By Jonathan Slape (@jslapessp), cohost/writer.
BRADENTON, FL - Nashville SC continue their 2020 preseason, facing off against former USL Rivals FC Cincinnati on Sunday evening. They will look to build on their 1-0 win against Montreal Impact as their preseason campaign is beginning to wind down.
Nashville SC head in to their penultimate preseason match with back to back wins after they followed up their 4-1 win over Louisville with a 1-0 win against the Impact. Dominique Badji came off the bench and got on the end of a Taylor Washington cross. Nashville will look to build upon that as they face a former USL rival and current MLS rival FC Cincinnati.
This lineup will look fairly familiar to everyone that has been keeping up with the preseason matches as the back 7 have been consistently in "group one' as Coach Smith has called it. Wednesday saw a few different changes from that group as Derrick Jones played in the 10 with Hany Muhktar out with a minor illness. Alan Winn also got a start with the first group.
With this being the second to last preseason match, expect Coach Smith to go with as strong of a group as possible. Muhktar should be back healthy and will slot right back in. Walker Zimmerman will be available for the first time since he was traded to Nashville and will probably get his first start.
Right wing and Striker continue to be the two biggest question marks as we look toward the start of the season. After missing the beginning of preseason, Daniel Ríos has seen the majority of time with the first group and should be the nod today. David Accam should get the start on the right but it is open for anyone.
It is no secret that FC Cincinnati had a terrible first year in the league but they made midseason changes at both the coaching and GM positions and have started to see some turn around. Of course the biggest story line around this game will be the absence of Coach Ron Jans who is out on administrative leave.
Yaya Kubo came in as one of their two DP signings this off season along with forward Jurgen Locadia. Locadia an right winger Adrien Regattin have yet to get a start with this team as they were getting work visa's squared away. Those issues seem to have been cleared so Nashville's defense will be tasked with keeping them in check.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Who will start up top for Nashville? We've asked this question every match this preseason, and are no closer to an answer. After Badji's goal on Wednesday, all three strikers have found the back of the net in the past two matches. Who gets the nod today?
Doe Walker Zimmerman start? While we have seen more rotation toward the top of the pitch, Coach Gary Smith has pretty much settled on a starting back 5. The match today will be the first since Nashville acquired Walker Zimmerman. Does Smith slide in straight in to the starting 11?
How is the match fitness progressing? Throughout the preseason, Coach Gary Smith has made wholesale changes at the start of the second half. On Wednesday, Smith just made two changes at the start of the second half and mentioned post game he was pleased they were able to score on tired legs. Does he keep the starters on for longer today? How is the match fitness of the squad?
The match won't be streamed, but stay tuned to @NashvilleSC and @SpeedwaySoc for updates. We will speak with head coach Gary Smith and a few players at 7PM central, and will publish portions of our conversation shortly afterwards.
Date: Sunday, February 16th
Format: Two 45 minute halves
Time: 5:00PM Central, IMG Academy, FL
Forecast: 80°/66°. Sunny. 15% chance of rain. 76% humidity.