Opponent: Ottawa Fury (8-10-14 USL Eastern Conference, Canadian Championship semifinalist 2017)
The Line: No line, this is a friendly, you degenerates
Time, Location: 3:00 p.m. EST (2 p.m. Nashville) • IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Event: IMG Suncoast Pro Classic (preseason friendly).
Weather: 82° F, 8% chance of rain, 8 MPH Southeasterly winds.
Watch: Closed to the public. You can stream online at IMG’s Youtube Channel or below.
Etc.: Lookin’ at the remainder of NSC preseason. Q&A with Northern Starting XI. Breakdown of Wednesday’s friendly.
Elsewhere: Golden Goal preview. Music City Soccer preview.
This is the first public friendly for the Fury – they’ve primarily played local men’s teams (and themselves) in scrimmage situations thus far. Despite Nashville SC being in the first year of its professional existence, Ottawa is probably starting a bit behind in early-season cohesion.
Striker Steevan Dos Santos was the leading scorer last year, with ten goals and only one assist. Expect him to start up top, and be dangerous. Sito Seoane plays just under him as a No. 10, and while he banged in five goals himself, he also only contributed a single assist. 28-year old winger Carl Haworth is your assist-man (five last year) and captain. Former Swope Park midfielder Kevin Oliveira is a major addition, and his three goals and five assists last year should add a punch in the middle of the park. The changes in personnel could also mean a bit of a different formation than last year’s preferred 4-2-3-1 to get the central attacking midfield talent on the field.
Defensively, veteran centerback Colin Flavey comes over from Indy Eleven, while the San Francisco Deltas provide right/center back Nana Attakora. Verily, the collapse of NASL has been kind to mid-table USL sides. CDM Jamar Dixon is the returning defensive leader.
Keeper Callum Irving played every minute between the pipes, though his numbers were pretty mediocre last year. Part of that could be the unit ahead of him, which seems to be improved going into 2017 given the above-mentioned roster moves.
The Boys in Gold
I expected NSC to play some starters a full 90 Wednesday, and that they didn’t (instead making their final changes – 10 subs – in the 60th minute) changes my expectations for the substitution patterns against the Fury. Rather than see a full lineup of backups and some insertion of starters, we’ll probably see something like the reverse of the Fire friendly: normal starting lineup, with the majority of those players subbed off very early when the coaches get a feel for how they’re reacting to the quick turnaround.
Mixing in some potential first-XI regulars (such as Taylor Washington, Ropapa Mensah, Alan Winn, or Liam Doyle/Bradley Bourgeois) to see how they fit in with the starters proper is a solid use of this game. Can NSC find a way to get Winn into its normal 5-3-2 formation? This would be a good time to try to find out.
Given that there’s another friendly in two days – and a closed-door one, so it’s more likely to be a good-on-good look for the whole game, with substitution patterns that a competitive match would see – some of the first-teamers are going to need a bit of rest. Letting that happen while giving the best subs a look with the top lineup is an effective use of the middle of three friendlies this afternoon.
This strikes me as a game that NSC doesn’t enter looking to learn something from a result. With two MLS sides in the rearview mirror and another coming up (all on short rest), it’s about the process rather than the outcome. The Fury, on the other hand, are engaging in their first friendly of the preseason, and want to get their game legs under them to a degree.
That means the motivations are different and the fitness level is different. While NSC would like a measuring stick against a USL side, they’ll have that opportunity against Cincinnati next weekend, and might as well focus their energies on the MLS competition while they’re in Florida. That Ottawa isn’t a particularly high bar within the USL – if NSC is competing with them in the regular season rather than the Cincinnatis and Louisvilles of the world, they have way more problems than wasting a preseason friendly – is another factor to take into account.
- CJ Cochran gets his opportunity to start in a friendly, and goes most of the game, with Micah Bledsoe getting a look between the pipes (to prepare him for the Lipscomb game next week, in which he’ll probably get plenty of action).
- The front three has a different look for the first time this preseason. One of Robin Shroot, Michael Cox (he’s my guess) or Lebo Moloto either gets rested completely, or gets a bit of time outside of a starting role.
- We see more mixing of the centerback trio, and Taylor Washington playing opposite Kosuke Kimura for the first time in game action at the wingback spots.
Ottawa Fury takes a 3-2 result. This prediction obviously relies very heavily on the assumption that NSC goes with the substitution patterns I’m expecting: a first-XI NSC side should be able to handle the Fury relatively easily, unless we’ve been getting Fool’s (Boys in) Gold so far against two MLS opponents. This won’t – or at least shouldn’t – be that group.