Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Nashville SC head to South Carolina to take on Charleston Battery after beating Memphis 2-0 last weekend. Here's what to look forward to this weekend.
Nashville have outscored opponents 5-0 in their last two matches. After a slow start to the season, it appears that the attack has finally started to live up to the potential everyone saw in the offseason. Striker Daniel Ríos, signed to an MLS contract with Nashville, is the second top scorer in the Eastern Conference with four goals. While he was held in check against Memphis, Matt LaGrassa and Ropapa Mensah picked up the slack, each scoring en route to a 2-0 victory. While Ríos has scored the bulk of the goals for Gary Smith's side, the squad's depth has been on display, with LaGrassa, Mensah, Cameron Lancaster and Tucker Hume each pitching in with a goal apiece.
Gary Smith has used a 4-4-2 formation in recent weeks, with Hume getting back-to-back starts as Lancaster works back from a hamstring injury. The results have been undeniable, and I don't expect Nashville to move away from this against a defense that is average at best.
Nashville will break out the white kits for the first time this weekend, but I don't expect many changes in the XI from the squad that played last weekend.
Connor Sparrow and Matt Pickens have split time so far, and from the outside it's feels like a toss up. Sparrow has started in both of Nashville's road games, while Pickens has played at home. I gave Sparrow the nod for that reason, but don't read too much into that.
Darnell King replaced Kosuke Kimura at right back on Saturday after the Japanese veteran had played every minute of the first four matches. The fullback showed fans why he was named to the USL All-League second team last year, getting forward really well and putting in some great crosses. While Kimura has been really good, King brought an attacking presence that we haven't seen from the right back spot.
I expect the rest of the lineup to stay the same. Lancaster hasn't even been in the squad the past two weeks, despite only being listed as questionable. We'll get the injury report tomorrow afternoon, but even if he's listed as healthy, I don't expect him to start - I think an appearance off the bench is best-case scenario at this point.
OUT - Vinnie Vermeer (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE - Cameron Lancaster (hamstring)
Charleston have had a mixed start to their 2019 campaign, currently sitting in 10th place on the table (I have them 7th in the power rankings). Their most impressive result to date was a 1-1 draw with North Carolina, and they're coming off a 3-1 loss to 5th placed Bethlehem Steel. They've scored seven and conceded six, but could be without their top scorer Ian Svantesson, who came off injured in the 16th minute against Bethlehem. They'll also presumably be without midfielder Ataullah Guerra, who hasn't been involved in a match or even training so far. He's not been listed on Charleston's injury report, and no official reason has been given for his absence, but it's rumored to be a visa issue.
Charleston play a 4-2-3-1 system that operates like a 4-4-2 on defense. Zeiko Lewis and Arthur Bosua don't track back much on defense, and out of possession there tends to be a big gap between the midfield and forward line. Most of Charleston's attack comes through Lewis, who leads the team with 11 key passes and one assist. Jared van Schaik and Nicholas Rittmeyer have plenty of pace and will look to get behind the defense with a ball through the lines.
Charleston has been pretty shaky passing out of the back, giving away a couple chances off of poor turnovers. This could be a game where Nashville presses high and tries to win the ball back deep in Charleston's half.
Charleston also don't have a true left fullback on the roster. A.J. Patterson, a natural center back, has been their primary option on the left. Jay Bolt (a right back) has played two games at left back and two as a center back, although he wasn't included in the squad against Bethlehem and could miss through injury. Patterson doesn't really push forward and will stay back, allowing O'Brian Woodbine to push forward from the right.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Will Lancaster be involved? After a slow start to the season and being absent the past two games, everyone involved will be eager for Cameron Lancaster to get back to full health. Will he make an appearance, or even make the 18-man squad?
Pickens or Sparrow? Gary Smith has opted to rotate keepers, and both have performed really well. Who gets the nod on the road?
Where will Charleston's attack come from? With Svantesson and Guerra most likely out, who will create and finish chances for a Charleston side that was held to a goal by a pretty poor Bethlehem defense?
