Back healthy, pls.
Nearly a week ago, Nashville SC played its first-ever friendly as an MLS side. The opponent was an IF Elfsborg team that, while comparable to a slightly below-average MLS team… well, is comparable only to a below-average MLS team.
That group held Nashville SC scoreless. That the Boys in Gold returned the favor, resulting in a scoreless draw, is certainly some consolation. It still doesn’t provide the warm fuzzies about an explosive Nashville SC offense.
There are some caveats, of course. The players and head coach Gary Smith spoke after the game about how a smooth, productive offense is going to take a little more time to jell than a stout defense. While maintaining a shutout is about remaining structured and disciplined in shape in proximity to your own goal, scoring requires not only being positionally precise, but a built of a chemistry built up between attacking players.
“The attacking side of it, that’s always going to be something that comes a little bit later in terms of those connections, and trying to click, and create chances and score goals,” said midfielder Dax McCarty. “You see some positive play, we saw some really positive stuff from our backline through our midfield, to the strikers and the attacking players who created some good chances. It’s just a matter of getting on the same page as fast as we can.”
The other caveat – the one I’m more interested in today – is what Nashville SC looks like with a full-strength lineup. I won’t guarantee (in fact I’d guess it’s unlikely) that we see every player healthy and available for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Fire. There is something to be said for missing one of the highest-regarded intra-MLS signings on the team in David Accam, and one of the highest-regarded prospects in the entire Concacaf region in Randall Leal.
The latter, at least, should be back after participating in a Costa Rica friendly against the United States (see clips and a breakdown here) on the opposite coast Saturday afternoon. His return won’t be a panacea for the Nashville offense, but it’s expected to be a major boost.
“What I will say is, in the brief spell that we had Randall, he looks incredibly exciting,” Smith said. “Very talented boy: I’m very very pleased with how he connected with the group.”
Getting him back opens up some offense down the wings. If Accam is also available, suddenly Nashville goes from technically proficient but workmanlike, to speedy out wide.
Nashville was also without one of its potential creative midfielders in Jimmy Medranda, who may take some additional time in returning to the squad after missing much of his 2019 season with Sporting Kansas City. Striker Daniel Ríos, in a competition for the starting gig up top, also sat last week’s friendly. He may not be an instant-impact gamechanger when available (and there’s been no indication yet of his availability for Thursday), but another bullet in the chamber with a proven track record of scoring at a lower level is at least worth a breath of optimism.
We saw last season that Nashville SC became one of the highest-scoring teams in the USL. That was despite early-season friendly results without much in the way of encouraging offense:
- 0-2 Montreal Impact
- 2-1 Louisville City FC (USL)
- 3-0 Birmingham Legion FC (USL)
- 0-2 New York City FC (MLS)
- 4-1 Lipscomb University (NCAA)
- 0-0 Indy Eleven (USL)
That’s not to say the improvement will be equally stark as the team moves up to another level. However, preseason results – particularly a one-game sample size thereof – don’t necessarily mean a team will be unable to score.
Thursday’s game against the Fire (2 p.m. CST, no stream available) is the next opportunity to take strides toward being that type of squad.