Preview: Nashville SC vs Indy Eleven

Nashville SC's playoff run continues after a 3-1 win over Charleston Battery last week. They'll take on Indy Eleven this Saturday at First Tennessee Park. Here's what we're expecting from the match.


Indy finished third in the East, four points behind Nashville on 63 points. The club didn't quite live up to their pre-season billing as one of the elite attacks in USL Championship, but an incredibly solid defense kept them competitive - their 29 goals conceded were the second-best in the league, behind only Nashville SC.

Indy played an incredibly congested schedule to close out the regular season, playing 11 matches in 42 days. The club had games in hand on every side near them in the table, but the crowded fixture list took its toll, as they won just five of their final eleven matches.

Indy leaned hard on their elite defense in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal match against New York Red Bulls II, holding the best attack in the conference to just two shots on target and no goals. It was really a defensive showdown, with Indy managing just five total shots and sitting deep after taking the lead early in the first half.

Head coach Martin Rennie has primarily used a 3-5-2 formation over the final stretch of the season. 2018 Golden Glove winner Evan Newton went off injured against Ottawa Fury, and has missed the last five matches. He's questionable ahead of this weekend's match, but Jordan Farr has filled in admirably in his absence and will likely get the nod in goal.

The back three of Neveal Hackshaw, Paddy Barrett and Karl Ouimette has solidified itself as one of the best units in the league, and have conceded just three goals in their last five matches. After holding Red Bulls II off the scoresheet, they'll feel confident in their ability to limit Nashville. Ahead of them, Kenny Walker, Tyler Gibson and Drew Connor act as a shield in front of the backline, primarily tasked with defending rather than offensive creation.

Indy's primary attacking threats come from out wide, with wingbacks Ayoze Perez and Macauley King providing width and looking to push forward into the attack. Tyler Pasher has been the team's standout player this season, leading the side with 11 goals and four assists. He's one of the more versatile players in the league, but has settled into more of a free role leading the line. Dane Kelly has tended to act as more of a hold up man, letting Pasher make runs in behind before looking for pockets of space in the box.


Head coach Gary Smith has settled into a starting lineup that seemingly picks itself, with Forrest Lasso and Jimmy Ockford the clear first choice pairing in defense. Justin Davis and Darnell King have solidified their roles at fullback, and Bolu Akinyode took advantage of injuries to Ken Tribbett to make a role next to Matt LaGrassa his own.

Alan Winn has been in great form from the wings, while Taylor Washington has seemingly edged out Ropapa Mensah for a starting role on the opposite side. Ropapa Mensah has been on a hot streak, but it appears that Smith prefers bringing him off the bench to run at a tired defense.

Ahead of them, Daniel Ríos and Lebo Moloto lead the line, with Moloto dropping underneath Ríos to find pockets of space and create from a slightly deeper position. With the ball it looks like a 4-2-3-1, but in defense, it looks more like a 4-4-2, with Moloto and Ríos pressing the backline.

It will be key for Nashville's chances to use Washington and Winn to pin Indy's wingbacks back and force them to defend. If Nashville can keep King and Ayoze from getting involved in the final third, it will be hard for Indy to consistently create scoring chances.


To be updated once Nashville publishes report on Friday afternoon.


1. Score early. With Indy's struggles to create chances consistently, they'll likely set up to defend. They tend to keep the midfield and defensive lines compact and deep, and they won't give Nashville much space in the final third. If Nashville can get a goal early, it will force Indy to open up and play more aggressively, giving Nashville chances to get in behind.

2. Attack the wingbacks. Mike Jacobs has often talked about Nashville setting up to disrupt opponents both in and out of possession. Whoever starts on the wings for Nashville will be tasked with driving at Indy's wingbacks with the ball and forcing them to sit deeper defensively. It will be crucial to limit their effectiveness in the attack and push their starting positions deeper.

3. Defend set pieces. Indy don't create a ton of chances from open play, but have plenty of options from set pieces. Ouimette, Barrett and Hackshaw are each quite capable in the air and are very aggressive in their opponent's penalty area. It would set Indy up perfectly if they're able to get a set piece goal and retreat into a defensive shell, and Gary Smith's side will have to make sure to mark tightly and not lose focus on second balls to keep Indy off the board.


Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 3 - 0 Indy Eleven

Scorers: Daniel Ríos (x2), Ropapa Mensah

MOTM: Daniel Ríos

Bold Prediction: Ríos scores twice in the first half, before Mensah scores late as Indy push numbers high for a goal.

Andy Simmons

Score: Nashville 1 - 0 Indy Eleven

Scorers: Lebo Moloto

MOTM: Lebo Moloto

Bold Prediction:

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 2 - 1 Indy Eleven

Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Forrest Lasso

MOTM: Lebo Moloto

Bold Prediction: Lasso scores a late winner, while Moloto gets the assist for both goals.

Davey Shepherd

Score: Nashville 2 - 0 Indy Eleven

Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Ropapa Mensah

MOTM: Ropapa Mensah

Bold Prediction: Mensah finishes with a goal and an assist.

John Sloop

Score: Nashville 2 - 1 Indy Eleven

Scorers: Daniel Ríos, Lebo Moloto

MOTM: Daniel Ríos

Bold Prediction:

Have a prediction for this weekend's USL Championship action? Vote in our Fearless Forecast thread!



Date: Saturday, 11/02/19

Time: 7:00 PM, First Tennessee Park, Nashville Tennessee

TV: MyTV30

Stream: ESPN+

Radio: 94.9 The Game 2 (English), 86.7 El Jefe (Spanish)

Forecast: 55°/30°. Sunny. 10% chance of rain. 60% humidity.

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