Preview: Sporting KC vs Nashville SC

After an 18 day break, Nashville SC are back in action. Tonight, they travel to the midwest to take on Sporting Kansas City. Can the ‘Yotes break their seven-game winless streak? Will SKC keep their form alive?

Sporting Kansas City

10th (West) | 29 points | 9-8-12 | -1 GD |
Power Rankings: 19

Injuries / Absences:

Questionable: Graham Zusi (hamstring)
Out: Kortne Ford (achilles surgery), Kayden Pierre (hamstring)

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Unlike Nashville, Sporting Kansas City has not had an extended break in the past few weeks. During that 18-day break, SKC played two additional matches: a 3-2 loss away to Inter Miami and a 0-1 win on the road late to Minnesota United. Post Leagues Cup, Sporting have won three of their four matches.

While they’ve improved on their 2022 campaign, it’s been a tough season for Peter Vermes and his team. With just five games left in their regular season campaign, they sit in 10th place, just a single point outside of the play-in spots.

If Kansas City wants any chance of making the playoffs, they will have to get a win at home.

Vermes still looks to set his team up with a 4-3-3 formation that will look to press teams and create opportunities in transition. They have two quality wingers in Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russel who will at times swap sides to go from cutting inside to occupying more space out on the flanks. They’re complemented by striker Alan Pulido, whose 12 goals have him leading the race for MLS’s Comeback Player of the Year award.

After missing all of last year with a knee injury, Pulido started the season off slowly missing the first four games of the season. Even though it took until May to score his first goal, he has been red hot since and finds himself just one goal behind Mukhtar in the Golden Boot race.

Pulido will be key to Sporting’s success against Nashville but the battle will be won at the center of the pitch. Nemanja Rodoja sit at the 6 position and be tasked with marking Mukhtar and breaking up Nashville’s transition play.

If SKC stops Mukhtar, they should be able to get a much-needed result.

Nashville SC

7th (East) | 40 points | 11-7-9 | +5 GD |
Power Rankings: 11

Injuries / Absences:

Questionable: Walker Zimmerman, Sam Surridge (“lower body”), Randall Leal (illness)
Out:
Nick DePuy (Achilles)
Suspended: Teal Bunbury

As good as the Leagues Cup run was, Nashville’s form either side of the tournament has been disappointing, to put it mildly. The team finds themselves in the midst of a seven match winless run in the league. Their last League win coming on July 1st against DC United.

A team that at one point felt like it was just a striker away from competing at the top of the league now finds themselves in 7th place with seven games left in the season. As they head into what Coach Smith called “probably the toughest away stretch certainly in terms of traveling” Nashville is going to have to rediscover some of that form they had during their ten match unbeaten run.

A lot of that is going to have to come from Hany Mukhtar rediscovering a bit of his form as well. His equalizing penalty against Charlotte was his first in the league since June 17th. Mukhtar’s form will largely dictate how the rest of the season trasnpires.

Post Leagues Cup saw a host of small injuries and overall exhaustion from the congested nature of the schedule. Smith and team would have been hoping that everyone could make a full recovery during the break but they still find themselves with some key players on the injury report. While Sam Surridge, Walker Zimmerman and Randall Leal were all listed as questionable for tonight’s match, they were pictured in full-team training on Monday.

Lineup wise, I expect to see Nashville go with the 4-4-2 diamond that takes advantage of the strongest squad available. They do have to play in San Jose on Saturday, but have a full seven-day rest afterwards.

At the back, I expect to see Walker Zimmerman make his return to the starting lineup alongside Lukas MacNaughton. Zimmerman has yet to make an appearance since the Leagues Cup final and his mobility and aerial ability will be desperately needed against Alan Pulido.

The midfield is a tricky thing to predict. Typically players who participate in the prematch press conference are almost locks to start. This would mean that Sean Davis would be expected to start but I still think that we see Smith go with the midfield of Dax McCarty at the 6 with Anibal Godoy and Alex Muyl as your shuttlers on the side. If Davis does start, expect him to fill in either for McCarty or Godoy.

Up top, Sam Surridge should make his return to the lineup with the hope that the extended break has allowed him and Mukhtar to work on their chemistry together. The two have linked up decently so far but there have been several instances that show they are just not on the same page.

Nashville can be defensively solid but are going to have to reignite their attack if they want to get a much needed win on the road.

Pod Picks

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 1-2 Kansas City
Scorers: Sam Surridge
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: Sporting takes a first-half lead. Nashville answers but a lake SKC goal gives them the win

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2-2 Kansas City
Scorers: Sam Surridge (x2)
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: Hany assists both goals

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 1-1 Kansas City
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville gives up a late goal to concede the win.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 2-2 Kansas City
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Jack Maher
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville gets a late equalizer.

Fan Forecast

Press Conference

Match info

Teams: Sporting Kansas City v. Nashville SC
Odds: SKC (-110), Draw (+250), NSH (+280) via BetMGM
Date: Wednesday, August 30
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas
TV: Apple TV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 78°/61°. Mostly Sunny. 15% chance of rain. 79% humidity

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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