Preview: Saint Louis FC vs Nashville SC

After a massive 2-1 win in Tampa Bay last weekend, Nashville are on the road once again, traveling to St. Louis to take on a side just on the edge of playoff position. Here's what we're expecting from the match.

NASHVILLE SC


Sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, Nashville SC has been without their top scorer for the past two matches, as Daniel Ríos has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Fortunately, head coach Gary Smith has been able to replace him with the USL single season record goalscorer, and Cameron Lancaster has led the line well in Ríos's absence. "The only thing that's missing has been a goal", said Smith. "His output in terms of physical energy has been very, very good... He's somebody that sees things that others don't. I don't think it'll be long [until he gets a goal]."

With a full week between matches and another 10 day break before their next match, I expect Smith to roll with the same XI that got three points in Tampa Bay. Bradley Bourgeois was somewhat of a surprise inclusion ahead of Jimmy Ockford, but the defender showed up with a USL Team of the Week performance, and it seems unlikely he'll be dropped. Darnell King has found a good run of form in recent weeks, and I expect he'll keep his place ahead of Kosuke Kimura.


The other player to keep an eye on is Derrick Jones, who was upgraded to questionable last week after missing three months after ankle surgery. He's slowly working his way back to full fitness, and looked good in training yesterday. I doubt he'll start the match, but a spot on the bench wouldn't surprise me, especially given the lack of depth in Nashville's midfield.


INJURY REPORT

To be updated once injury report is published Friday afternoon.

SAINT LOUIS FC


After looking like the team to beat in the East when Nashville last played them 176 days ago, they've dropped into 10th place and are fighting for one of the last playoff spots. "It seemed to me from a distance that maybe the [US Open] Cup run interfered with some of the flow and the continuity of their league play", said Smith. Saint Louis made a run to the Quarterfinals of the US Open Cup, falling 2-0 to eventual winners Atlanta United. The run appeared to take its toll on their league form, though, as they won just one of their next eight matches after losing to Atlanta.


"The thing about all those wins in the beginning, they looked good doing it, but [Saint Louis] weren't scoring goals through [open] play", says Phill Grooms of The USL Show. "A lot of them were set pieces or headers, which is fine as long as it keeps working, but it stopped working." (You can listen to our full conversation on our latest podcast).


Saint Louis have turned things around in recent weeks, putting in a really strong showing in a 2-1 loss to Indy Eleven before picking up wins at home against Hartford Athletic and Ottawa Fury. Head coach Tony Pulis plays in a 4-4-2 system, but pushes his wingers and fullbacks really high up the pitch to create overloads in the final third, as Devon Kerr explains here:

Forward Kyle Greig leads the team with seven goals, and will likely partner Caleb Calvert up front. Calvert is one of the better target men in the league, scoring the winner against Nashville in the reverse fixture. In midfield, Lewis Hilton has pulled the strings for the team, leading with four assists and 45 chances created, but went off at halftime in their midweek match against Ottawa. If he's injured and unavailable against Nashville, Colin Fernandez seems likely to take his spot. Flanked by Kadeem Dacres and Russell Cicerone, this side can threaten from all areas of the pitch. Sam Fink and Phanuel Kavita are two of the best passing centerbacks in USL, and they won't be easy to break down by any means.


QUOTES


PREDICTIONS


Ben Wright

Score: Saint Louis 0 - 3 Nashville SC

Scorers: Bradley Bourgeois, Cameron Lancaster, Ropapa Mensah

MOTM: Cameron Lancaster

Bold Prediction: Nashville is able to control possession and pass through Saint Louis's press, creating twice the amount of chances as their opponent.


Andy Simmons

Score: Saint Louis 0 - 2 Nashville SC

Scorers: Lebo Moloto, Cameron Lancaster

MOTM: Cameron Lancaster

Bold Prediction: Lancaster finds his form and contributes to both goals.


Jonathan Slape

Score: Saint Louis 0 - 2 Nashville SC

Scorers: Cameron Lancaster, Alan Winn

MOTM: Alan Winn

Bold Prediction: Nashville only allows two shots on goal in a routine win on the road.

Have a prediction for this week's match? Vote in our Fearless Forecast!


MATCH INFO

Date: Saturday, 09/07/19

Time: 7:30 PM, West Community Stadium, Fenton, MO

TV: MyTV30

Stream: ESPN+

Radio: N/A

Forecast: 82°/63°. Sunny. 10% chance of rain. 66% humidity.


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