Nashville SC

Nashville SC game preview 2022: Toronto FC

Toronto FC has been one of MLS’s weakest teams in 2022. Toronto FC has also had the most noteworthy transfer window this side of LAFC, so… who knows.

The essentials

Opponent: Toronto FC (6-12-5 MLS)
Time, Location: Saturday, Aug. 6, 7:08 p.m. CDT • GEODIS Park
Weather: 82ºF, 15% chance of rain, 71% humidity, negligible wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MyTV30/NashvilleSC.com (local), ESPN+ (national) • IHeartRadio/El Jefe 96.7 (Español)
Tailgate: Lot 5 with the Backline Supporters Collective

Match officials: Referee: Allen Chapman. Assistants: Matt Nelson, Walt Heatherly. Fourth official: Mark Allatin. Video Assistants: Jorge Gonzalez, Eric Weisbrod

Vegas odds: Nashville SC -120, draw +280, Toronto FC +300

Etc.: Rate, review, subscribe to the podcast …

StatNashville SCToronto FC
Record (W-L-D)8-7-9 (1.38 PPG)
6th West
6-12-5 (1.00 PPG)
12th East
Recent form (most recent first)D-D-D-L-WD-W-L-L-D
GF/Game1.251.30
GA/Game1.251.52
xG Power+0.35 (7th MLS)-0.44 (23rd MLS)
G Power-0.05 (15th MLS)-0.11 (17th MLS)
“Luck”-0.40 (25th MLS)+0.32 (3rd MLS)
Offense+0.09 (11th MLS)-0.09 (19th MLS)
Defense-0.27 (6th MLS)+0.34 (26th MLS)
Venue advantage-0.84 Home (28th MLS)+0.25 Away (9th MLS)
Injury reportOUT: F Aké Loba (trunk)
QUEST.: M Aníbal Godoy (thigh)
OUT: M Noble Okello (lower body), GK Quentin Westberg (lower body)
QUEST: M Mark-Anthony Kaye (lower body)

Toronto FC

This team has been awful, brutal, pitiful in the early stages of the Bob Bradley era… but there’s also been a very productive transfer window after (and during) which the Reds are looking more like a poor man’s FC Cincinnati: incredibly explosive attack, and incredibly explosive defense, as well. There are also signs that the defensive unit might be rounding into a bit of form, so TFC – while there’s not enough runway to make the playoffs, in all likelihood – should have a strong finish.

So: that transfer window. The Italian National Team ca. 2017 seems to have joined (not like they’re particularly busy, nor shall they be come November), with winger Lorenzo Insigne, fullback Domenico Criscito, and attacking mid Federico Bernardeschi hopping on board. Toronto also added born-and-bred Maple Syrup Guys® Doneil Henry and Mark-Anthony Kaye from LAFC and Colorado Rapids, respectively. It’s been more adds than subtracts (with one of the notable latter being Nashville SC loanee Jacob Shaffelburg – unavailable for this game by league rule). The issue is that they direly needed it. This was a very bad team through 14 games, and it’s… slightly less so in the time since, but we don’t have a ton of evidence to indicate one way or the other, given “obviously terrible” is more visible than “middle-of-the-road, could be good or bad.”

Goalkeeper Alex Bono has actually been Quite Good when available (the fact that Toronto is one of the ‘luckier’ teams in the league – in part, a measure of goalkeeper quality – and the table still says they could be among the worst MLS sides in recent memory says a lot about everything else), though Quentin Westberg has played about a quarter of the minutes and been very poor.

In defense, Michael Bradley is having a resurgence at midfield, with a massive interrupting value that’s doing some protecting of the backline… but it’s a backline that needs plenty of protection. Kaye should be an upgrade next to him, with TFC sometimes riding 3-4-3/4-4-2 principles (Jonathan Osorio, a fine attacking mid but uninspiring defensively, is the third member when they go odd midfield).

The guys behind are a problem. Carlos Salcedo (a transfer-window departure they bought out) was one of the worst CBs I can recall in the past half-decade of this league – and FC Cincinnati has existed for most of those years! – and since his departure, homegrown Luke McNaughton has been the Main Man, joined by some rotation of Chris Mavinga and Shane O’Neill. Criscito, a fullback by trade, has played as LCB when they go 3-4-3, for what it’s worth. O’Neill’s a fine interruptor, but the other two are sort of “just a guy” statistically. That’s a fine status to hold when your defense is elite, when it’s… aggressively not that… it means you’re part of the problem. Right back Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty is mostly known as a poor man’s Alphonso Davies (attacking and speed), though he’s been solid defensively and invisible in other ways this year – again, saying something since it’s tough to be solid on defense with the output this team has allowed.

Bernardeschi and Insigne has arrived and immediately benched half the attacking corps, whether that’s as a striker and a winger, a pair of wingers, an attacking mid and a winger, and yeah I’m gonna stop naming potential permutations of what they can do, since you get the point by now. These are extremely small sample sizes, but given the pedigrees of the players, I think we can assume positive outliers have some legitimacy. Insigne is producing expected goals and expected assists at an elite level, though he has yet to convert on any of the former, while Bernardeschi has been an elite setup man. The sample-size caveat is important because a plurality of their production cam against the paperest tiger that ever… uh… was made origami… of? in Charlotte FC (away-from-home edition, Nashville-does-not-giftwrap-game edition).

Nonetheless, add those two to an attack that includes a 2000-minute player at striker (Jesús Jimenez has been bad in those 2000 minutes, but it’s still a lot of minutes!), former US Youth International turned Canada International Ayo Akinola when healthy which he has not been enough, and… uh… OK, it was not great before and they should be but are not guaranteed to be an upgrade.

Nashville SC

Y’all know the story here. Time for 90 minutes (or close to it) for Shaq Moore, and preferably an Aníbal Godoy cameo off the bench as he returns for the stretch run. It’s flown under the radar how important his absence has been (particularly since the other stalwart in central midfield, Dax McCarty, has not had a great year and not been healthy/available enough even before Godoy’s injury).

More importantly, Teal Bunbury should now understand that simply opening the scoring is not enough, he’s gotta score two.

Projected lineups

Extremely The Guess Who voice “got got got got got no time”

Keys to the game

  • Set pieces. Ever has it been, ever shall it be.
  • Test the backline. Bradley has been solid, but he’s a little prone to being caught in attack. Nashville’s occasional “this pocket of space is nice, but you know what is nicer? Passing back to consolidate possession!” tendency should not have a place in this one.
  • Don’t be intimidated. Producer Lily was negative a thousand (approximately) the last time Italy made the World Cup. Would we be intimidated if TFC had two over-the-hill Algeria attackers? I don’t think so.
  • Score first and second. This is a highly controversial point, I know, but a two goal lead is not the worst lead in soccer, because it’s twice as good as a one-goal lead, you see.
  • Set pieces again. Because I said so.

Prediction

Nashville SC 3, Toronto FC 1

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