It's another top of the table clash for Nashville SC. A week after a last-minute 2-1 win over Charleston Battery, the Boys In Gold head to Tampa Bay to take on the second place Rowdies. Here's what to expect from the match.
Nashville SC enter Week 26 in 3rd place, just a single point behind Tampa Bay. Their 47 goals scored is the second best in the East, and their 23rd goals conceded is good for third best in the league. They're averaging 1.93 points per game on the road, the second best total on the league, and are going up against a Tampa Bay side who have lost three of their last five matches.
One thing to watch for is the weather. Hurricane Dorian is heading towards Florida and is picking up strength, projected to be a Category 4 hurricane when it hits land on Monday. It looks like the match will take place before the hurricane strikes, but there could still be heavy rain and storms. The entire state of Florida is in a state of emergency, which could cause travel issues for Nashville as well.
The biggest question mark for Nashville SC heading into this one will be Daniel Ríos. Nashville's top scorer missed last Saturday's match against Charleston with a groin injury, and is expected to be questionable with the same issue. Cameron Lancaster is as solid a replacement as their is, but the former golden boot winner has struggled with injuries this season and hasn't been able to find consistent minutes on the pitch.
In defense, Forrest Lasso returns from a one match suspension after being sent off against New York. He should slot back into his starting role next to Jimmy Ockford in defense. Gary Smith could easily decide to play in a back three, similar to what he did against Charleston. Having Ken Tribbett gives him the flexibility to choose between the two systems and even make a formational shift mid-game.
TAMPA BAY ROWDIES
Tampa Bay sit in second place in the East, and have one of the more balanced sides in the conference. They've scored 46 goals, and only Indy Eleven have conceded less than their 20 goals allowed.
Forward Sebastian Guenzatti has scored 13 goals on the season, second only to Daniel Ríos in the East. He looks likely to be partnered with 22-year-old Juan Tejada, who's scored eight goals himself.
In midfield, Kwadwo Poku (formerly of New York City FC in MLS) has been in good form, scoring twice in their 5-0 win against Memphis. He's not just a physically strong player, but picks great moments to get into the box, making trailing runs behind the forwards to get on the end of crosses. He'll be one to watch for Nashville.
From Nashville SC media relations
GARY SMITH (Head Coach)
On how the last-minute win over Charleston impacted the team's morale: “Well it was the end of a tough week, three games are never easy. The attitude, the focus, the changes that were made and the guys that came in I thought performed to a wonderful level. The attitude, as you can well imagine, is very upbeat, very positive, they’re looking forward to a game at the weekend that in many ways could really determine whether or not we stay in the hunt for silverware, certainly the Eastern Conference title. Knowing that it’s a very difficult game.”
On the depth of the defensive group with Bradley Bourgeois and Justin Davis re-entering the lineup: “I think if we were talking about that six or eight weeks ago, you might have been talking about a very different scenario with Bradley and Justin being quite a feature in the side. I think it speaks volumes to the fact that the competition, obviously two new defenders in Bradley’s case added. But their attitude and their desire, their passion on an occasion that was paramount that we won, it came in the most dramatic of fashions, very exciting end. But it was due to the fact that those guys that came in, and obviously the other guys that were alongside them, just created an atmosphere that was so full of enthusiasm and energy, and I do honestly believe that desire really dragged them across the line, along with some great support of course.”
On Cameron Lancaster’s return to the starting lineup against Charleston: “Cameron’s had a very broken season so far. We’ve seen some exceptional moments from him, goals that we maybe come to expect from a guy of his caliber. I think for any player to be sharp, to be ready, to make the most of the few moments, which they were at the weekend, you’ve got to be playing regularly. 70 minutes under his belt will have gone a long way to making him feel a heck of a lot better about his progress after his latest little setback. He’s available for the weekend, he’s in a good place, he’s had a fantastic week’s training, as have plenty of other guys. We’re looking forward to it.”
On the team’s approach to taking on Tampa Bay: “They’ll have the same type of mentality that we have. Whoever can come out of this game with a victory would put them in an exceptional position. I think their situation is slightly different being a point in front and a game in hand, so maybe that will play into Neill [Collins]’ thoughts, I don’t know. I can only plan for what I’ve got with this group and how we’re going to affect the game, and it will be in a very positive fashion. I feel as though we’re capable of beating them. I certainly want to put the record straight from the defeat at home. I felt as though that was as bit of a kick in the teeth given how the game went. To lose as we did in that fashion from a set piece, I think everyone wants to put themselves well and truly in a great position for the final few games.”
On if he’s monitoring the weather forecast ahead of the match in Florida: “I’ve looked at it, it’s obviously a concern for all. The league ultimately have to make that choice. I just hope they’ll be sensible about the reasons that we’re going down there. Honestly, I would think there’s a lot of people in Florida at the moment far more concerned about the possibility of a hurricane landing on them than a soccer match. I hope the conditions are good, they have a wonderful stadium, they have a great field. It would be a shame that game would be spoiled, and such an important game, because of severe weather.”
