Nashville SC 2020 preseason preview: Louisville City FC

He’ll be on the opposite touchline today

Nashville SC has played one club more than any other in its brief history. That will continue with yet another contest against Louisville City FC This afternoon.

The essentials

LOUOpponent: Louisville City FC (17-8-9 last season) • 60 points, 4th place USL East, Playoff runner-up.
Time, Location: Sunday Feb. 9, 3:00 p.m. CST (4:00 local) • IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Weather: 77ºF, 0% chance of rain, 49% humidity, 14 MPH Easterly winds
Follow: @NashvilleSC
Watch • Listen: No streams 😦
Etc.: The full Nashville SC 2020 preseason schedule. Recap of the IF Elfsborg game and the Chicago Fire game.

Louisville City FC

As noted at the top, Nashville SC has played Louisville more than anyone: three regular-season matchups and a US Open Cup match in 2018, a friendly and two more regular-season games in 2019. While both teams have seen plenty of change – Louisville has changed coaches, Nashville has changed leagues – there’s some institutional familiarity there.

Louisville has been and should continue to be one of the second division’s top teams. Like Nashville SC did last year, it’s also beefed up in the offseason: NSC’s own Jimmy Ockford has joined the Boys in Purple, as has FC Cincinnati midfielder Corben Bone. Former Louisville striker (and league MVP runner-up) Cameron Lancaster is back with the squad on loan from Nashville’s MLS outfit, while keeper Ben Lundt is on loan from Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Louisville returns first-team All-USL midfielder Magnus Rasmussen and defender Oscar Jimenez. The club also brings back… basically everyone of note from last year’s team (at least as far as has been announced to this point). Behind Rasmussen’s 17 goals and Jimenez’s seven assists – both to lead the team – the top nine goal-scorers and top seven assist-men are back. The only meaningful departures are centerback Paco Craig (currently on trial with Queens Park Rangers, and while I suspect he doesn’t catch on with a Premier League team, NSC won’t be facing him today, at least) and right back Shaun Francis.

This should be an early favorite to repeat as the East’s representative in the USL Championship… uh Championship. With a decent offense and very good defense last year, they may be doing it (at least early in the season) in a different way.

Nashville SC

Gary Smith indicated Thursday that the lineup he put out for the first half against Chicago Fire is his “Group One” at this point. Certainly there can be some changes – Daniel Ríos and Davis Accam just coming back from injury and Miguel Nazarit from a late camp arrival due to slow visa processing, Jimmy Medranda has yet to play at all due to injury recovery – but at this point, I think he’ll continue to roll with it until there’s a reason to change.

Striker and right wing are the only spots that seem up for much interpretation, and sticking with Dominique Badji and Abu Danladi (who played out of position at right wing and striker, respectively, in the first friendly, and switched back against Chicago) to let them find their feet in MLS seems reasonable.

Keeping a clean sheet, even against a USL side, might be difficult, given the depth and breadth of Louisville’s talent above and beyond most USL teams. However, Nashville would love to see a return to defensive form, with errors leading to both of Chicago’s first-half goals Thursday.

Nashville’s players up front – whether the first-choice guys or the top backups – should be able to work chemistry and find some success against an LCFC side that is without two of last year’s Start XI defenders (and, for all his success offensively, nobody’s going to confuse Oscar Jimenez for a lock-down defender at left back, either).

Keys to the game

  • Get better in preparation for the regular season.

Predictions

As noted above, I think there should be an OK amount of offense for Louisville City, and it’s time for Nashville SC’s production to kick into a new gear against a team that’s re-forming its backline.

  • Nashville SC’s Randall Leal creates an opportunity after getting in behind on a throughball from Hany Mukhtar. While Dominique Badji can’t finish his pass, Mukhtar follows up to dunk it home.
  • Dominique Badji gets in behind and fires a nice strike from the edge of the six-yard box.
  • Louisville City responds with a hit from distance by Luke Spencer.
  • Nashville rebuilds a 3-1 lead with a set-piece goal. Dave Romney nods home the corner kick served up by Eric Miller.
  • Louisville gets back within one on a set piece of its own in the second half (after both teams rotate heavily). A free kick outside the area rattles around, and is finished off by Lancaster.
  • Daniel Ríos gives the cushion back taking a ball with his back to goal near the top of the box from Taylor Washington. He turns and fires.

Nashville SC wins 4-2.

Cameron Lancaster photo by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country.

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