Can Nashville complete its first season sweep of the year? An SKC team that is down on its luck heads to GEODIS Park this afternoon.
Opponent: Sporting Kansas City (3-9-4 MLS)
Time, Location: Sunday, June 19, 5:25 p.m. CDT • GEODIS Park
Weather: 85ºF, 1% chance of rain, 26% humidity, 9 MPH NNE wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch • Listen: Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes • IHeartRadio/El Jefe 96.7 (Español)
Tailgate: With the Backline Supporters Collective in Lot 5. After you grab a meal and drink at ML Rose, of course.
Match officials: Referee: Victor Rivas. Assistants: Chris Elliott, Jeffrey Greeson. Fourth official: Adam Kilpatrick. Video Assistants: Jose Carlos Rivera, Tom Supple
Vegas odds: Nashville SC -159, draw +277, Sporting Kansas City +461
|Stat||Nashville SC||Sporting KC|
|Record (W-L-D)||6-4-5 (1.53 PPG)|
|3-9-4 (0.81 PPG)|
|Recent form (most recent first)||D-W-D-W-L||L-L-D-W-L|
|xG Power||+0.61 (5th MLS)||-0.50 (24th MLS)|
|G Power||+0.18 (9th MLS)||-0.66 (28th MLS)|
|“Luck”||-0.43 (24th MLS)||-0.16 (16th MLS)|
|Offense||+0.26 (7th MLS)||-0.47 (28th MLS)|
|Defense||-0.35 (3rd MLS)||+0.04 (15th MLS)|
|Venue advantage||-0.09 Home (15th MLS)||+0.25 Away (9th MLS)|
|Injury report||OUT: F Teal Bunbury (knee), M Handwalla Bwana (thigh), D Robert Castellanos (ankle). |
QUEST.: D Walker Zimmerman (foot)
|OUT: M Ozzie Cisneros (hamstring), M Gadi Kinda and F Alan Pulido (knee – season) |
QUEST.: M Jake Davis (adductor), M Remi Walter (ankle), F Nikola Vujnovic (calf)
SUSP.: M Uri Rosell (red)
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Sporting Kansas City
This is not a significantly changed SKC team from the previous matchup between the teams, though the downward trajectory has not course-corrected in the last 10 games. It’s worth noting that the addition to the “out” list, Ozzie Cisneros, hasn’t played this year, so it’s not going to be meaningful. On the other hand, Uri Rosell has played the plurality of CM minutes, so his red-card absence will be felt… particularly if Walter can’t play, since he’s the team’s leader in minutes (for field players) this year.
Sporting also has some reinforcements on the way, but they can’t officially join until the transfer window opens.
The dangerman here remains winger Johnny Russell, with his counterpart Daniel Salloí not far behind. Here’s what I wrote last time around:
Salloi and Russell, playing on the wings in the typical 4-3-3 favored by Vermes, have had to take on the brunt of the attack. Salloi is more a guy who does it for himself (1.62 xG, 0.46 xA), though he’s been rewarded with just a single goal to date, while Russell is a more balanced attacking piece, equally capable of scoring (0.73 xG) and assisting (0.80 xA), even though his top-line stats are identical with a single goal and no assists yet.April 9
Striker Khiry Shelton has been a bit more consistent a starter at center forward, what with Pulido out for the year and Vujnovic’s fairly persistent banged-up status since joining the team. Of course, Shelton himself has battled injuries, too, which has meant shoehorning Russell in at striker in recent weeks. It has not been A Great Time for Peter Vermes this year.
As you can see from the advanced stats above, the SKC defense hasn’t been too bad when it comes to preventing opponents’ chances (“not too bad” here being graded on a curve in comparison with… everything else about the profile). Centerback Andreu Fontas is the team’s Goals Added leader in the American Soccer Analysis metrics, with big breakout stats in interrupting and passing. RB Graham Zusi has been similarly disruptive – though, given his past as a winger for the US Men’s National Team, a surprisingly poor passer from the fullback position – while the rest of the defensive players have been… better in other aspects of the game than interruption.
The problem, as it was last time around, is that Tim Melia’s levels of performance have fallen off. I mentioned it as far back as a couple years ago, even producing a handy chart (seen at right).
While he had a slight rebound in the 2021 season, dipping back below the 1.00 (bang-average) mark, it was made up for by the fact that his backup, John Pulskamp, got about 15% of the minutes and was among the worst keepers in MLS. This year, Melia is having by far his worst season when it comes to G/xG allowed (134% – a slight improvement from last time Nashville saw SKC). Some of that is the natural outcome of one of those “everything is going wrong” seasons, but the backline has been mediocre-not-bad, and Melia hasn’t paid it off.
There’s something to be noted for home/road splits. SKC was 2-0-0 at home when Nashville handed out their first L at Children’s Mercy Park, and 0-4-0 away at that time. There’s been some convergence in their home/road performances in the time since (1-2-2 at home since, 0-2-2 away), but the key takeaway is that SKC is pretty bad no matter where the game is.
My take on the pod has been that it’s basically a throwaway year at this point, and building for 2023 and beyond probably should be the goal here, though obviously there’s some individual and institutional pride that may prevent such things from happening.
The big question for Nashville SC revolves around who is ready to return. Whether from injury or international duty (or injury-adjacent absence), the Boys in Gold have some question marks:
- Aníbal Godoy returned from international duty with Panama, where he got a little more rest than expected (one friendly canceled, he was an unused sub in another), so honestly I may be shortchanging him in the lineup graphic below but I already made and uploaded it so whatever.
- Randall Leal (ankle injury) is finally off the injury report after several weeks, but probably nor 90-minute fit. Off the bench, I say.
- Dave Romney (Covid protocols) is not on the injury report after being a late add to it last week. Given the nature of infection – once you have it, you are assumed to until otherwise noted – his absence from the injury report should mean he’s golden.
- Walker Zimmerman (foot injury) is listed as questionable, and missed the final USMNT game of the window. He should be match-fit with a good-not-overwhelming workload for the Nats, so if he can go at all, I say he starts.
On a slightly extended break (Saturday-to-Sunday rather than just a full week), I think Dax McCarty is in the starting lineup – you want to get out of him what you can this year, and planning around longer absences is the way to maximize that – so it’d likely be Anunga to the bench (and coming off it, depending on gamestates) if Godoy is indeed in the starting lineup.
Leal and Loba as your options off the bench for different reasons (Leal because he’s not 90-minute fit, Loba because he’s high risk/reward and therefore makes sense later in a game, depending on gamestates as well) makes the most sense to me.
Keys to the game
- Set pieces. Ever has it been, ever shall it be.
- Test Melia. If you strip out penalties (where Melia has pretty much always been elite), he’s been baaaad in the past few years. That’s compared to league average, even, not his historical standard.
- Minutes for some favorites. Pls pls pls say Randall Leal is healthy enough to get some time. Easing him back into the lineup is a game-changer for the Nashville attack. And long-range shooting may be specifically suited for a game against a struggling keeper.
- Don’t screw it up for yourself. There are teams that can go out and win games. There are others that have to hope you give it to them. The 2022 edition of Sporting KC has been – unfortunately for them – the latter, particularly away from home. That said, they are more than willing and capable of following through on that, so don’t leave the door open.
- Hacen goles. TBH the San Jose game was not as much fun.
Nashville SC 3, Sporting KC 1