Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Nashville SC are back in action, traveling south to take on Memphis 901 FC on Wednesday night. Here's what to expect from the match.
After losses to North Carolina and Louisville, the Boys In Gold are coming off an 11 day break in league action. "We've had a few areas of our game that needed polishing up a bit," said head coach Gary Smith. "Certainly for the guys on the back of a couple of difficult results it gave us a moment or two just to regroup." Prior to the break, Nashville was in a bit of an injury crisis, with four players picking up knocks against Louisville to accompany Ken Tribbett and Derrick Jones on the sidelines. Of those four players, Michael Reed and Daniel Ríos will be available against Memphis, as well as Ken Tribbett, who hasn't been part of a matchday squad since the 4-1 win over Bethlehem on June 8.
Nashville has combated the injuries by recalling midfielder Vinnie Vermeer from his loan at Las Vegas. Initially intended to last for the season, his time in Vegas lasted just seven days before Nashville recalled him. He'll slot right into a group that he's trained with all year, and is capable of controlling the midfield as Michael Reed and Matt LaGrassa recover.
Another new addition to the squad is Jimmy Ockford, signed on loan from San Jose Earthquakes of MLS. The centerback has plenty of experience at the USL level, and will help shore up a defense that's struggled to keep clean sheets in recent weeks.
Against a Memphis side that has struggled at home, Smith will want to attack from the outset. Defensively, I expect Ockford to slot right into the starting lineup. Although Ken Tribbett should be available for selection, the coaching staff may opt to rest him and make sure he's 100% fit before putting him back on the pitch. With another 10 day break before their next match, this would seem like the wise option.
In midfield, Bolu Akinyode and Vinnie Vermeer are the only two fully fit midfielders. Reed came off injured at halftime against Louisville, and although he was a full participant in training on Monday, he will likely be eased back into action, similarly to Tribbett. Ahead of them, Lebo Moloto and Ropapa Mensah provide plenty of presence in the final third, and will stretch the field to create space for Ríos up top.
MEMPHIS 901 FC
The first-year side haven't had an ideal start to the season, currently in 15th place in the East. They've only managed three wins all season, and only one of those coming at home against 17th placed Hartford Athletic. To make things worse, their match last weekend was postponed due to weather, their third match cancelled due to weather this season. Traveling to Charleston only to sit through a long weather delay and head back without playing a match is a draining road trip for a professional athlete.
Despite the poor start to the season, they're still in reach of a playoff spot. Memphis are only nine points out of 10th place, with two or three games in hand on most of the teams ahead of them.
"They get great support," said Gary Smith. "They'll be, I would think, foaming at the mouth to get at us and keep their positive run. I would imagine that the opening 10 or 15 minutes will be fast and furious. I would think both teams are going to be well and truly up for this one."
Memphis is lead by captain and MLS veteran Marc Burch (interestingly, Burch was brought in by Minnesota United to replace Justin Davis in their first season in MLS), but the defender will sit out the match due to yellow card accumulation. Jacob Hauser-Ramsey and Todd Pratzner seem like the likely options to start as the centerback pairing.
In midfield, Dan Metzger has anchored the team from the number six role, allowing Duane Muckette to run wild on the right. On the left, Orlando City loanee Cam Lindley is a consistent danger in the final third, tied with Adam Najem for the team lead in assists and chances created.
Up top, Elliot Collier leads the team with five goals. After a slow start to the year, the Chicago Fire loanee has found a hot streak, scoring a hattrick against Hartford on his way to grabbing a USL Player of the Week alcolade. Nashville fans will notice a familiar name next to him. Brandon Allen, Nashville's leading scorer last season, joined Memphis from Tampa Bay Rowdies in a midseason move. Allen has started both Memphis matches since joining the squad on June 26th, and will undoubtedly look to score against his former team.
Videos of our conversations with Gary Smith, Kosuke Kimura, Lebo Moloto and Daniel Ríos are available here.
Score: Memphis 1 - 4 Nashville
Scorers: Daniel Ríos (x2), Lebo Moloto, Ropapa Mensah
MOTM: Lebo Moloto
Bold Prediction: Nashville finishes the match with more shots on goal than Memphis has total shots.
Score: Memphis 0 - 2 Nashville
Scorer: Daniel Ríos, Kharlton Belmar
MOTM: Ropapa Mensah
Bold Prediction: Memphis doesn't put a single shot on target.
Score: Memphis 1 - 3 Nashville
Scorer: Daniel Ríos (x2), Kharlton Belmar
MOTM: Daniel Ríos
Bold Prediction: Nashville scores twice in the first 30 minutes.
Score: Memphis 0 - 2 Nashville
Scorer: Daniel Ríos, Ropapa Mensah
MOTM: Ropapa Mensah
Bold Prediction: Nashville controls over 60% possession.
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Date: Wednesday, 07/17/19
Time: 7:30pm CST
Place: AutoZone Park, Memphis, Tennessee
Radio: 94.9 Game 2
Forecast: 91°/76°. Scattered thunderstorms. 40% chance of rain.