Updated: Mar 16, 2019
The Boys In Gold return to First Tennessee park this week to take on St. Louis FC. Can Nashville take six points from their first two matches?
Nashville started off their 2019 campaign with a 2-0 win against Loudoun United last Saturday. Head coach Gary Smith deployed strong 4-2-3-1 formation against Loudoun, and we expect to see a very similar lineup.
Captain Michael Reed (ankle) and winger Alan Winn (concussion) missed out on last week's match due to injury, and it remains to be seen if they'll return in time to play on Saturday (UPDATE: Alan Winn is still out with a concussion, while Michael Reed was not on the injury report). While Reed could jump right back into a starting role in midfield, Matt LaGrassa earned a spot on the USL Team Of The Week's bench after a strong performance vs Loudoun, and it will be hard to take him out of the XI. Likewise, Alan Winn could return to the lineup, but even if he's available, the staff may decide to play it safe with a concussion and limit him to an appearance off the bench.
Cameron Lancaster started in a wide role last week, but eventually moved centrally in the second half. The team was much more effective going forward with Lancaster and Daniel Ríos partnered centrally, and Gary Smith may opt to use that formation from the start.
Alan Winn - concussion
SAINT LOUIS FC
St. Louis join the Eastern Conference (again) after spending 2018 in the West, where they finished in 8th place before losing 4-0 to Orange County in the first round of the playoffs. While preseason expectations for St. Louis have been high, it still came as a shock to many when they beat eastern conference favorites Indy Eleven 2-1 last week, despite only controlling 35 percent possession.
We asked Phil Grooms, who covers Saint Louis for STL Soccer Report, to give us an idea what to expect from the visitors on Saturday. For an in-depth preview, check out Phil's interview on our most recent podcast.
"Expect pretty well the same lineup for this game as against Indy 11. Both teams offer a lot going forward and have high profile attackers. Against Indy, STL started defensive and added attackers throughout the game until they took the lead. Once the lead was attained they added a final defensive/fresh legs sub. There were a couple surprises in the first game for me--most notably starting Jake Fenlason in goal over Tomas Gomez. That said, Jake delivered a PK save (immediately followed by giving up a corner goal), so I am willing to bet Jake is a repeat starter. Two other surprises were Oscar Umar, who started for Guy Abend who had a death in the family, and the benching of our newest attacking threat, Joaquin Rivas. Expect Abend to start this one, as he is the grizzled vet. I also feel like the midfield is calmer when he's in.
That said, if Nashville takes a lead, St. Louis has two main subs to change their look in previously mentioned Rivas and new, attacking right back, Paris Gee. Both joined from Tulsa, but don't hold that against them. I'm a huge fan of both. If they get on the pitch, you'll see the fullbacks push higher and the wingers tuck slightly more central. You might also see subs up top or somewhere else to refresh the press."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. How will Ríos and Lancaster be used? Last week, Ríos started centrally with Lancaster on the right. In the second half, they both operated as more traditional center forwards, to greater effect. Will Gary Smith start them both again? If he does, will they play in their natural positions or be pushed elsewhere.
2. What kind of impact will Moloto have? Lebo Moloto missed a sitter early on Saturday, to put it nicely. The rest of the match was solid, if unspectacular. He's coming off a serious knee injury last year, and still looks rusty, like he's not fully fit yet. If he starts, will he go the full 90 again, and what kind of impact will he have?
3. Will LaGrassa keep his spot? Matt LaGrassa started in the absence of Michael Reed last week, putting in a strong shift and making an impact in the final third. We expect Reed will be healthy enough to be in the squad, but will he get the start ahead of an in-form LaGrassa?
4. How will Saint Louis absorb pressure? Saint Louis sat back an absorbed lots of pressure against Indy, scoring off of a set piece and a broken play. Nashville will want to play proactively and dictate the game, but could find themselves open to counter attacks. It will be a much tougher test than Loudoun last week.
Score: Nashville 2-0 Saint Louis
Goals: Daniel Ríos, Kharlton Belmar
MOTM: Kharlton Belmar
Bold Prediction: Belmar gets a goal and an assist.
Score: Nashville 2-1 Saint Louis
Goals: Cameron Lancaster, Kharlton Belmar
MOTM: Kharlton Belmar
Bold Prediction: Saint Louis scores early and Nashville has to play catch up.
Score: Nashville 1-0 Saint Louis
Goals: Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Matt LaGrassa
Bold Prediction: LaGrassa builds on his Team of the Week selection against Loudoun and provides the game winning assist late on.
Score: Nashville 2-1 Saint Louis
Goals: Daniel Ríos (x2)
MOTM: Daniel Ríos
Bold Prediction: Nashville's first goal is scored within the opening 10 minutes.
Have predictions for the match? Comment on this post or reply to our prediction thread on Twitter:
Date: Saturday, 03/16/19
Time: 7pm CST
Place: First Tennessee Park, Nashville TN
TV: MyTV30 (local)
Radio: 94.9 Game 2 and 96.7 El Jefe (Spanish)
Forecast: 55°/32°. Clear skies. 0% chance of rain.