Nashville’s 3-1 win over Houston Dynamo last week makes several players hard to drop. Taylor Washington and Abu Danladi put in their best performances in a Nashville shirt, while the back three of Dave Romney, Jalil Anibaba and Jack Maher was impressive.
The win was also the first time we’ve seen Nashville in a back three, with Gary Smith switching to a 3-4-3. I’ve talked about why I think the formation is a good fit for Nashville in the past. Gary Smith has almost exclusively used a 4-4-1-1 so far this season. While Wednesday’s performance may not be enough to catalyze a formation change, he’ll at least have to consider it.
What system he sets up in will impact who plays, and thus will impact this list.
Ríos is finally off the injury report after being withdrawn from the last Houston match. Before picking up the knock, he’d scored twice in as many matches, and is more of a natural center forward than Abu Danladi.
Jhonder Cádiz doesn’t look 90 minute fit, and admitted he isn’t following the Houston match. He should slot right into the starting role when fit, but that seems like it’s still a couple weeks off.
Danladi was fantastic against Houston, scoring a goal and assisting another. He’s done an admirable job through the center, but is as comfortable, if not more, on the wing.
With Mukhtar on the injury report, Smith could easily slide Danladi to the wing and Ríos through the center. If Ríos is healthy enough to give you 60 minutes, it will be hard to leave him out of the XI.
Dan Lovitz / Taylor Washington
Lovitz has been one of Nashville’s three or four best players this season, and has a case to be one of the best leftbacks in MLS. His workrate and crossing from the left have been a huge part of Nashville’s attack, and he’s been as good or better in defense.
Taylor Washington, though, put in a fantastic shift against Houston.
Taylor Washington tonight for @NashvilleSC led the team in: touches, chances created, interceptions, completed passes and tackles.— John Freeman (@JohnFreemanTN) October 15, 2020
As good as Lovitz has been, it’s hard to take out a player after a performance like Washington’s. In USL, Smith tended to stick with players after a win, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we see more of that tonight.
Similarly to Washington, Maher was rock solid in his first MLS start. The rookie centerback was selected second overall in the MLS SuperDraft. His talent has never been the question. In fact, he would likely be starting for several other MLS sides. Unfortunately for him, though, the Romney/Zimmerman partnership has been one of the best defensive pairings in the league, making it hard for him to see the field.
Zimmerman’s injury is a bit of a mystery. He came off after 64 minutes against Sporting, and Smith confirmed he’d been dealing with an issue for a while. He wasn’t listed on the last injury report, but wasn’t even in the squad. All this to say, there’s no guarantee he’s involved in tonight’s match.
If Zimmerman can’t go, or if Smith opts to continue with the 3-4-3, it should be one of Maher or Anibaba as the other centerback. While there’s something to be said for Anibaba’s experience, Maher’s performance over the last two matches will make it a difficult decision for Gary Smith.
Who are you looking forward to watch? Which position battles stand out to you? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments.