Preview: Nashville SC @ Charlotte Independence 2018 Round 2

Nashville’s second three-play of the year will be completed this evening. The rubber match against Charlotte Independence after each team got a shutout win at home… will happen in Queen City. Will NSC earn a better result than their last trip to the Tar Heel State?

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Hashtag throwback. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

The essentials

Opponent: Charlotte Independence (7-11-8 USL). 32 GF, 46 GA so far in 2018, 12th in USL East, 12th in USL East Power Ratings and 27th in combined-table Pure Power.
Recent form: CLT (L-L-D-L-D) NSH (W-L-D-W-D)
The Line: Charlotte +149, Draw +214, Nashville +163
Time, Location: Saturday, Sept. 1 7:30 p.m. local (6:30 p.m. CDT)  • Sportsplex at Matthews
Event: USL Regular season
Weather: 82ºF, 23% chance of rain, 69% humidity, 4 MPH Easterly winds
Watch: Locally on MyTV30, stream with a subscription to ESPN+. See the list of soccer bars in Nashville if you want to watch in a game atmosphere.
Listen: Locally on 94.9 Game2 in English, 96.7 El Jefe FM en Español.
Follow: @NashvilleSC, @ClubCountryUSA (in all honesty, I’m probably going to be doing alcohol and college football too much to be live-tweeting the game. Adjust as necessary for this game only), USL gametracker page, @CLTIndependence, #NSHvRIC
Elsewhere: Nashville SC preview. The homie Claudio Villalobos lockin’ it down for mis hispanohablantes.

Charlotte Independence

We’ve done this twice already (one of those a postgame, one a preview), so there’s not a whole lot new going on here. We know what Charlotte is about.

Andrew Dykstra is the man in net, though after giving up 12 goals in four games (despite one of them a shutout!) maybe it’s time to rethink that? Of course, the defense in front of him is to blame as well – backup keeper Brandon Miller’s raw numbers are actually worse. They’ve tried a few different things in recent weeks with varying degrees of success.

There’s no question that a road draw against Pittsburgh is an extremely good result (especially down a man for most of the second half). There’s even less question that giving up six to an offensively impotent North Carolina FC is terrible. The latter saw Charlotte go to a back three after getting trashed against Louisville and Bethlehem… and based on the result, something tells me there won’t be an odd backline this evening. Bilal Duckett has featured in all four of the most recent games (at right back in the Pittsburgh result), while Joel Johnson has played both right fullback and midfield, with Samuel Vines at left fullback/wingback for the most part. Je-Vaughn Watson and Betrand Owundi Eko’o among the more-used defenders.

My guy Jorge Herrera, all 37 years old of him, remains the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals, and he’s the co-leader in assists with three. Cordell Cato has eight and is another of the co-leaders in setting up teammates (Kay Voser, Alex Martinez, and Vines also have three apiece).

This is a team that can score, but can’t prevent teams from scoring on them (UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU ALLOWED TO CHECK THE SCORE OF NASHVILLE’S PREVIOUS GAME IN CHARLOTTE). In several ways, they’re a platonic opposite of NSC. Nashville’s loss in Charlotte was one of just five clean sheets they’ve kept in 26 games – Nashville has 13 in 25 games, despite an uncharacteristically crappy run of form in July. The Independence don’t stop anyone; opponents stop themselves. If you think Nashville’s done with the “stopping itself” phase of the schedule, this should be an OK game.

The Boys in Gold

Is Nashville done with said phase? They’ve gotten results in four of the last five (and scored in the loss), with two of those games against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. That seems to be a new segment of the schedule, at the very least. Still, even the shift back to a 3-5-2 after the 4-4-2 had lost its bite is no guarantee of continued success.

Indeed, that formation will have to overcome a new hurdle, with Justin Davis serving a suspension for his sixth yellow card of the year (and fifth without a streak of five games discipline-less to recharge the ol’ accumulation chart). That probably puts fellow lefty Liam Doyle at left centerback, with London Woodberry slotting between him and Bradley Bourgeois in the back. Expect Taylor Washington (who sat against Richmond Tuesday with a minor knee injury) and Kosuke Kimura or Ryan James to serve as the wingbacks.

There’s plenty of flexibility with the front three, especially on a crowded week: Lebo Moloto has played 180 minutes this week, while Alan Winn, Kris Tyrpak, and Tucker Hume have all seen at least some time in both games already this week. Add in that Ropapa Mensah is the lone squad regular to be on the injury report (questionable with a strained back), and there can be plenty of intrigue as to what the offensive personnel will entail.

Projected lineups

Forgot to bring the ol’ graphicalizer with me out of town. I would bet you see Moloto start with Tyrpak and Brandon Allen up top, in the most intriguing lineup question of the day.

Predictions

Keeping it short because we’re like 4 hours later than I meant for this to go up:

Nashville earns a 1-1 road draw. That’s still slightly disappointing, all things considered, but it’s what you aspire to in the USL. Against good teams (or bad ones that are OK at home), getting any sort of result is hardly the worst thing that can happen.

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