Nashville SC stays in town for their next preseason match, taking on Lipscomb University at 5pm on Wednesday. As Nashville wraps up their 2019 preseason slate with a final game on Saturday, Wednesday's match is a great opportunity for players to make a case for their inclusion in Gary Smith's first choice eleven, as well as to get valuable minutes on the pitch. What should we expect from the match?
Last year, Nashville fielded a roster mostly filled with trialists and fringe players in a 2-0 win versus Lipscomb. Of the eleven who started, six didn't make a league appearance for Nashville.
This year, expect things to be different. For one thing, Nashville has a smaller, stronger roster this year, featuring less players who could be called "reserve" players. Another aspect to consider is that several players have carried injuries into preseason. Moloto, Lancaster and Ríos have all seen limited minutes thus far as they've worked to get fully fit before the start of the USL season. How big a workload will Smith give them tonight?
In their match against NYCFC last Saturday, Nashville started a very strong lineup and made wholesale changes in the 63rd minute. We could see more of the reverse, with most of the players who came in late getting the start. Ramone Howell and Malcolm Stewart were the only field players who didn't see any action, and we expect them to both get the start. Stewart specifically has a really good chance to see action - Liam Doyle went the full 90 minutes on Saturday and could get a break tonight before Saturday's match against Indy. Trialist Genki Miyachi could see significant time as well, with time running out for him to earn a potential contract with Nashville.
However, there is a lot to be said for getting the first choice players more minutes on the pitch to build chemistry, with the regular season just over a week away. If Smith decides to go that route, he's what we expect to see:
We have yet to see Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Ríos start a match together, and we may get that tonight. While Lancaster prefers to hang on the back shoulder of his center backs and try to get in behind, Ríos drops back a little more and could fill in some of the space underneath if Nashville goes without a no. 10. This would also allow Kharlton Belmar to drift inside into that space, with Washington staying wide on the overlap. Moloto still isn't 100% match fit, and while LaGrassa is a serviceable option in the no. 10 role, it's not his best position. Tonight's match is a great opportunity to see Lancaster and Ríos on the field together.
A little surprisingly, Smith has mostly utilized single striker systems this preseason. We expected Nashville to try to fit both Lancaster and Ríos on the field together, and that may still be the plan once they're both fully fit. However, they've mostly worked out of a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 system. Against NYCFC, both fullbacks pushed really high, especially in the first half. Expect to see more of this tonight, especially against a collegiate opponent (no offense to Lipscomb, but Nashville has a MASSIVE talent advantage). Nashville's central midfielders will look to cycle the ball quickly, hitting their wingers and fullbacks in space in wide positions. The center forwards should be able to stay higher up the pitch than they did against New York and receive service in more dangerous areas. We could see some systematic changes as Smith makes substitutions, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Nashville try a 4-4-2 or even switch to a three man backline.
Andy Simmons: Lipscomb 0-3 Nashville SC
Ben Wright: Lipscomb 0-4 Nashville SC
John Sloop: Lipscomb 1-3 Nashville SC
How do you think the match will play out? Comment on this post or let us know on Twitter.