, and sustain a ton of pressure before finally putting the game to bed on the counter.

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville SC 1 – Philadelphia Union
Scorers: Jacob Shaffelburg
MOTM: Jacob Shaffelburg
Bold Prediction: Philadelphia Union wins the xG battle by 1.0 or more.

Jeff Remlinger

Score: Nashville SC 2 – 2 Philadelphia Union
Scorers: Sam Surridge (x2)
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: This time, Philadelphia blows the lead, with Nashville coming from 2-1 down to draw.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville SC 2 – 2 Philadelphia Union
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Daniel Gazdag scores two penalty kicks.

Ronan Briscoe

Score: Nashville SC 2 – 1 Philadelphia Union
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge
MOTM: Jacob Shaffelburg
Bold Prediction: Philadelphia allows tons of crosses, and that’s what Nashville is best at.

Fan Forecast

Pre-match quotes

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC vs Philadelphia Union
Odds: NSH (+145), DRAW (+235), PHI (+170)
Date: Saturday, April 6, 2024
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, Geodis Park, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Commentary: Nate Bukaty and Brian McBride (English), Bruno Vain, Andrés Aguilla
Radio: 104.5 The Zone, Sirius XM
Forecast: 63°/35°. 54º at kickoff. Sunny. 0% chance of rain. 64% humidity. 3-5 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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