Preview: Seattle Sounders vs Nashville SC

After the shortest offseason in league history, MLS is back, and Nashville SC begins their road season. They travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on Western Conference favorite, Seattle Sounders. Can Nashville get a result in a challenging atmosphere? Will Seattle showcase their dominance?


Seattle Sounders

Usually, when a team is coming off a short rest period, they are at a disadvantage, but that isn’t the case for the Seattle Sounders. Finding rhythm and gaining match sharpness is paramount to getting to a good start at the beginning of the season. After two CONCACAF Champions League matches, Seattle is looking sharp.

One of the perennial powerhouses in this league, the Sounders come to start the season off with a host of expectations. An already strong team with a healthy Nico Lodeiro and former Real Salt Lake DP Albert Rusnák means that silverware of some kind is more of an expectation than hope.

Can they get their 2022 season off with a win?

Last season, head coach Brian Schemtzer dealt with a rash of injuries and was forced to alter his preferred style and formation to fit the personnel that he had available to him. However, Seattle comes into the season opener with all of their first choice eleven fit, except for Raúl Ruidíaz (he went off at halftime of their Thursday night CCL match and is questionable for Sunday with a hamstring injury). Nashville can expect to see the return of the 4-2-3-1 that has brought so much success to the Sounders.

For a team that is spotlighted for their attacking talent, they also have one of the best backlines in the league. Fullbacks Alex Roldan and Nouhou are sound defensively and can get up and down the field and provide additional attacking threats. At the same time, Xavier Arreaga and Yeimar are absolute rocks at centerback. Couple that with a top goalkeeper in Stefan Frei, and Nashville will struggle to find opportunities.

In the midfield, Seattle will start the pair of João Paulo and Christian Roldan to nullify Nashville’s desire to play through the transition. João Paulo’s ability to break up play and cut out a promising attack will be critical to this alongside the two-way ability of Christian Roldan.

Brian Schmetzer will have a few key decisions with his front four. Jordan Morris scored his first goal since his injury against Motagua and is a lock to start against Nashville. He will look to cut inside on his right and play balls up to the forward or take shots himself. Albert Rusnák, signed as a DP after a successful stint in Salt Lake, is almost certainly a lock to start, but positionally could either be on the wing or in the middle.

If Rusnák plays through the middle as the number 10, Léo Chú would be the option out on the wing. However, I expect to see Nico Lodeiro start in the middle and push Rusnák wide.

Finally, Raúl Ruidíaz came off the pitch against Motagua with hamstring tightness and is questionable for tomorrow’s match. Schmetzer will undoubtedly look to keep him on the bench and start Samuel Adeniran as the nine.

Regardless of who starts in the attack, Nashville’s defense will have a tough evening ahead of them.

Nashville SC

It has been 91 days since the Coyotes ended their season with a disappointing penalty shoot-out against the Philadelphia Union. While much of the team looks the same, everything else looks a bit different.

First of all, Nashville SC begins their third season in a completely different conference with a host of opponents they have never played before. It is both a blessing and a curse. Many of their opponents won’t have film on Nashville, but the same could be said for Nashville.

The Coyotes have much to look forward to this season, including a brand new stadium, but first, they must navigate an eight-game road trip. Nashville has a host of expectations being thrust upon them, not just by fans but also by the national media.

To meet those expectations, they need to start the season off strong.

Coach Gary Smith and the club made sure that we saw very little of the preseason but with minimal turnover, it is hard to expect that we see much deviation from the formation at tactics of last season. Smith will have a few questions to answer. Most notably, who does he see as the right wingback replacement for Alistair Johnston, and is Aké Loba the first choice nine?

Dave Romney missed the end of the regular season and the playoffs with a calf injury, but he is back healthy and will go directly back to the left centerback position. He will form a part of that back three with Walker Zimmerman and Jack Maher, which was successful last season. At the wingback position, Daniel Lovitz will be the outlet at left wingback but also be responsible for getting Rusnák in check. On the right, Eric Miller should retain his spot from the playoffs.

Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy were the clear first choice midfield last season but expect to see a fair bit of rotation now that Sean Davis has joined the club. Against the Sounders, we could see a more dynamic pairing of Davis alongside Godoy. They will have to win their battles against the Seattle midfield and transition quickly once they create turnovers. Nashville’s ability to move swiftly up the field will be critical.

In the attack, Hany Muhktar will partner up top with C.J. Sapong as Randall Leal operates underneath them to supply service and create space. Sapong is the outlet in transition. His hold-up play will allow Mukhtar to join the attack while dragging defenders out of position. From our limited look at preseason, Aké Loba has looked good and played as a part of the ‘first team’ but probably comes off the bench for Sapong in this match.

Sapong flawlessly executed that plan against Orlando flawlessly and if we see more of it tomorrow, Nashville should be able to win the game.

Availability report

Pod Picks

Ben Wright

Score: Seattle 0-0 Nashville
Scorers: 
MOTM: Aníbal Godoy
Bold Prediction: Nashville take at least five shots from inside the box

Jonathan Slape

Score: Seattle 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: Randall Leal
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville creates several opportunities but isn’t able to capitalize on them until a late Leal equalizer.

Andy Simmons

Score: Seattle 1-1 Nashville
Scores: C.J. Sapong
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Sapong comes on as a sub and scores the equalizer.

Lucas Panzica

Score: Seattle 3-2 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar (x2)
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: End to end game, Nashville takes an early lead but Seattle explodes in second half.

Davey Shepherd

Score: Seattle 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville scores early but Seattle levels before half. Boring affair.

Chris Ivey

Score: Seattle 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville leads but Seattle brings on the big guns late to rescue a draw

Fan Forecast

Match Info

Teams: Seattle Sounders vs Nashville SC
Odds: Seattle (-115), Draw (+250), Nashville (+290) via BetMGM
Date: Sunday, February 27th
Time: 7:00 PM Central, Lumen Field, Seattle, Washington
TV: MyTV30
Radio: iHeartRadio Online (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 50°/46°. Sunny. 80% chance of rain. 83% humidity

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