Nashville SC rooting guide: Sept. 13-16, 2018

The playoff push continues, and while Nashville SC is off this weekend, the out-of-town scoreboard will be very intriguing. Who should you be cheering for in Eastern Conference games over the next several days?

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Thursday

Toronto FC II @ New York Red Bulls II
6:00 p.m. • Watch/follow

TFCII was the first team in USL eliminated from playoff contention, while the Baby Bulls are competing with Nashville SC for a playoff position. Red Bulls have 40 points in 28 games played, both one point and one GP in front of Nashville. NSC wants the point gap to remain as small as possible, so they can make it up when they catch up on games played.

With that in mind, you want NYRBII to lose as much as possible in the next few days. That includes this evening (hopefully not before I get this post published). If Red Bulls give up another game in-hand to Nashville while remaining only one point ahead… I’m OK with the odds that NSC can get at least one point from those games.

Saturday

Louisville City FC @ Pittsburgh Riverhounds
6:00 p.m. • Watch/follow

This is a tougher one. Both LCFC and Pittsburgh are ahead of Nashville, and in fact are both in position to host a playoff game, at fourth and second places, respectively. Both have played 27 games, with the Boys in Purple on 47 points and the Riverhounds on 49. Nashville is in eighth on 39 – though everyone ahead in the table except these two teams is giving up at least one game in-hand to NSC.

The main thrust here is whether you think Nashville can catch either of these two teams and move up in the playoff pecking order. If so, you want to cheer for Pittsburgh, because Louisville City is closer to striking distance. If not (which is probably more realistic, though I’ll be cheering for the best-case scenario until it’s no longer an option), it gets a bit more complicated and comes back a bit to each team’s remaining schedule (games in common removed)

Pittsburgh:

  • @ Charlotte
  • Cincinnati
  • @ Red Bulls II

Louisville:

  • Ottawa
  • @ Toronto
  • North Carolina

Really only Red Bulls and Ottawa are relevant to the playoff race here. Red Bulls strike  me as a little more dangerous (pending tonight’s outcome) to NSC’s playoff position, so I think that means you want Pittsburgh to lose Saturday, so they’re fighting tooth and nail for a home playoff game in this final stretch.

Ottawa Fury FC @ Richmond Kickers
6:00 p.m.  • Watch/follow

This one’s easy, though your favored result won’t be: Ottawa is in the playoff race, whereas Richmond is the worst team (bound for second-worst on the table) in the East. You want the Kickers to take down the Fury, though it’s unlikely.

Ottawa is giving up two games in hand to Nashville, and is still a point behind, so they’re not currently a major risk to the Boys in Gold… but the farther back they get, the more secure NSC’s playing position is.

Atlanta United 2 @ Tampa Bay Rowdies
6:00 p.m. • Watch/follow

Neither of these teams is likely to make the playoffs: Atlanta has 23 points in 26 games played and would basically have to win out to have a shot, while Tampa Bay has 31 points in 27 games played, and isn’t in quite as dire a situation, but is going to be officially eliminated from the postseason within the next couple weeks unless they really round into form.

Since Tampa Bay travels to Nashville Tuesday evening, you want the Rowdies to be demotivated in some way. From my perspective, that means you want them to lose to Atlanta: getting within a few points of official elimination from the playoffs is a major blow to the psyche (especially for a team like Tampa, which relied on star power and big salaries for its philosophy this year, and has seen that backfire spectacularly).

Should Tampa win, they’d be holding onto that outside hope of catching the Red Bulls, Steel, and particularly Nashville (against whom they’d have a six-pointer just a couple days later). You don’t want them to be feeling that confidence.

Sunday

Toronto FC II @ FC Cincinnati
3:30 p.m. • Watch /follow

This game is not relevant in the big picture: FC Cincinnati is in the playoffs, and all-but guaranteed to finish as the one-seed, whereas Toronto FC II is already eliminated, and will finish 16th in the East (maybe 15th, depending on a couple late wins and continued poor form from Richmond).

Still, wouldn’t it be funny to see FCC lose?

North Carolina FC @ Penn FC
4:00 p.m. • Watch/follow

This is an interesting one: neither team is in playoff position, or all that close to it. They have the exact same record (they’re separated by goal differential, which is the second tiebreaker) and 35 points with 27 games played. They also both have reason to get confidence toward the end of the season depending on the outcome Sunday. Penn plays its final six games after this one (also including this one… and the two before this one) at home, and can go on a bit of a run there. NCFC has Atlanta, Richmond, and Charlotte within its final six games.

So… it’s be best if they split the points, right? Both being three points behind Nashville with more games played is inherently better than either of them being just a single point back – it increases NSC’s margin for error.

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