Preview: Nashville SC vs San Jose Earthquakes

It has been a tough season thus far for Nashville SC, only a few teams have had a worst 2024 MLS season, one of those is the San Jose Earthquakes. With both of these teams desperately looking to jump start their season, Saturday night should produce some entertaining soccer. 

Head-to-head

San Jose Earthquakes

14th (West) | 3 points | 1W-0D-8L | -11 GD |
Last match: 4-3 loss @ LA Galaxy
Power Rankings: 28th

Availability report

QUESTIONABLE: Alfredo Morales (lower body)
OUT: Daniel Britto (lower Body), JT Marcinkowski (knee) Bruno Wilson (lower Body)

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There is no way around it, the San Jose Earthquakes are having a disastrous season. Other than one home win against shockingly bottom-dwellers, the Seattle Sounders, the Quakes have lost every game. Their manager, Luchi Gonzalez, is sitting in the hottest seat in MLS.

San Jose lost some big pieces last offseason. Starting with 19-year-old USMNT player, Cade Cowell, who was sold to Chivas for around $4 million. Also, defenders Miguel Trauco and Jonathan Mensah, as well as midfielder Jamiro Monteiro all left the club after the conclusion of their contract. All four of those players played over 1,500 MLS minutes last season.

They’ve made some signings to replace those pieces like Brazilian defender Rodrigues, prolific left winger Amahl Pellegrino and designated player Hernán López Muñoz (has not featured yet). However, those signings don’t seem to be enough as the struggles on the pitch are evident.

Starting at the back, San Jose’s goalkeeper was a guarantee coming into the season. Daniel, the Brazilian 28-year-old was one of the best keepers in the league in 2023. He had a rocky start to 2024 and was eventually injured. 34-year-old veteran William Yarbrough has since taken over that position. Let’s just say, things aren’t going great for him.

San Jose have conceded the most goals in the league (24) and have the worst goal difference (-11) thus far.

Of course, not all of that is on the goalkeepers. San Jose have struggled to find a consistent starting XI, especially in midfield and attack. This has made it really hard to find any rhythm and build partnerships on the pitch.

Coupling that with key players like Jackson Yueill and Carlos Gruezo being out of form, the Earthquakes have found themselves as a prime candidate for the prestigious Wooden Spoon.

They have also been unlucky when it comes to some metrics. Their xGA (12.6) is about half of the goals (24) they’ve conceded. While giving up 12.6 xGA in nine matches isn’t great, it sure is better than the actual GA of 2.6 per match.

A silver lining for San Jose is the fight the players showed last week. Being 3-nil down to the Galaxy inside 30 minutes would’ve made most teams give up, but not the Earthquakes. They scored three times and came close to getting a result, eventually losing 4-3, albeit with a Galaxy red card.

Saturday’s match provides a great opportunity for San Jose to right the ship. They’ll be happy to matchup against an injury-riddled and out of form Nashville defense. Scoring hasn’t been a huge issue for the Quakes as they average 1.4 goals per game.

Nashville SC

14th (East) | 7 points | 1W-4D-3L | -7 GD |
Last match: 3-1 loss @ Inter Miami
Power Rankings: 26th

Availability report

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

Things are not going according to plan in Nashville. This is certainly the lowest point for Gary Smith and Nashville SC in terms of results and form. Injuries and a tough schedule haven’t helped the situation at all.

Similar to San Jose the constant shifting of players in and out of the starting XI has been detrimental to Nashville. While a lot of it is injury based, some big technical decisions have been made as well.

The backline, including the goalkeeper, has seen the most changes. Starters like Shaq Moore, Walker Zimmerman and Dan Lovitz have all missed time due to injury. While other important players like Jack Maher and Joe Willis fell out of favor with the manager, at least for small stretches. The recent injury to Lukas MacNaughton is yet another blow.

The constant changes to the backline have unsettled Nashville, a team known for their defensive prowess and organization at the back. Nashville have been uncharacteristically mistake-prone and have allowed 16 goals in just eight matches.

With all the changes, Smith seems keen on playing in a three at the back system. The formation change has led to some good moments going forward and has allowed Hany Mukhtar to play a bit higher up the pitch (where he and Nashville prefer him to be). However, with all the errors and bad results, it is hard to focus on the few positives.

Another area of concern for Nashville is midfield. Similar to the defense, Smith just hasn’t found a successful partnership. New addition Drew Yearwood has had some nice flashes, but has yet to submit himself as a starter. Sean Davis, and to an extent Aníbal Godoy, have not been effective either. Struggles in build-up play are very noticeable, but also defensively, the midfield has been less secure than usual.

In attack, Nashville created a good bit of chances against Miami, but were unable to finish. While the attack has looked more lively recently, finishing still remains a question mark. If Nashville want to get anything from this match, Sam Surridge (and others) have to finish their chances.

Pre-match quotes

Pod Picks

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 2-2 San Jose
Scorers: Surridge, Mukhtar
MOTM: Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville concedes a late equalizer and things get really interesting come Sunday/Monday.

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2-1 San Jose
Scorers: Mukhtar, Surridge
MOTM: Boyd
Bold Prediction: Boyd assists both goals, Nashville concede late in the second half for a tense 20 minutes at the end

Jeff Remlinger

Score: Nashville 2-0 San Jose
Scorers: Surridge, Zimmerman
MOTM: Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: An ugly tight game until Zimmerman puts it away with a late set piece goal. Maher finds his confidence again and returns to the level of play we expect from him.

Ronan Briscoe

Score: Nashville 3-2 San Jose
Scorers: Mukhtar (pen), Surridge, Zimmerman
MOTM: Shaffelburg
Bold Prediction: Defending is a theoretical concept in this game and Nashville wins a desperation game for both teams

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 3-2 San Jose
Scorers: Surridge, Mukhtar, Maher
MOTM: Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar gets two assists and a goal

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC v. San Jose Earthquakes
Odds: NSH (-105), SJ (+255) via DraftKings
Date: Saturday, April 27
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, TN
TV: MLS Season Pass – Apple TV
TV Commentary: Tony Husband and Ross Smith (English), Alejandro Figueredo and Eduardo Biscayart (Spanish)
Radio: 104.5 The Zone
Radio Commentary: Lucas Panzica
Forecast: Cloudy. Low 69F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph.

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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