Nashville SC prepares for the second of three matchups against OCSC this season. A disappointing (but fair) draw was the result last time around. What should fans look forward to tonight?
Opponent: Orlando City SC (10-8-8)
Time, Location: Wednesday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. CDT • Nissan Stadium
Weather: 78ºF, 2% chance of rain, 63% humidity, negligible wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MyTV30 (local TV), ESPN+ (national stream), NashvilleSC.com (local stream) • 94.9 Game2 (English), 96.7 El Jefe (Español)
Non-nerd stats: 38 points, 1.46 PPG (5th East) • 1.42 GF/gm, 1.46 GA/gm
Nerd stats: -0.19 xG Power (14th MLS), -0.09 G Power (18th MLS). +0.09 “Luck” (14th MLS) • -0.15 Offense (22nd MLS), +0.03 Defense (12th MLS). -0.04 away disadvantage
Vegas odds: Nashville SC -147, draw +282, Orlando City +418
Match officials: Referee: Drew Fischer. Assistants: Nick Uranga, Kathryn Nesbitt. Fourth: Thomas Snyder. Video assistants: Daniel Radford, Brooke Mayo.
Orlando City SC
OUT: M Joey DeZart, F Alexandre Pato (lower body)
QUEST.: W Chris Mueller, M Uri Rosell (lower body)
SUSP.: D Robin Jansson (yellow accumulation)
While Orlando City was pretty banged up last time Nashville hosted, this is a very different set of Lions absences: Luis Nani and Daryl Dike both didn’t travel last time – in Dike’s case, he was in the midst of a long break to rehab a separated shoulder, whereas Nani has been only a part-time player on the road so OCSC can keep him healthy later in the year. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was also absent, and that probably ended up being the most significant because he’s very good (though allowing just 97% of expected goals this year – barely better than average) while third-stringer Mason Stuajduhar looked like he didn’t belong anywhere close to MLS – but Nashville didn’t make him pay for any of the big rebounds he allowed, which helped result in a disappointing draw.
Dike has started each of the past five games up top, but he has not been as outrageously productive as he was as a rookie: 0.58 xG in 361 minutes (second-most of any attacker), and no assists to speak of. He’s still converting at a ridiculous clip, though, turning that pittance of xG into two goals – after he wasn’t hyper-productive immediately upon his return from the famed loan to Barnsley.
Nani – who plays mostly on the wing – and attacking midfielder Mauricio Pereyra are your most productive guys on a game-to-game basis, with the former leading the team in expected goals (and overachieving with nine conversions on 5.41 xG) and Pereyra in expected assists (in part thanks to clinical finishing from the likes of Nani and Dike among others, seven assists on 3.41 xA).
The Orlando Sentinel‘s Julia Poe explained the Nani situation last time this team visited Music City.
“The timing of some of their road games is that it’s come at an interval when they decided to go into a rotation lineup, and to travel some of their backup players and maybe leave Nani or Mauricia [Pereyra] or somebody like that at home,” Poe said. “I think that timing has been a little bit odd, but we have noticed that they’re not always traveling their strongest lineup to the longer games.
“When you’re looking at trying to keep guys healthy, it’s, ‘look, are we going to try to take them on a plane and do that if we’re still trying to recover them.’”
Wingers Silvester van der Water and Chris Mueller are productive as well, and I’d anticipate their flanking Pereyra if Mueller’s available (and if not, Nani’s on the plane to Nashville, imo. A fave-rave of this site, Benji Michel, gets the nod to start nonetheless).
Moving backwards in the formation, the defensive midfield is in a bit of flux. Young American Joey DeZart has been starting off and on in recent weeks as a defensive midfielder, but he’s unavailable. Uri Rosell is a regular starter when healthy… but that’s been all-too infrequent this season, and he’s once again questionable (he did not make the trip to Nashville), which means you’re looking at Andres Perea along with slightly out-of-position Junior Urso or Jhegson Mendez if OCSC sticks with a 4-2-3-1… but Óscar Pareja has been formationally flexible in the past few weeks, with a 4-3-3, 4-diamond-2, and even a 5-3-2 in attempt to paper over the absences. Here’s what I wrote about the personnel grouping last time around:
The defensive midfield in Orlando’s 4-2-3-1 sees Andrés Perea and Júnior Urso get the lion’s share of minutes, and with the next two players on the depth chart (Jhegson and Uri Rosell) on the injury report, it’s a safe bet that they’re the combo. They’re both kinda horrible on the ball, but can work their way into dangerous areas offensively. Perea (you may recognize the name as a US U-23, after he switched form Colombia) is the more-mobile midfield destroyer, and Urso has a bit more shooting bite.Aug. 18
Defender Robin Jansson’s loss at CB (yellow card accumulation) will be felt: he’s the team’s minutes leader, and by far the No. 1 player in ASA‘s Goals Added. CB is a position of strength, though, so Antônio Carlos and Rodrigo Schlegel have plenty of minutes themselves. Carlos is good – second-best G+ player on the team, and you may remember him as the goal-scorer against NSC last time around – while Schlegel is rough according to Goals Added, despite those numbers being buoys by his set-piece threat. On the edges…
At fullback, Kyle Smith can play on either side, and has had to with backs on the left (Joao Moutinho, new signing Emmanuel Más) and right (Ruan, academy product Michael Halliday) rotating somewhat. Ruan and Más are your offense-first guys, though it’s worth noting that Smith – who is a good passer, but far less in the attacking end than his compatriots – is basically the only stay-at-home guy.Aug. 17
Nashville should have chances to make Gallese earn his stops – while he’s good enough to, uh, do precisely that – in the back.
“What we know is that we’re competing against a side that are very much capable of being in top-two, -three,” Gary Smith said of the Lions. “No two ways about it. They were beaten very narrowly, of course, yesterday, in a tough encounter in New England, which I’m sure they’ve taken great confidence from even though they’ve lost the fixture. Played well, missed a penalty. The team that we’re going to play have got a lot of fight, a lot of fight. And they certainly won’t want us stretching away from them, and they’ll come to our place knowing that in our last running together, there was very little to choose between the groups. So, next two games will be really, really tough. Probably as tough as they get.”
The Boys in Gold
Nashville didn’t play its big two attacking players last weekend, so the midweek might see them be a little fresher.
“The fact that CJ [Sapong] and Hany [Mukhtar] have had a good rest will be helpful. I fully expect – unless there’s some real difficulties – that we rotate them back into the group,” Smith said. “I tried to do my best with some of the other guys: we’ve got lots of lads that have done a very very good job over the course of the season who’re ready, are willing.”
A full-strength Nashville – or less than full-strength by choice, at least – struggled with Chicago over the weekend, of course. There will be some improvement simply by not playing on a pitch that resembles a World War 1 battlefield. Nashville is also (despite being a well above-average road team at this point in the year, too) a very good home team, which should help.
“We’re looking forward to being at home,” said goalkeeper Joe Willis. “We don’t have a lot of home games left, so we need to pick up points there, and make these games count. Especially against a team that’s in a playoff spot, and playoff contention.”
Keys to the game
- Set pieces. Obvs.
- Show some courage in a home game. Not that Nashville plays a shy game on the road, but the Boys in Gold have another offensive level at home. Not being worried about the counter, and being able to get forward quickly should really help the team be productive.
- Catch Nani going through the motions. If he plays, that is. I think he should travel because of the personnel situation (and the fact that Orlando isn’t able to take its position in the table for granted at this point). But he’s not a full-effort guy, particularly in hot weather at this point in the season.
Folks, we’re a little too close to kickoff to chew the fact here.
Nashville wins 2-1.