On seeing family in Tampa: “I don’t get much of an opportunity to see my mom, who lives literally 10 minutes from Tampa. My sister’s living in St. Pete as well. We have quite a few people coming down to watch us at the weekend. Hopefully the conditions are good, the game’s an exciting one, and we come out of there with the result that we need.”
JUSTIN DAVIS (Defender)
On the team’s attitude heading into Saturday’s match after the win over Charleston Battery: “The team should be feeling confident. I think it was a big result for us over the weekend and showed some grit and determination to get that result late on, and I think that’s what we need going down to Tampa.”
On the team’s defensive depth with him and Bradley Bourgeois coming back into the lineup after not being in it for several matches: “Bradley [Bourgeois] and I have been waiting for a while to get back into the squads. Maybe we went into the game with a little bit extra there and wanted to prove a point that we belong out there. Yeah, I think anytime you’re out of the squad for an extended period of time, you want to go in and show well, and I think we did.”
On what makes Tampa Bay Rowdies so consistent: “It just speaks to the organization. They have lofty goals and always want to be competing for championships. It’s a different team than it’s been in years past. This year, they play a very different style, but it’s been effective for them. They wouldn’t be in the position they are otherwise. A good team, they got a result against us, so we’re going to have to go down there and take care of business.”
On his takeaways from the last meeting with Tampa Bay on May 8, 2019: “I think their goal was kind of fluky off of a set piece. We dominated the game for the most part, we just couldn’t finish. So, we need to take advantage of our opportunities when they come. It will probably be a little more difficult with the way they play down there. If we take care of business going forward, we should be alright.”
On if he’s been tracking the storm approaching Florida and how it might impact the match: “Yeah, I’ve been tracking it. I would suspect that there’s going to be some rain. Might be some sort of delay which is something we’ve grown accustomed to in Nashville. Whatever happens, happens. You’ve just got to play through it and they’re going to have to play through the same stuff.”
CAMERON LANCASTER (Forward)
On how it felt to play for 70 minutes against Charleston Battery last Saturday: “It felt really good. It’s been a frustrating couple of months now. It felt really good to get out there and help the boys get the win. It was a really good result for us.”
On his form last match and having a lot of chances on goal without scoring: “I think as a striker, if you keep doing the right things correctly, then you’re going to have a chance. I probably should have slotted a few away, but if I keep doing the right thing, I’ll get the chances and the goals will come.”
On head coach Gary Smith having faith that he will find goals in the coming matches: “Yeah, I scored last season, and I’m sure once I get more minutes under my belt, then yeah, the goals will come for sure.”
On how he’d describe the attitude of the team coming off of a win over Charleston Battery: “I think it’s great. Those sort of wins and performances really galvanize the team and really bring us together, so we’re full of confidence going into a tough game against Tampa. Hopefully we get a result.”
On what he expects in Saturday’s match against Tampa: “We are kind of near the top of the table. They’re near the top of the table. It’s going to be a tough game. It’s always a tough game against Tampa. They’re always really organized. They had a really good start to the season. They’re still up there, so it’s going to be a tough game. We’re going to need to be at our best.”
On if the attitude ahead of Saturday’s match is similar to that of the attitude ahead of Wednesday’s match against New York Red Bulls II: “I think you need to go into every game with the same mentality. You need to go into every game thinking it’s a final basically. You need to go in there, have the right mentality, put in maximum effort. What will be, will be.”
On if he’s kept an eye of the Florida weather for Saturday: “Yeah of course. I think there’s a State of Emergency around there now, so it will be an interesting one. I just hope that we don’t go there and have it called off and have to reschedule because we’ve gone through a few games like that this season.”
Score: Tampa Bay 1 - 3 Nashville SC
Scorers: Cameron Lancaster (x2), Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Cameron Lancaster
Bold Prediction: Nashville score twice late in the match to get the win in a match that will be much closer than the scoreline suggests.
Score: Tampa Bay 1 - 1 Nashville SC
Scorers: Lebo Moloto
MOTM: Lebo Moloto
Bold Prediction: Tampa Bay get a point with a late equalizer.
Score: Tampa Bay 2- 1 Nashville SC
Scorers: Daniel Ríos
MOTM: Daniel Ríos
Bold Prediction: Ríos equalizes early in the second half before Tampa Bay scores a late winner.
Score: Tampa Bay 1 - 1 Nashville SC
Scorers: Cameron Lancaster
MOTM: Lebo Moloto
Bold Prediction: Nashville holds Tampa Bay to just two shots on goal, and gives up a late goal to draw.
Have a prediction for this week's match? Vote in our Fearless Forecast!
Date: Saturday, 08/31/19
Time: 6:30 PM, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Florida
Forecast: 91°/79°. Mostly cloudy. 80% chance of rain. 73% humidity.