It's playoff time!
For the first time ever, Nashville SC will host a home playoff game as they take on Charleston Battery. it looks to be a wet one on Saturday but let's take a look at how the match will play out.
Nashville SC did not get the help that they needed from Birmingham Legion and head in to the playoffs as the number 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. That being said, Nashville did everything they could to finish strong and put themselves in the position to host the first home playoff game in team history. At practice Thursday, Gary Smith talked about what that means for the team. "The fact that we get the chance to play in front of our own fans, and of course everyone's hoping that first playoff game in history at home brings supporters out in droves, because when this place has got a good crowd in it and some noise, it's as good as any. It'll drive the players on, it inspires what will already be a particularly competitive game, but I just think it will give it that extra cup edge. "
Nashville will look to come out early and assert themselves early on in the match. Back in August, Charleston was able to get themselves a goal in the first half that forced Nashville to spend the rest of the game fighting back. It took a stoppage time winner from Akinyode to ensure that Nashville secured all three points. Nashville will look to win the ball ball back and take advantage of the speed of Winn and Mensah to create chances.
Over the past few weeks, Coach Gary Smith has settled in with a pretty consistent starting 11, bar a few changes here and there. For the match tonight, I expect to see the team that started against Atlanta United II to be the team that starts against Charleston Battery.
Going in to the match last Saturday, Daniel Ríos was in a bit of a slump that he was able to break with two goals. He comes in to this game with a bit more confidence and a good run of form. On the wings, expect to see Alan Winn and Ropapa Mensah looking to push the Charleston fullbacks back and hit them on the counter attack.
In the middle of the pitch, Lebo Moloto will play in his preferred number 10 position and will look to help start the counter attacks by playing balls in to the forwards. Matt Lagrassa and Bolu Akinyode have solidified their positions in the midfield. The will look to help facilitate play to allow the forwards to work their magic.
Ken Tribbett was back in practice this week, and is no longer listed on the injury report. He will provided a good piece of depth for both the midfield and the defense, but I expect Coach Smith to go with the settled centerback pairing of Forrest Lasso and Jimmy Ockford. Justin Davis and Darnell King will provide width and service from the fullback position and expect Matt Pickens to be back in net.
INTERVIEWS- Gary Smith, Matt LaGrassa, Bolu Akinyode
Charleston Battery come in to this game having beat Ottawa Furry Wednesday night on penalties in order to advance to face Nashville. While they did play 120 minutes and have to travel, I expect them to show up ready to play against Nashville. Charleston has traditionally matched up well with Nashville and were unbeaten against them up until August 24th.
When asked about what to expect from Charleston, Coach Smith said, "they're a difficult side to break down when they choose to be stout and resilient as I've seen them, and they've also got, as I've said, some nice dimensions. They've got pace, they've got invention, and they're also a very good threat from dead balls as well."
This will be the 4th time this season that the two teams have faced off against each other and they will both be prepared for what each other offers. Nashville does, however, have the added advantage of having Forrest Lasso available for this match as he was serving a red card suspension back in August.
Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser Prefers to play some form of a back 4 along with two forwards up top. The past few games he has been setting up his team in at 4-3-1-2 but when playing Nashvile has used both a 4-4-2 and a 3-4-1-2. I expect to see coach Anhaeuser continue with the 4-3-1-2.
From an attacking standpoint, Nashville will need to keep a close eye on both Arthur Bosua up top and Zeiko Lewis as the number 10. Bosua comes in to this game having scored 3 in the last 5 while Zeiko leads the team in both goals and assists. Look for both of them to try and take advantage of the few opportunities that are afforded to them.
Coach Smith mentioned the threat of Charleston on set pieces as one of the their key strengths. Lasso and Ockford will both have their hands full with Jarad van Schaik on both ends of the field as he has proven to be a threat in both boxes much like the Nashville centerbacks.
Score: Nashville 3 - 0 Charleston Battery
Scorers: Daniel Ríos (x3)
MOTM: Daniel Ríos
Bold Prediction: Nashville controls ~40% possession but scores 3 on the break
Score: Nashville 1 - 0 Charleston Battery
Scorers: Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Matt Pickens
Bold Prediction: Charleston records six shots on target, but Pickens has his best match of NSC career.
Score: Nashville 2 - 0 Charleston Battery
Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Forrest Lasso
MOTM: Bolu Akinyode
Bold Prediction: Nashville scores and early goal on the counter and follows it up with a late insurance goal off of a set piece.
Score: Nashville 4 - 1 Charleston Battery
Scorers: Daniel Ríos (x2), Lebo Moloto, Alan Winn
MOTM: Daniel Ríos
Bold Prediction: We score 3 goals early and then sit back in defense
Score: Nashville 2 - 0 Charleston Battery
Scorers: Ropapa Mensah, Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Lebo Moloto
Bold Prediction: Lebo Moloto assits on both of the goals.
Have a prediction for this week's match? Vote in our Fearless Forecast!
Date: Saturday 10/26/19
Time: 7:00 PM, First Tennessee Park, Nashville Tennessee
Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English), 86.7 El Jefe (Spanish)
Forecast: 74°/55°. Rain. 80% chance of rain. 79% humidity.