After their 2-2 draw with FC Cincinnati, Nashville SC continue their four match home stand this afternoon. They’ll take on CF Montréal, a side who were picked by most to finish towards the bottom of the Eastern conference, but got out of the gates quickly with a 4-2 win over Toronto FC. It won’t be an easy test, but it’s a match in which Nashville should feel confident.
Here’s what I’ll be watching in this one.
Can Nashville start quickly?
It’s been talked about at length, but Nashville’s start to the Cincinnati match cost them three points. They were completely off the pace for the opening 15 minutes. They were pinned back and overrun in midfield until Cincinnati’s second goal, at which point the Boys In Gold finally woke up and began to play.
In some ways, it’s understandable. They only played twice in preseason, didn’t have a match against an MLS side, and hadn’t played in 18 days. Now, with an MLS match under their belts, they shouldn’t be caught so flat-footed against Montréal. If they are, there may be bigger issues at play.
Can Dax McCarty bounce back?
Dax McCarty struggled against Cincinnati. The typically solid midfielder just looked off, with a couple sloppy touches compounding a final ball that never quite connected. McCarty, 33, was one of Nashville’s most consistent performers last season, and has been one of the best passing midfielders in MLS over his 15 year MLS career.
One poor game shouldn’t be a worry for Nashville fans. It’s not a sign of age catching up with him. But the fact is that outside of McCarty and Aníbal Godoy, Nashville don’t have a replacement for their two way abilities. Brian Anunga can do the defensive work, and Matt LaGrassa can play line-breaking passes. But if either of Godoy or McCarty aren’t contributing to the attack, Nashville lose a lot going forward.
For Nashville to be a real contender, they need consistent performances from both midfielders.
Can Nashville consistently finish chances?
Nashville won’t take 32 shots in a match very often. Their 3.5 expected goals were the highest in their MLS career and their second highest as a professional club.
On one hand, scoring two goals in their season opener is an encouraging sign for a club who struggled to create consistently. On the other, not scoring more with the amount of gilt-edged chances they created means the finishing wasn’t up to snuff.
Again, it’s way too early to panic. The positives from last week far outweigh the negatives. But still, finishing chances a bit more consistently would go a long way towards establishing that this side is a legitimate contender.
What are you looking for in this match? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @benwright.