Preview: San Jose Earthquakes vs Nashville SC

Was the 18 day break just what Nashville needed? The Coyotes went on the road and picked up a 3-0 win at Sporting Kansas City. Tonight, they move farther west to take on the San Jose Earthquakes. Can the ‘Yotes make it two wins on the road? Will the Quakes be able to get a result and move up the table?

San Jose Earthquakes

7th (West) | 40 points | 10-10-10 | -4 GD |
Power Rankings: 20

Injuries / Absences:

Questionable: Rodrigues (lower body)
Out: Nathan (ACL), Jack Skahan (lower body)

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The San Jose Earthquakes have spent the last few years in the MLS Wilderness. The promise of rebirth under Matías Almeyda failed to materialize and ended with a last place finish in the Western Conference last season.

This season, former FC Dallas coach and USMNT assistant Luchi Gonzalez came in and has begun to turn things around and the Quakes now find themselves seventh, right inside of the playoff positions. Unfortunately for them, they have only four matches to go and several teams behind them have matches in hand.

If the Quakes want to make a return to the playoffs, they need a result tonight against Nashville.

While Almeyda may be out the door, the team has retained a bit of that chaos element that was a hallmark of his teams. Luchi Gonzalez has been very flexible in his tactics and plays a variety of formations. In fact, they have played four different formations in their last four.

Regardless of how Gonzalez decides to line up, they will rely heavily on their wingers to create attacking opportunities. Christian Espinoza has been the standout player for the Earthquakes with 12 goals and 10 assists we is the focal point of the Quakes attack. Typically lining up on the right hand side his versatility and creativity will be key to getting a result tonight.

Many of his assists have gone to Jeremy Ebobisse playing as either the central striker or a part of a two many tandem. He hasn’t scored the number of goals he did last season but has still be a critical piece of their attack.

While Ebobisse and Espinoza are the bulk of the attacking output, they still have a host of other attacking pieces that can hurt Nashville. Cade Cowell missed a large portion of the season with U-20 World Cup duties but he is an absolute menace out on the wing. His direct running could be used to keep Shaq Moore from pushing up the field.

Nashville SC

7th (East) | 43 points | 12-7-9 | +8 GD |
Power Rankings: 11

Injuries / Absences:

Questionable: Walker Zimmerman, Sam Surridge, Lukas MacNaughton (lower body), Randall Leal (illness)
Out
Nick DePuy (Achilles)

Nashville’s return from their break was everything that they needed to get back on track. They picked up their first League win since July 1st; Walker Zimmerman made his return to the starting lineup and Hany Mukhtar picked a goal and an assist.

The win on Wednesday was important for their playoff hopes as several Eastern Conference Teams secured their playoff spots. Seeding is far from determined but Orlando, Columbus, and Philadelphia joined Cincinnati in the playoffs with their wins in the mid week.

Nashville can join these teams with a Win and a series of other results. The qualifying scenarios are as follows:

  • Nashville win at San Jose AND D.C. lose/draw vs. New York AND Charlotte lose/draw at Cincinnati AND Miami lose/draw at Orlando or…
  • Nashville win at San Jose AND D.C. lose/draw vs. New York AND Charlotte lose/draw at Cincinnati AND Chicago lose/draw vs. New England or…
  • Nashville win at San Jose AND D.C. lose/draw vs. New York AND Miami lose/draw at Orlando AND Chicago lose/draw vs. New England

Coming into tonight’s match-up, Nashville does not have the added advantage of coming in fresh but they still should be in better shape than San Jose who play their third game in eight days.

Nashville got a few players back on the field for the first time in a while. Walker Zimmerman got the start and Sam Surridge made an appearance from the bench. Unfortunately, Lukas MacNaughton picked up an injury right before the Sporting game and missed out.

Looking to tonight’s match, I expect to see a similar lineup with a few changes.

The back five should remain unchanged even with Zimmerman still listed as questionable and with MacNaughton potentially still out, Jack Maher will start alongside Zimmerman. Shaq Moore and Dan Lovitz will have their hands full against the San Jose wingers.

The midfield and the attack is where we should expect to see changes. Sam Surridge came off the bench in the second half and looked a little rusty but found his feet as the match went on. Surridge needs to have time on the field. He should get the start alongside Jacob Shaffelburg up top and allow Hany Mukhtar to drop back a little further as the tip of the diamond.

The move of Mukhar back into the 10 will see a bit of a shuffle in the midfield. The one lock to start is Aníbal Godoy who goes up against his former club. While the team looks completely different since he was their, Smith has a history of opting for players against their former teams.

Alex Muyl will take the other spot on the side of the diamond but the question is what happens at the base of the diamond. Dax McCarty has excelled in that position but could see them being mindful of his age and ensuring that he is fresh for the play off run.

If Nashville shows up and plays like they did on Wednesday, they should have no problem beating this San Jose team.

Pod Picks

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 1-1 San Jose
Scorers: Alex Muyl
MOTM: Alex Muyl
Bold Prediction: Nashville concedes on a penalty

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 3-1 San Jose
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge, Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar scores and assists at least one

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 2-0 San Jose
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Aníbal Godoy
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Godoy scores a screamer against his old team

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 1-0 San Jose
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Jack Maher
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Both teams combine for five shots or fewer on target.

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: San Jose Earthquakes v. Nashville SC
Odds: SJ (-125), Draw (+240), NSH (+2o0) via BetMGM
Date: Saturday, September 23
Time: 9:30 pm CDT, PayPal Park, San Jose, California
TV: Apple TV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 75°/54°. Clear. 3% chance of rain. 64% humidity

Matchday minus 2

Author: Jonathan Slapeoriginated from outside of Atlanta but has lived in Nashville since 2005. Original member of Speedway Soccer and has been talking and occasionally writing about Nashville SC since the USL days. Self proclaimed official fashion correspondent. Outside of Nashville SC you can find him singing the praises of Jurgen Klopp, discussing the latest in sneakers and soccer fashion with a good stiff drink.

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