IMG Academy photo by Tim Sullivan/Club and Country. Yeah they aren’t there today but it’s whatever.
Preseason round two! We learned very little about Nashville SC from the first match of preseason (largely because we couldn’t see it), and it’ll probably be more of the same today.
The game is at Noon EST from Clearwater, Fla. The coverage from last week remains the same: Aside from lineups and goal/sub updates from the Nashville SC social media accounts, there won’t really be a way to follow along live. However, those lineups can be meaningful in terms of picking through what Nashville SC plans to do on the field this Summer (see last week’s podcast for my thoughts there).
A postgame highlights package – so we can see what the goals actually looked like – from Nashville SC’s media department is expected, as well (though we only got one goal’s worth last week).
After the game, media will speak with head coach Gary Smith and Aníbal Godoy about the contest.
There was technically no Wooden Spoon in 2020, but FC Cincinnati is on a three-year run of being the worst team in MLS (though last year’s ignominy was by a smaller margin with the Texas teams all being pretty awful). They may be saved from that by Charlotte FC this year, but the expectations are still relatively low.
There’s plenty of year-to-year consistency for FCC (the 11th-most in minute terms):
…and that’s probably not a great thing when you put a terrible product on the field last year. Yes, there have been changes in coaching and front office, but those will evidently take a little longer to manifest.
Last year’s nine leading minutes-getters: striker Brenner, CAM Lucho Acosta, CB Geoff Cameron, midfielder Yuya Kubo, winger Álvaro Barreal, CB Gustavo Vallecilla, fullback Ronáld Matarrita, CB Nick Hagglund, and GK Kenneth Vermeer are all back. (No. 10, FB Joe Gyau, creates a small gap, but then midfielders Allan Cruz and Haris Medunjanin are also back). U-22 initiative winger Isaac Atanga is also back…. what I’m getting at here is this is basically last year’s team, with potential upgrades in coaching and recruiting some players to contribute over returning personnel.
They’ve added former Nashville SC striker Dom Badji – who spent most of last year with Colorado Rapids – as one of those potential upgrades (over the most expensive transfer in MLS history, which is, to me, a “LOL”). Fullback Ray Gaddis steps in after a one-year retirement to potentially upgrade on Joe Gyau (a guy who didn’t play last year doesn’t seem like a likely upgrade! But Gaddis is one of those Philly elder statesmen who could provide some leadership and knowledge, even if he’s making a few contributions on-field. I just don’t think the intention is to have him play sparingly).
This team should still be bad, but not as bad as historically. Again though, it’ll still take time for GM Chris Albright and head coach Pat Noonan to see playoff-level results.
Last week, we got a little bit of a surprise with not only a back-5, but one with Josh Bauer and Eric Miller (rather than Jack Maher and Alex Muyl, respectively) in the starting lineup. That’s probably “preseason experimentation” rather than “here is the lineup” type stuff. But today’s lineup should be meaningful.
Still, it’s a preseason game we won’t see. It’s not even possible to know if we should read into it.