The season began with a bang – and an unexpected victory in the Emerald City. With a bad run of form dominating the discourse, can Seattle once again be an opportunity for Nashville SC to generate positive vibes?
Opponent: Seattle Sounders (8-8-2)
Time, Location: Wednesday, July 13, 7:38 p.m. CDT • GEODIS Park
Weather: 82ºF, 1% chance of rain, 48% humidity, 4 m.p.h. Northerly wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MyTV30/NashvilleSC.com (local), ESPN+ (out-of-market) • IHeartRadio/El Jefe 96.7 (Español)
Tailgate: Lot 1 with the Backline Supporters Collective (possibly for the last time this year?)
Match officials: Referee: Rubiel Vazquez. Assistants: Ian Anderson, Diego Blas. Fourth official: Tim Ford. Video Assistants: Younness Marrakchi, Peter Balciunas
Vegas odds: Nashville SC -104, draw +243, Seattle Sounders +289
|Stat||Nashville SC||Seattle Sounders|
|Record (W-L-D)||7-6-6 (1.42 PPG)|
|8-8-2 (1.44 PPG)|
|Recent form (most recent first)||L-D-W-L-D||L-W-L-L-D|
|xG Power||+0.26 (9th MLS)||-0.32 (20th MLS)|
|G Power||-0.11 (18th MLS)||+0.18 (7th MLS)|
|“Luck”||-0.36 (22nd MLS)||+0.50 (2nd MLS)|
|Offense||-0.01 (14th MLS)||+0.10 (9th MLS)|
|Defense||-0.26 (6th MLS)||+0.42 (27th MLS)|
|Venue advantage||-0.74 Home (27th MLS)||-0.43 Away (24th MLS)|
|Injury report||OUT: D Robert Castellanos (ankle), Aníbal Godoy (thigh)||OUT: M João Paulo (knee), F Raul Ruidíaz (thigh), M Obed Vargas (back) |
QUEST.: D Xavier Arreaga (thigh)
This is not the team we thought it was going to be at the beginning of the year. Well, it probably is that team, just the rebound after focusing time and energy on the Concacaf Champions League has been a little slow in arriving. There have been other changes that have not helped Seattle, though!
Raul Ruidíaz, one of the most dangerous attacking players in the league, is officially out for this one. So too are João Paulo and Obed Vargas, who started in central midfield against Nashville in the opener. While CB Xaiver Arreaga is listed as questionable Sounder at Heart‘s Jeremiah Oshan reports that he traveled to Music City and will be available tonight.
The rest of the squad is going to be fairly familiar. From last preview:
Frei has been pretty consistently just above-average as a shot-stopper: occasionally elite, but typically good enough to steal a couple goals over the course of the year, nothing more or less – he saved a half-goal for Seattle over the course of last season. It’s worth noting that he faced among the fewest shots per outing of any keeper in the league – and his backup, Stefan Cleveland, saw the least of anyone who played 1000 minutes between the pipes. This Seattle defense protects the keeper reasonably well at baseline, and can pack it in to be even stingier if needed.Feb. 27
Frei’s been essentially bang-average this year in three-quarters of the minutes, Cleveland has been elite (allowing just 66% of xG faced) in the remaining time. Small sample sizes and all, because I don’t think anyone believes Cleveland should be surpassing Frei on the depth chart, but if Seattle makes a change at keeper, it’s not a clear benefit for Nashville SC, either.
The backline has been remarkably consistent, with Nouhou, Yeimar Gomez, Jackson Ragen, and Alex Roldan featuring from left to right – regardless of whether Seattle’s in a back-three or back four (Nouhou plays LCB and Roldan RWB in the former, it’s a normal backline in the latter). That will not be the case tonight! The likely return of Arreaga from a thigh injury means the red-card suspension served by Jackson Ragen is not going to doom the Sounders. It does mean that a guy who’s played just twice for the Sounders since May has to get up to speed quickly, or a less-talented player is going to have to contribute from what would typically be a bench role. It may very well preclude a back-3 simply out of available numbers – or force Seattle into it to give Arreaga cover if he’s not as fit as usual.
In front of the backline, the absences of Paulo and Vargas are long-term, so the Sounders are plenty used to the backup plan – and it’s a pretty good one, with Kelyn Rowe (whatever, he’s fine) and Albert Rusnak (not having a fantastic year… but a DP who was the key creative force for a different Western Conference team last year!) in the double-pivot.
The No. 15 player in the league in xG+xA (despite playing as the second-banana to Dami Kreilach in an RSL attack that wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire), he’s much more creator-oriented than goal-getter. The big picture is that with his arrival and the return of Jordan Morris – after an ACL tear cost him almost all of last year – there are weapons here.Feb. 27
And then he’s gone and largely played as a holding No. 6!
If Seattle’s in a back-3, Rusnak likely be flanked on the left by ephemeral Boy in Gold Jimmy Medranda (Rowe is an LB option otherwise).
Aside from a rotation-y win over Toronto FC, Jordan Morris, Nico Lodeiro, and Cristian Roldán have been the non-striker attacking pieces in recent weeks (we’ll get to the striker in a sec). Morris is having a banner year – presumably in advance of trying to earn his way to the World Cup – getting into dangerous positions with ease. Lodeiro is actually hanging back just a bit deeper… because of the danger that Morris is able to create (and then receive the ball in) when Lodeiro operates more as a distributor and spacing-creator. Roldan is somewhere in-between, so make no mistake that most of the ridiculously impressive receiving numbers the wingers have put together are thanks to Lodeiro’s distribution (Roldan is also the same defensively-sound winger you know him as with the national team – in some ways a rich man’s Alex Muyl).
With Ruidíaz unavailable, a rotation of Fredy Montero and Will Bruin has settled in. The 34-year old Montero has been more productive on a per-minute basis in terms of scoring, but not meaningfully so. The difference has been in the ability to connect and lay off for on-rushing wingers, with much more in the way of service. When you have Lodeiro… don’t necessarily need this guy to be creative or distribute much, but hey.
Not much has changed here except the results. Aníbal Godoy remains sidelined with the thigh injury he suffered on international duty with Panama, Robert Castellanos is still out with the ankle injury he suffered on loan with Tampa Bay Rowdies. Joe Willis stepped back between the pipes on Saturday and the stats are going to say he was bad though that was very much not the case (poor Joe Willis).
So there are a few personnel decisions here, starting with whether Gary Smith returns to the back five, and if so who is the right wingback (preferably Alex Muyl), if not who is the right FB (likely Eric Miller). After a semi-rough midweek, who is in the central midfield? Dax McCarty seemed to be saved for tonight’s game with a DNP last weekend so having him out there are more of a steady (not necessarily calming!) force could be a benefit.
What I think would make sense here is for Nashville to play a conservative game here, because Seattle’s main path to goals on the road without Ruidiaz is going to be hoping the opponent gets a little stretched. Do that, toss on Ake Loba for a few, and you go into the LAFC game with a point or three already in this brief homestand.
Keys to the game
- Set pieces. Ever has it been, ever shall it be.
- No goalkeeper mistakes. Gonna be the new “set pieces” in here until it’s not.
- Pick your spots to counter. This may not be the most beautiful game of the year, what with Seattle willing to play conservatively on the road, and Nashville dog-bitten after being countered by Charlotte.
- Weather a lack of fan support. It really hasn’t been much of an option since the first couple games, and isn’t going to be tonight, with the organized support on halt because of grievances with communication in the front office.
- Just win. Ain’t gotta be pretty.
Nashville SC 1, Seattle Sounders 1