By Ben Wright (@benwright), editor.
TAMPA BAY, FL - Nashville SC continue their 2020 preseason, facing off against Montreal Impact on Wednesday evening. It's their second taste of action against an MLS opponent, falling 3-1 to Chicago Fire FC last week.
Nashville are coming off their first win of preseason, a 4-1 victory over Louisville City FC. Winger Randall Leal kept up his good run of form, opening the scoring just three minutes in. Daniel Ríos added a second in the 10th minute, with second half goals from David Accam and Abu Danladi securing the result.
Head coach Gary Smith was complimentary of Ríos after the Louisville match. "I thought he fit in very nicely with what we can class as the first group at this point," said Smith. "If you look at the forwards we have, they've all got different qualities, but good qualities. You see Daniel's interaction and link play and movement... It was nice to see Daniel as part of that starting group. Very pleased with his goal, and there were some very nice and bright moments from him."
The forward position still appears to be up for grabs, with Ríos and Danladi taking turns at the position, while Dom Badji has surprisingly spent more time on the wings. After a good performance against Louisville, don't bet against Ríos getting a chance to start against an MLS opponent.
Gary Smith has spoken in terms of a "first group" and "second group" repeatedly, with the back line and most of midfield beginning to take shape. The addition of center back Walker Zimmerman will change the look of the backline, but the defender will not be available tonight, so expect to see the partnership of Dave Romney and Jalil Anibaba continue.
Right midfield appears to be another question mark, with Accam, Badji, Alan Winn sharing minutes at the position. Accam dealt with a slight hamstring issue early in preseason, but after playing 45 minutes against Louisville, he could get a chance to start with the first group.
Tonight's match will be Montreal's fourth contest of their preseason, beating DC United 3-1 before losing 1-0 to both Philadelphia Union and Orlando City SC.
Montreal made a high-profile head coaching hire this offseason, bringing in French legend Thierry Henry to take the reigns after a third straight season where the club failed to make the playoffs.
Details from Montreal's preseason matches have been scarce (as with the majority of MLS clubs' preseason contests), and under Henry they've been very quiet about how they'll play. Montreal is just a week away from their first competitive match of the year, a CONCACAF Champions League match against Deportivo Saprissa.
Montreal will play the 2020 season without their leading all-time goal scorer after the club Ignacio Piatti parted ways, but even without him, they have plenty of depth on the wings. Honduran international Romell Quioto was acquired from Houston Dynamo in the offseason, joining the likes of Lassi Lappalainen and Orji Okwonkwo.
In midfield, Samuel Piette has anchored the team as the no. 6, and will likely be partnered with Saphir Taïder, an Algerian international and the only Designated Player currently on Montreal's roster.
In defense, Rudy Camacho appears to be first choice, and could be partnered by Rod Fanni. However, 18 year old Luis Binks is currently on trial with the club from Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, and after impressing in preseason could get the start.
Thanks to Tristan D'Amours for his information and an educated guess on Montreal's lineup. Make sure to follow him for coverage of the Impact throughout the season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Who will start up top for Nashville? We've asked this question every match this preseason, and are no closer to an answer. Who will get a chance against an MLS opponent?
How will Nashville defend against an MLS side? Montreal have plenty of fire power in the final third. After conceding three goals to Chicago, will Nashville have more success against their Canadian opponent?
How will the press develop? This will be hard to gauge accurately without the ability to watch, but Gary Smith told reporters that they tried to implement a press for the first time against Louisville. According to Smith, it was successful at the start before Lou City began to find ways to play through it. Will Nashville have success pressing against a talented side with a tactically astute manager?
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 at 9PM central, and will publish portions of our conversation shortly afterwards.
Date: Wednesday, February 11
Format: Two 45 minute halves
Time: 6PM Central, Al Lang Stadium, FL
Forecast: 84°/69°. Sunny. 0% chance of rain. 86% humidity.