Nashville SC

Nashville SC 2021 preview: The schedule (and a bunch of teams not on the schedule)

Brady Scott we hardly knew ye and then ye went to Austin.

The final piece. Teams that Nashville SC plays once (and then a bunch not at all). The most-frequent and, uh, typical-frequency teams here.

Austin FC

In Nashville May 23

So this is a whole new thing, yeah? There’s no available résumé to point to and say “increment your expectations in the following direction.” What we can do is look at some of the talent Austin has added, and figure out whether it’s a good build.

At goalkeeper, Brad Stuver and Andrew Tarbell are the two players who have a bit of a history in the league. Tarbell was below-average in the 2020 regular season, but didn’t allow a goal in the postseason on eight shots faced in relief of Eloy Room, and that got him to better-than-average for the whole campaign. Stuver didn’t see the pitch last season, but was below-average consistently for NYCFC over three of the previous four years – though the sample sizes have all been small. There’s even a familiar name, with ephemeral Boy in Gold Brady Scott likely locking down the No. 3 slot for now, but potentially considered the netminder of the future.

Defensively, they signed Matt Besler after he was released from Sporting Kansas City. Yes, he’s 34. But he’s been an elite defensive CB (he provides next-to-nothing offensively, which is fine – not everyone can be Walker Zimemrman) every season since a sophomore slump in 2014. Nick Lima is not loved by G+, but should lock down on the right while Ben Sweat (another player that G+ is not enamored with) starts on the left. Aside from Lima, their defensive acquisitions are either new to the league or on the older side. As we saw with Nashville last year, that can be a recipe for success.

The midfield rest on a few gambles: that Alex Ring (who has one very good year with NYCFC and three below-average ones) can play at his peak, and that some combination of DP Tomás Pochettino, second-year CM Sebastian Berhalter, and rookie Daniel Pereira can fill two more forward-thinking roles between them.

The attacking line similarly has some MLS reclamation prospects (Danny Hoesen and Aaron Schoenfeld among them) augmented by a fairly young Designated Player who can change the narrative if he comes good. Paraguayan winger Cecilio Dominguez is 26 and has the better part of a decade as a pro, so he’s less a lottery ticket than Pochettino… but he also has just seven goals in the two seasons since leaving Liga MX’s Club América. If that’s indicative of a long-term decline in form, it may not bode well for his ability to change the game for Austin.

All told, this looks like a team taking a relatively similar approach to Nashville’s 2020: get a bunch of known quantities, takes some risks from abroad, and hope your Designated Players provide enough attacking punch to get you to the summer window.

Real Salt Lake

In Sandy, Utah may 15

ASA G+C&C xG PowerC&C G Power
Overall+1.29 (10th)-0.21 (19th)-0.46 (22nd)
Offense18.73 (18th)-0.37 (23th)-0.40 (19th)
Defense17.44 (8th)-0.16 (7th)+0.06 (14th)

5-10-7, 22 points (1.00 PPG, 11th West) • 25 goals for, 35 goals against (-10) • Did not play Nashville

RSL put a solid team on the pitch according to some of the advanced metrics, with Goals Added putting Salt Lake in the top 10 in the league (though as I’ve said in the prior editions of this post, I’m not sure if net G+ is a good team-wide measure of quality; it measures other stuff). You could safely say the attack was poor no matter how you slice it, whereas the defense was good but perhaps unlucky. Some of that was due to poor goalkeeping, where all three players to see time (including USYNT international David Ochoa) were below-average.

Last year’s RSL team was old, as evidenced by three(!) players retiring after last year, including CB Nedum Onuoha and midfielder and former USMNT midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who got over 1000 and around 500 minutes, respectively. It seems likely that DUAL NATIONAL PANIC star of the distant past Giuseppe Rossi will also see his career end at 34 and after numerous injuries with the decision by RSL to decline his option. The only meaningful departure of a guy who’s not borderline geriatric (he says of a bunch of guys mostly younger than himself) is winger Corey Baird, who was traded to LAFC.

As we’ve seen with some other teams in this series that have strong academies (namely Philadelphia Union), the incoming players are largely academy signings. Since they played for Real Monarchs last year, we have ASA data on Bode Davis, Noah Powder, and Andrew Brody. They’re, like, fine. I would not anticipate they ratchet the level of the team upward.

Western Conference teams Nashville SC doesn’t play

Gonna rip through these because they’re ultimately irrelevant to our specific purposes:

  • Colorado Rapids. +0.09 xG Power (11th MLS). added winger Michael Barrios (+1.72 G+) from FC Dallas.
  • FC Dallas. -0.10 xG Power (15th MLS – overachieved it by a wide margin). lost Barrios, Fafa Picault, Bryan Reynolds, and Reto Ziegler (all over 1k minutes). Added multiple young Venezuelan attackers.
  • Houston Dynamo. +0.16 xG Power (9th MLS – underachieved it significantly). Lost striker Mauro Manotas, CB Aljaz Struna, and a ton of guys with 300-800 minutes on the year. Added Montreal forward Maxi Urruti, former Nashville CM Derrick Jones, and Red Bulls CB/captain Tim Parker, among several others.
  • Sporting Kansas City. +0.52 xG Power (3rd MLS). Added ~$1.5m french midfielder Remi Walter and CB Nicolas Isimat-Mirin.
  • LA Galaxy. -0.33 xG Power (22nd MLS). Added FB Jorge Villafaña (+0.22 G+) from Portland, ~$2m winger Samuel Grandsir from France. Lost midfielders Perrry Kitchen and Joe Corona.
  • LAFC. +0.44 xG Power (4th MLS – did… not live up to that). Added winger Corey Baird (-1.67 G+… but nearly over 1,700 minutes for a Rapids team that didn’t play many more than that). Lost CB Dejan Jakovic (+0.11 G+), striker Bradley Wright-Phillips (8G, 2A on 7.41 xG+xA), winger Brian Rodriguez (loaned to Spain).
  • Minnesota United. -0.10 xG Power (16th MLS – well overachieved that). Added Wil Trapp (-0.17 G+ for Miami), Juan Agudelo (999 minutes for New England). Lost Kevin Molino (team-leading +1.98 G+)
  • Portland Timbers FC. -0.20 xG Power (18th MLS – overachieved that). Added Argentina youth international Claudio Bravo, ~$2m FB Josecarlos van Rankin. Lost Jorge Villafaña.
  • San Jose Earthquakes. -0.11 xG Power (17th MLS). Added ~$1.5m CAM Chofis, midfielder Eric Remedi (-0.87 G+ for Atlanta). Lost Lima to Austin.
  • Seattle Sounders. +0.67 xG Power (1st MLS). Added Kelyn Rowe, Fredy Montero (+1.55 +G for Vancouver). Lost winger Joevin Jones (+0.12 G+), FB Kelvin Leerdam (+1.13 G+ in 1814 minutes), Gustav Svenson (+0.06 G+).
  • Vancouver Whitecaps. -0.67 xG Power (24th MLS). Added ~$1.5m midfielder Caio Alexandre, ~$1.7m winger Deiber Caicedo. Lost striker Fredy Montero (+1.55 G+), winger David Milinkovic.

That’s the end of the opposing teams (and some non-opposing teams) looks. Tomorrow, we shall start looking at NSC as well.

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