Three players to watch: Sporting KC vs Nashville SC

Nashville SC have a tough test tonight, taking on Western-conference powerhouse Sporting Kansas City. In the midst of an injury crisis at the forward position, scoring goals is an even bigger struggle for the Boys In Gold. Here’s who I’ll be keeping an eye on tonight.

Brian Anunga

With Aníbal Godoy sidelined, Brian Anunga has found himself much more involved than anyone expected. The defensive midfielder was signed from USL side Charleston Battery for a reported $50k transfer fee, and has looked like a really shrewd piece of business for Nashville.

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Anunga isn’t really aggressive on the ball (his goals added numbers are among the third-lowest on the team), but he’s one of the safest passers on the team, with a solid 83.9% pass completion rate.

Off the ball, he works really hard to break up plays ahead of the back line and cut out chances before they become dangerous. He’s not dynamic in the same way Godoy is, but he does provide a solid foundation to let his midfield partner be more involved in the attack.

Against a Sporting midfield that often has two midfielders crash the box, Anunga will have his hands full to keep Nashville from being overrun.

Derrick Jones

Jones has been used as a number 10 for nearly all his time in Nashville, and without a healthy forward on the roster, he’s been asked to fill in as a nine. He’s done an admirable job, but it’s clearly not the best use of his skillset.

However, a little deeper in midfield, he’s an absolute menace for opposing defenders. He has a first touch that’s rare in a player of his size, and he’s very aggressive when he’s on the ball.

With the form he’s in, it will be tough for Gary Smith to pull him out of the starting lineup. Does he continue to play Jones as the striker? Does he drop him deeper into midfield to bring in Abu Danladi? Jones poses an interesting mismatch for defenders, and how he is used has been a big storyline for Nashville.

Jhonder Cádiz

32 days after the DP striker was announced, he’s finally available to play. Gary Smith wouldn’t confirm if or how much he would play, but did confirm that the attacker is available for selection.

With just one other striker healthy, it will be tempting to get Cádiz involved as early as possible. He hasn’t played a competitive match since March 7, when Ligue 1 ended their season due to Covid-19. Smith said that he’s been very impressed with Cádiz’s fitness levels since arriving in Nashville, but a start after three days in training is a big ask.

I think it’s more likely that he comes off the bench in the second half. It won’t give fans a full look at the striker, but in all honesty, we likely won’t see the best version of Cádiz until next season, with a full preseason under his belt and hopefully a more normal MLS schedule.

Still, he should bring some improvement to this attack, and at this point a healthy striker seems like a luxury. The sooner he can get on the field, the better.

Who are you looking forward to watch? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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