By Ben Wright (@benwright), editor.
BRADENTON, FL - Nashville SC play the second match of their 2020 preseason camp today, taking on fellow MLS side Chicago Fire FC. A week after their first preseason match, Nashville will get their first taste of action against an MLS club (ironically, one of the three sides they won't face in the regular season).
As always, it's tough to predict a preseason lineup, especially with questions about the fitness of Daniel Ríos, David Accam and Jimmy Medranda (who missed last week's match with minor injuries), as well as Miguel Nazarit (who joined the squad late after a visa delay).
That being said, the 0-0 draw against IF Elfsborg last week gave a potential glimpse at a first-choice eleven, with few spots up for grabs once players return to health.
Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy are the clear leaders of this squad in midfield, and the two have a very important opportunity to develop chemistry against a similar level of competition. Overall, we're expecting a relatively unchanged XI, with Brayan Beckeles getting a look at right back, and Randall Leal sliding into the left-wing spot after missing last week's match on international duty.
One of the biggest bits of news from last week's 0-0 draw was the fact that Dominique Badji, who was brought in primarily as a goalscorer and claimed the number nine shirt, played on the wing, while Abu Danladi got the nod up top. The position battle for the first choice striker will be one of the main storylines during preseason, and likely throughout the year.
CHICAGO FIRE FC
Chicago's lineup is basically impossible to predict. According to our friend Eliot McKinley of American Soccer Analysis, returning players for Chicago played just 51% of the club's total minutes in 2019.
Chicago are undergoing one of the biggest re-builds of the 2020 MLS offseason, and currently have just 21 players on their official roster. One of those is a familiar face for Nashville SC fans; Connor Sparrow, who played 10 matches for the Boys In Gold in 2019.
This is close to a first choice XI for Chicago, with CJ Sapong in for Alex Monis the only change from their 3-0 loss to Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Who will start up top for Nashville? Will Danladi get another look in a central role, or will Badji or Ríos get the start?
How will Nashville defend against an MLS opponent? Chicago is clearly a roster in transition, but still have several high-quality pieces on the roster, including a consistent finisher in Sapong and a newly signed DP in Berić. It won't be an easy task for a newly formed backline to keep them off the scoresheet.
Will Nashville SC find the net? The end product in the final third usually takes time to fall in place. It's not a surprise to see Nashville perform well defensively without scoring, and it's not a bad sign. Still, at some point end product is necessary. Scoring a couple goals against an MLS side this early in preseason would be an encouraging sign.
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 after the match, and will publish their thoughts on the match shortly afterwards.
Date: Thursday 02/06/20
Format: Two 45 minute halves
Time: 3 p.m. CT, University of Tampa, Tampa Bay, FL
Forecast: 80°/61°. Rain. 14% chance of rain. 77% humidity.