Nashville SC are back in action after a long international break. 20 days after their comeback draw in Atlanta, the Boys in Gold are once again on the road, taking on New York Red Bulls. It’s the first meeting between these two sides in Major League Soccer, and with both sides expected to be in contention for the playoffs, it promises to be an exciting contest.
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls are in a bit of a transition period. Manager Chris Armas was fired midway through the 2020 season, and while replacement Gerhard Struber was brought in last season, Covid delayed his arrival until their lone playoff match. Despite the managerial turnover, though, this side is still committed to the Red Bull way.
“The club has definitely committed more to the Red Bull football philosophy than ever before after the team lost tactical coherence under Chris Armas,” said Ben Cork of Once A Metro in our Zoomed N interview. “Gerhard Struber is perhaps the most highly-credentialed coach to come out of the Red Bull Salzburg academy program, and the team he has put on the field in New York features many of the traits energy drink soccer is known for, with high lines of defensive pressure and direct passing play being undertaken by a somewhat young lineup.”
As Cork went on to point out, though, Struber has instilled more of a possession-based approach, with the Red Bulls looking to connect more passes while keeping the ball on the ground. It’s been a somewhat inconsistent final product so far.
The Red Bulls currently sit in ninth place in the East on nine points. They’ve picked up three wins over Chicago, Toronto and Orlando (all at home), and three of their four losses have come on the road.
American Soccer Analysis has New York ranked 20th in MLS in goals added differential, a metric used to determine the overall efficiency of a team. While they’ve scored 10 (tied for 6th most in the league), they’ve conceded 10 (tied for 9th most in the league). They’ve had plenty of ups and downs thus far.
Struber has his side playing out of a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, with a diamond in midfield. They lost Aaron Long for the season with a torn achilles, a major blow not just for New York but the U.S. national team as well. Andrés Reyes joined this season after a spell with Orlando, and while he’s endured some inconsistencies of his own, he’s the likeliest option in the back.
Red Bulls have two new high-profile strikers in Fábio and Patryk Klimala. At 6-4 and 6-0, respectively, they’re both more than capable of physically battling opposing centerbacks, but neither have found the net. Fábio has been the more active of the two, taking 15 shots in just under 500 minutes.
The most dangerous attacker for Red Bulls is 18 year old attacker Caden Clark, who leads the team with four goals from nine shots. He exploded into the MLS conversation last season, and looks set for a move to RB Leipzig in 2022. With the strikers occupying Nashville’s defenders, Clark will look to exploit space in between Nashville’s midfield and defense, and will give their midfield pairing plenty of trouble.
Nashville are one of two unbeaten sides in MLS, despite five of their seven matches ending in draws. They really struggled defensively to start the season, but shored up their defensive issues for a stretch before conceding two goals in Atlanta.
Gary Smith’s preferred 11 seems clear at this point, but he’ll have to deal with some key absences. Jhonder Cádiz is with Venezuela in Copa America, but has yet to be involved in a match amid a rash of Covid-19 cases.
Daniel Ríos finally came off the injury report before the international break looked set to be involved. However, last season’s top scorer had a “minor setback”, according to Smith, and will miss Friday’s trip with an adductor injury.
Additionally, Dom Badji is listed on the injury report with a foot injury, leaving CJ Sapong as the only natural striker available. Abu Danladi is healthy again and could provide relief off the bench, but Smith’s options are anything but extensive.
Aníbal Godoy, Alistair Johnston, Randall Leal and Walker Zimmerman are all back from international duty and set to be involved. The bulk of Nashville’s core should stay in tact, but look for players like Abu Danladi, Luke Haakenson and Rodrigo Piñeiro to get involved off the bench.
A win could push Nashville as high as third place in the table as the sophomore side look to continue their unbeaten run.
Score: New York 0 – 1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville has less than 35% possession
Score: New York 1 – 1 Nashville
Scorers: CJ Sapong
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville creates a lot of key passes, but has three or less shots on goal.
Score: New York 1 – 2 Nashville
Scorers: CJ Sapong (x2)
MOTM: CJ Sapong
Bold Prediction: Nashville goes down late in the first half but score twice in the second to get the win.
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Teams: New York Red Bulls vs Nashville SC
Power Rankings: New York (19th) vs Nashville (3rd)
Odds: NY (+120), Draw (+210), NSH (+225) vs MGM
Date: Friday, June 18
Time: 7:00 PM central, Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
TV: MyTV 30 (local), ESPN+ (out of market)
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 87°/69°. Partly Cloudy. 1% chance of rain. 53% humidity.