By Ben Wright, editor.
CLEARWATER, FL - Nashville SC wrap up their 2020 preseason schedule tonight against DC United. What should we expect from the match?
DC United have undergone some big changes since the 2019 season, losing both Wayne Rooney and Lucho Acosta. They've added some key pieces, like signing Julian Gressel and Yamil Asad, and making Bill Hamid's loan permanent. Paul Arriola was a major part of their plans, but suffered a torn ACL in preseason that will likely keep him out for half the season.
Per Steven Goff, DC won't field their strongest team against Nashville, opting to keep their core fresh ahead of their final preseason match this Saturday.
Without most of their starters involved, it's tough to pin down how DC will play. Ben Olsen typically sets up in a 4-2-3-1, and could give homegrowns Moses Nyeman and Griffin Yow a chance to start.
Gary Smith has alternated between what he calls "group one" and "group two". His side is coming off a 3-1 win over FC Cincinnati, and have been in a good run of form this preseason. They've won three, drawn one and lost one, scoring nine goals and conceding five.
In the last contest of their preseason slate, it's likely we'll see a very first choice lineup.
Nine of the eleven starting spots seem fairly set, with just right wing and forward up for grabs. David Accam is the highest profile option on the right, but he hasn't been completely fit during preseason, and has been eased into the squad somewhat slowly. Abu Danladi or Alan Winn could get the nod in his place.
Up front, Daniel Ríos has been the most productive, with his two goals tying Randall Leal for the leading goalscorer in preseason. Danladi and Dom Badji have a goal each, and both bring experience at the MLS level. The battle for the starting job up top has been one of the biggest question marks throughout preseason.
Walker Zimmerman could see his first taste of action after his trade from Los Angeles FC. In the first choice group, it seems most likely that he'd replace Jalil Anibaba on the right to give Smith a center back pairing of a right footed and a left footed defender. Zimmerman was with LAFC for most of their preseason, so fitness shouldn't be an issue, and with just one chance to get on the field before Nashville start their season for real, it would be a surprise if he doesn't play.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Who will start up top for Nashville? This question has made regular appearances in the What To Watch For section this preseason, and we still don't have an idea which way this will go.
How will Zimmerman fit in? Nashville spent heavily to bring in Zimmerman to anchor this defense. He won't have many chances to get on the field with his new teammates against competitive opposition. How will he adjust?
Will Nashville continue to create chances? We haven't been able to actually see the play on the field, but all the news coming out of their last few matches is that Nashville have been strong on the ball and creative in the final third. Will that chemistry continue to develop?
The match won't be streamed, but our Davey Shepherd will be on location to cover the match. Follow along @daveytshep and @SpeedwaySoc. We will speak with head coach Gary Smith and a few players at 8:30PM central, and will publish portions of our conversation shortly afterwards.
Date: Wednesday, February 19
Format: Two 45 minute halves
Time: 5:00PM Central, Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex, Clearwater FL
Forecast: 78°/66°. Cloudy. 20% chance of rain. 73% humidity.