The Atlanta United friendly is well into the rearview mirror, but that doesn’t mean Nashville SC is on the cusp of the regular season. Indeed, there’s plenty of soccer to be played before the games count. Here’s what to look forward to over the next few weeks.
Nashville SC v. Chicago Fire
IMG Academy • Bradenton, Fla.
5:00 p.m. EST • Watch online
The Fire were a solid squad last year, finishing third in the Eastern Conference with the third-best offense in MLS (1.79 goals/game) and a decent defense (tied for seventh-best in the league at 1.38allowed per contest). They were blasted 4-0 by New York Red Bulls i the first round of the playoffs, ending their season.
The Fire were led offensively by Serbian forward Nemanja Nikolic (24 goals, four assists), midfielder David Accam (14 goals, eight assists) – who is now with the Philadelphia Union – Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw (three goals, eight assists), and former Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger (three goals, six assists). The 33-year-old Schweinsteiger is retiring at the conclusion of this season, as well.
Starting keeper Matt Lampson was traded to Minnesota United, so expect Richard Sanchez to take over the firs-team role.
Obviously both the Fire and NSC, with condensed schedules (Chicago played last Wednesday and hits the field again Saturday, NSC has another friendly Friday), will see lots of rotation in their squads. However, at least from a Nashville perspective, we’ll probably get a first-team and hopefuls to make that unit to start the match as the coaches try to settle a final depth chart.
Nashville SC v. Ottawa Fury
IMG Academy • Bradenton, Fla.
3:00 p.m. EST • Watch online
Nashville SC’s first-ever competition against a fellow USL side will come against a team from the Great White North… in the Great Sunshiny State (or just “Sunshine State” if you aren’t going for name symmetry).
Ottawa Fury finished 10th in the USL East last season. You can read a little more detail on their preseason roster comings and goings here.
In this game, Nashville will probably be a little more experimental with the lineup for a couple reasons. First, it’s the middle game of a very tight three-game stretch over the course of five days. Secondly, they’ll want to hold a little bit back from a fellow USL team, given that they’ll be playing twice in the regular season.
Nashville SC @ Orlando City SC
Orlando City Stadium • Orlando, Fla.
Closed-door match • No online coverage
The concept of closed-door friendlies is not particularly novel in soccer (most MLS and USL teams will have at least one or two in preseason). Even NSC’s media relations staff won’t be in the house here, so we may be lucky to get even as much as a final score.
Nashville SC @ Lipscomb
Lipscomb Soccer Complex • Nashville
4:00 p.m. • Tickets
Following a bit of time on the road in Florida, Nashville SC will return home… but still play a little ways across town at Lipscomb University in a friendly match. You can safely assume that this will be the “guys fighting for regular squad time” lineup of the pre-season, with a college team unlikely to stand much of a challenge if NSC were to play its starters. You’ll probably see a whole lot of third keeper Micah Bledsoe, a Lipscomb alum.
There’s certainly an element in there of the club looking out for soccer in the area, giving Lipscomb not only some good preseason competition, but most likely one of its biggest crowds of the young season.
Nashville SC @ FC Cincinnati
Gettler Stadium • Cincinnati
4:00 p.m. • Tickets (Streaming info to come)
This will be a matchup of two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams. It’ll be interesting to see whether both squads go with a full-strength lineup and winning tactics, or are happy to get a little bit of competition, give the fans a bit of a show, and be a little bit more conservative after the game really gets under way.
From my perspective (and I would say most agree), Cincinnati is the favorite to emerge as the top team in the East, with a Nashville team that is completely new – rather than bigtime additions to an existing roster, like Cincinnati – one of the clubs with the chance to be a major contender themselves.
Nashville SC @ Chattanooga FC
Finley Stadium • Chattanooga, Tenn.
7:00 p.m. • Tickets
NSC heads down I-24 to close out the preseason and do a bit more missionary work in helping out the little guys in the state.
Chattanooga FC’s supporters have an… odd… complex when it comes to Nashville SC. For whatever reason (one must consider “inferiority complex” as the most likely explanation), they really hate Nashville SC. Naturally, neither Nashville’s club nor supporters are going to apologize for having the ability to climb the US Soccer ladder and end up in MLS in a couple years.
Either way, this will be a homecoming for centerback Jordan Dunstan (who was with CFC last year), and he’ll probably see plenty of the field. The rest of the lineup will most likely, again, be a bit more of a depth selection. However, thanks to the one-sided rivalry, NSC certainly won’t want to take an L to Chattanooga, so if things get a little dicey, you could see some of the more accomplished players hit the field (though the preference would be to let them rest up for the regular-season opener in Louisville a week later).