Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Nashville SC are back in action 10 days after a disappointing 1-0 loss in Saint Louis, matching up against 10th place Birmingham Legion. Here's what we're expecting from the match.
Nashville have won eight of their last ten matches, losing to Saint Louis FC in a tough road match their last time out. Tomorrow's match is the beginning of a long home stand for Nashville, who will play four of their remaining five regular season matches at home. However, Nashville haven't had the best performances at home this season, winning just six of 12 home matches so far.
The 10-day break comes at a great time for Nashville, who have been without the services of their leading scorer Daniel Ríos for the last three matches. Ríos didn't train ahead of Nashville's match in Saint Louis, but his absence appears to have been more of a precaution than anything. Midfielder Derrick Jones has been a full participant in training for a number of weeks, and looks like he's just working on sharpness instead of still recovering from injury. I expect them both to be in Nashville's squad tomorrow.
Lebo Moloto and Cameron Lancaster are both out of the match tomorrow with a concussion and an ankle injury, respectively. While Nashville have had to cope without Lancaster for much of the season (he's missed 12 games already), losing Moloto will hurt. The playmaker is one of the best creators in the league, leading the East with nine assists and seventh in the conference with 57 chances created. With no natural replacement in the no. 10 role, I expect a slight shift in formation from Gary Smith.
Head coach Gary Smith has used a 3-4-1-2 / 3-4-3 system in recent weeks, partnering Cameron Lancaster and Ropapa Mensah up front. With Lancaster and Moloto both out injured, I expect Smith will use a 3-4-3 system with two of Kharlton Belmar, Alan Winn and Ropapa Mensah flanking Ríos in a front three.
Against a Birmingham defense that's suspect at best, Matt LaGrassa could partner Derrick Jones to give Nashville more incisive passing from deep. With Moloto missing, it will be crucial for the two central midfielders to provide a forward threat.
Taylor Washington has surpassed Justin Davis as the preferred option on the left, able to cover plenty of ground on both sides of the ball and use his pace to create space on the flank. Darnell King has started the last three matches. The 10 day rest between matches likely means both King and Kosuke Kimura will both be fully fit, but on recent form I expect King will get the start. King provides more of a threat in the final third than Kimura; he's played 75% as much time as Kimura, and has created just two less chances. After a slow start to his Nashville career, he seems to have staked a strong claim to the right back spot.
After a slow start to their first season in existence, Birmingham have bounced back in recent weeks. They're currently in 10th place in the East, and were on a nine match unbeaten streak until they lost at home to Saint Louis FC last weekend. Defensively, they're shaky at best, but the emergence of forwards Brian Wright (on loan from New England Revolution) and JJ Williams (on loan from Crew SC) have seen their attack take off, scoring 17 goals in their last 10 outings.
Anderson Asiedu has been a fixture in the XI since joining from Atlanta United 2 in mid-July, but the holding midfielder will miss the contest due to yellow card accumulation. Zachary Herivaux, on loan from New England Revolution, seems like the likely option to replace him.
Head coach Tom Soehn has deployed a 4-1-2-1-2 system, using a diamond midfield to limit space in the center of the field and allowing their fullbacks to push high up the pitch. Mikey Lopez, typically a holding midfielder, has transitioned into a right back role over the summer, and has been effective, scoring three goals and assisting one more.
Prosper Kasim pulls the strings for Legion FC from the no. 10 role, with 44 chances created and six goals. JJ Williams has stepped up in the absence of Chandler Hoffman, who suffered a season-ending PCL rupture in early July. Williams has scored six goals in 1,190 minutes and using his size and positioning to cause defenses problems. Despite the difference in table position, this won't be an easy match for Nashville, who saw against Saint Louis how hard it can be to play a team desperate for one of the final remaining playoff spots. Birmingham will fight for every point this late in the season, and are quietly in some of the best form in the conference. This could be a surprisingly tight match.