Gary Smith (head coach)
On the possibility of a three-match win streak: "We all want to get in these runs – unbeaten runs, winning runs, most importantly adding points to the board. The key at this point of the season is getting into a good groove in terms of our form, individual and team, and of course with how purposeful the team is. I think there are a lot of elements to our game at the moment that are looking good, and we’ve got to reinforce that. It is about consistency.”
On playing 215 minutes without conceding: “The backline has been very reliable. That includes Matt [Pickens] and Connor [Sparrow] of course. I do think it’s a team effort. The defenders will get more scrutinized than others and put under more pressure, but it is really a team effort. I am delighted that we are making life difficult. I hope that remains the same because it makes life a lot easier at the other end of the field. We need less to win games. At some point that streak will be broken, but I think the mindset and the attitude of the players is, ‘We want to be tough to beat.’ We also realize there is an awful lot to be done going forward, and we have improved in those areas as well. Maintaining that balance is always a tough aspect for any team.”
On Charleston Battery: “Each team is very different. Going to Charleston, historically they have a very good record. Their field is good quality and good size. I think it gives us an opportunity to get on the ball and express ourselves, but also if we get overconfident, they are more than capable of picking us apart and exploiting us. As with every game, goals make such a big difference. If we can be the first team to get on the sheet, it affects players’ mentalities, it affects the way the game unfolds, gaps open up and part of our mindset has been can we be that team. How do we make that happen without overexposing ourselves? The balance has been good at the moment and that won’t change going into Charleston.”
On Tucker Hume and Daniel Ríos's partnership: “They are different players. They offer different qualities to the team when they are working with each other. I think for any forward if you are in a pair in the modern game, you’re pretty fortunate. I wouldn’t expect anything other than them to say, ‘We are enjoying it.’ For all sorts of different reasons when you are defending, you have someone working with you working higher up on that front line. And when you are attacking you have someone taking some pressure off of you. For Daniel, somebody like Tucker – you really can’t measure what sort of attraction physically he is, and given the intelligence and the ability of someone like Daniel, or Cameron who could be up there, you are looking at individuals who can take advantage of that. I am really pleased for both [Daniel and Tucker].”
Liam Doyle (centerback)
On the defense this season: “We have kept the majority of players from last season, and the guys that have come in are top players as well. We have worked a lot on defense. We did a lot in preseason and have just managed to gel. We have the basics down and it’s been working well so far.”
On playing 215 minutes without conceding: “I didn’t know the exact minutes, but that’s pretty cool. We do love to get clean sheets. That’s our job effectively. We help out in the attack, but our main job is to keep the ball out of the net and that’ll help the team.”
On Charleston Battery: “We know they have a good home record. They are really physical and have some nice midfield players. We are going to have to be alert to that and be on our game. Any away game in this country is tough so we need to go there with the right attitude and hopefully get the win.”
On Charleston's natural grass pitch: “That’s what you want to play on every week, obviously that’s not always the case. Hopefully we’ll take advantage of it with our possession, and we have technical, quick players that can exploit it.”
Score: Charleston 0 - 2 Nashville
Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Alan Winn
MOTM: Matt LaGrassa
Bold Prediction: Alan Winn comes off the bench and gets his first goal of the year.
Score: Charleston 1 - 2 Nashville
Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Kharlton Belmar
MOTM: Kharlton Belmar
Bold Prediction: Belmar gets the game winner.
Score: Charleston 1 - 2 Nashville
Scorers: Kharlton Belmar, Ropapa Mensah
MOTM: Kharlton Belmar
Bold Prediction: Super-sub Ropapa Mensah scores another game winner.
Score: Charleston 2 - 2 Nashville
Scorers: Kharlton Belmar, Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Kharlton Belmar
Bold Prediction: Nashville score the first and fourth goals.
Have a prediction for the match? Vote in our Fearless Forecast and reply with your predictions.
Date: Saturday, 04/20/19
Time: 630pm CST
Place: MUSC Health Stadium, Charleston, South Carolina
Radio: 94.9 Game 2
Forecast: 68°/52°. Sunny skies. 0% chance of rain.