*Provided by Nashville SC communications department
GARY SMITH (Head Coach)
On what self-evaluating Smith and the team did after the loss in St. Louis: “I think this 10-day break has come at a good time. There were a lot of emotions after the Saint Louis game. Lot of frustration and disappointment for sure. We certainly weren’t at our best and Saint Louis did a very good job of taking care of business for their third game in a week. I think we’ve had enough time to study and have a look at some of the things that were not right on the day after being on a very good run. We’ve had a bit of time for rejuvenation and to get some of those tired legs in very warm weather in the right place. We’ve had plenty of time in terms of preparation for this important game on Tuesday.”
On why the team has been successful in the past with plenty of rest: “Maybe a little bit of both. I do honestly think that there’s an opportunity to study your opponent a little bit more and to layer one or two other details into the game that you might not get time to do if you’re turning around mid-week especially. As far as the group, I think all players want to play. I don’t think if you asked any of them that they really want to train. They just want to play. When you’re in a good run, those games coming round thick and fast are full of confidence and the players are buoyant. When you have a defeat, there’s something different in that. It’s nice to get back on track again and have a game to try and change that mentality. But I also think it gives you an opportunity to really I think digest what’s gone on. We were in a very decent run and we put ourselves in a very good position. It was a second occasion that we failed to win a game and take ourselves to the top, which for everyone was bitterly disappointing. A few things came out of that, but I think we’re better for it. We’ve got five out of six at home. We’re looking forward to that run. We’ve got some really tough games, and it starts with Tuesday. They’re in a terrific vein of form themselves. I know they got beat by Saint Louis last Friday, but they were nine unbeaten before that and I’m sure that [Birmingham Coach] Tommy [Soehn] will be looking desperately at getting a result against us and keeping their playoff push firmly on track.”
On Birmingham’s recent run of form: “I think maybe a combination of things since we last met them. I know they were suffering with some injuries. One or two of those bodies are back. They’ve been able to secure the likes of [JJ] Williams and [Brian] Wright up front, who have given them a really good dimension. But I think also we’ve had this last year. You end up in that second half of the season feeling more comfortable about the group that you’re playing in, that you’re working with, some of the aspects of the game that they’ve been trying to enforce in the group look like they’re more natural. They’ve adapted when they’ve needed to, they’ve played a 4-1-4-1 when they need to, the diamond has served them well when they’ve played that way. But just the natural feel of a group that have been together longer and maybe some of the details of the system that they’re playing are starting to show their face.”
On the status of Derrick Jones and Daniel Ríos for Tuesday’s match: “We need to see how those guys are in the morning. They’re both in a good place, far better than they were just maybe a week ago. Daniel was more of a precaution than anything. He had some issues in his groin, but it wasn’t anything dramatic. The downtime has done him a world of good and he’s back to a good place, looks sharp in training. Derrick has progressed nicely. Physically, he’s in a much better place. His injury is fully healed, there’s no problems there, but it’s getting back into the sharpness and the swing of training every day and his body being back to a professional soccer player rather than a professional socializer.”
On if he watches the standings with six matches left: “I don’t know whether the guys are as much, but I’m sure they are. It’s not something we talk about every day, but I think everyone needs to be reminded of what this final six games represents. It really does offer up the opportunity further down the line to have an advantage in some way, shape or form, for longer possibly than some of the other teams. It depends on where we finish. The other aspect of it is that we’ve got five out of six at home. I think we’re all desperately keen to finish off the season on a really good note at home. Our away form has been terrific. We’ve got this glut of games at home to finish up. When we looked at it when the schedule was first put out, I think we all looked and felt that would be brilliant. We finish up in good confines and comfortable surroundings. But it comes with some added pressure now. You’ve got some very good teams coming into town, and of course with the position we’re in, it’s still a precarious one for champions in the Eastern Conference, for a top four finish, or even outside of that. The only way that we can be assured of something more positive is to keep winning games. That’s certainly what we aim to do Tuesday.”
On trying to build rhythm with five out of the last six matches at home: “Again, there’s a couple of things here. The first one is yes, there’s some rhythm. We’ve been away from home back to back or on a trio of occasions that have presented its own problems. The field coming up and being put down at First Tennessee Park can sometimes be I think a detriment to the way we want to play. At this point in time with the baseball season over and just us occupying the stadium, it gives us a real opportunity to make that a home field advantage if it hasn’t been so before. We’ll get used to the field more. I’d like to get out there more and work on it more. Any advantage that we can have now for these last five games are going to be a help.”
DANIEL RĺOS (Forward)
On how he feels being back from injury: “I feel like I’m getting back my fitness and my touches. I feel better every day. I’ve had less than a week of training, so I’m getting better.”
On if he got a chance to analyze the matches that he missed: “Yeah, I think there’s a lot of areas that maybe I could be able to help the team on the scoring line. Of course, scoring goals, but also defensively or something like the creative opportunities up there.”
On what he saw out of teammate Cameron Lancaster’s performance: “He played well. They played well together. It was two strikers, Ropapa [Mensah] and Cameron [Lancaster]. He played well. I think he needs more game time to be in a rhythm and to show what he is capable of doing on the field.”
On the last match against Birmingham Legion FC: “It was at the beginning of the season. We were chasing our rhythm, adapting to each other. We were a new team, knowing each other. Now, it has to be a different game because we are in a better rhythm. We know each other. We know how each other plays. Of course, we need to go out there tomorrow and create opportunities to find the goals.”
On how to make playing at home a fortress in the final five home matches: “Winning games. The way to change that, winning four of the five we have would change everything. We’ve been better on the road, but we have five more games at home. That’s a lot we can change if we win three or four games.”
On if playing consecutive home matching provided consistency: “Yes. I think at the beginning and the middle of the season, we were more on the road instead of home. I remember one time that we didn’t play here for 40 days. It was a long time. Now we have five games in a row. We will be able to adapt to the field because it’s different. We will be able to play the style of play that the coach wants and of course try to do our best and win all of them.”
DERRICK JONES (Midfielder)
On how recovery has gone for him: “It’s been good so far. Just taking it easy, little by little, but it’s been good so far.”
On if his fitness is something that just comes back or he has to work to rebuild: “It’s coming back little by little. I have to rebuild it back because I’ve been out for a while now. So, I’m sure we will get there.”
On if he’s anxious to get back on the field: “Yeah, I am. Honestly, I’m happy to get back.”
On what he can bring to the field: “Whatever I bring, it doesn’t really matter if we don’t play as a team. I guess I’m going to come in and work hard and try to win games for the team.”
On if he wishes he could have been out on the field helping the team: “Yeah, whenever the team drops points, it always hits you like you wish you were out there to play with them, but hopefully soon, I’ll get back and play with them.”
On if he’s been able to keep an eye on the standings: “Yeah, I look at it every day. Some of the games we play more, I watch it almost every day.”
On if he sees an opportunity to finish strong in these last six games: “We have one away game and I think we play the last four or five games home, so I think we finish strong before.”
On how his teammates have helped him adjust to Nashville: “They’ve been helping me a lot. I haven’t really been out on a day like that, but the city, I’m getting to know the city more now.”
Score: Nashville 3 - 2 Birmingham Legion
Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Cameron Lancaster, Forrest Lasso
MOTM: Daniel Rios
Bold Prediction: Lancaster and Ríos give Nashville an early lead before Birmingham equalize. Forrest Lasso scores a late winner from a set piece.
Score: Nashville 3 - 0 Birmingham Legion
Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Alan Winn
MOTM: Daniel Ríos
Bold Prediction: Nashville holds Birmingham to three shots on target.
Score: Nashville 3 - 0 Birmingham Legion
Scorers: Daniel Ríos (x2), Alan Winn
MOTM: Daniel Ríos
Bold Prediction: Comfortable win for Nashville as Rios makes a fantastic comeback performance.
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Date: Tuesday, 09/17/19
Time: 7:00 PM, First Tennessee Park, Nashville Tennessee
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English), 86.7 El Jefe (Spanish)
Forecast: 95°/69°. Sunny. 10% chance of rain. 53% humidity.