Nashville SC

Nashville SC game preview 2022: at Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Nashville felt hard-done by the draw at GEODIS Park against this Whitecaps team just four weeks ago. Is a measure of road revenge in store in the PNW?

The essentials

Opponent: Vancouver Whitecaps (9-11-7)
Time, Location: Saturday, August 27, 9:08 p.m. CDT (7:08 local) • Vancouver, B.C.
Weather: 67ºF, 2% chance of rain, 61% humidity, negligible wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MyTV30/NashvilleSC.com (local), ESPN+ (out-of-market) • IHeartRadio/El Jefe 96.7 (Español)
Watch party: ML Rose 8th South

Match officials: Referee: Jon Freemon. Assistants: Felisha Mariscal, Meghan Mullen. Fourth official: Fabrizio Stasolla. Video Assistants: Carol Anne Chenard, Claudiu Badea.

Vegas odds: Nashville SC +154, draw +237, Vancouver Whitecaps +172

Etc.: Rate, review, subscribe to the podcast … The Playlist … Gary Smith and Dave Romney media availabilityDown the Touchline with Harjeet Johal from the previous matchup, and the game story and press conference from that one.

StatNashville SCVancouver Whitecaps
Record (W-L-D)9-9-9 (1.33 PPG)
6th West
9-11-7 (1.26 PPG)
9th West
Form (most recent first)W-L-L-D-DD-W-L-W-D
GF/Game1.411.19
GA/Game1.331.70
xG Power+0.42 (5th MLS)-0.51 (26th MLS)
G Power+0.00 (12th MLS)-0.34 (25th MLS)
“Luck”-0.42 (26th MLS)+0.17 (6th MLS)
Offense+0.13 (10th MLS)-0.41 (26th MLS)
Defense-0.28 (4th MLS)+0.10 (19th MLS)
Venue advantage+0.50 Away (3rd MLS)+0.00 Home (14h MLS)
Injury reportOUT: F Teal Bunbury (thigh), F Aké Loba (trunk)
OUT: F Deiber Caicedo (knee, season)

Vancouver Whitecaps

Although Vancouver has climbed up the table just a bit in the time since last I previewed the ‘Caps (and Nashville played a role in that, of course), not a ton has changed, even with the addition of wingback Julian Gressel. Vanni Sartini’s team has gotten a tiny bit more luck and tiny bit more offense. The defense has improved incrementally, as well.

The goalkeeping performance is due for an upgrade compared to the last time these teams squared off. Thomas Hasal returned from injury to go the distance in each of the past two games, and he’s not… this:

[Cody Cropper] is the second-worst regularly-used keeper in the league (behind Atlanta’s Rocco Ríos Novo), allowing 141% of xG faced. With Hasal not traveling, the Caps might be better-suited to use one of their depth players, who – on admittedly small sample sizes – have been not among the worst players in the league. 20-year old Homegrown Isaac Boehmer has two starts and the injury replacement for Cropper, and is allowing 83% of xG faced, while 18-year old Max Anchor allowed two goals in his only start and is somehow still elite (sample size caveats of course) against xG. Both those guys play primarily with the second team in MLS Next Pro.

July 30

Hasal allows 112% of xG – still comfortably below average, but way better than Cropper.

Since the defense has performed a fair amount better, it’s worth taking a look at why that might be… There’s essentially a four-man rotation in the back three, with Ranko Veselinovic playing in the middle when available (and that’s most of the time: he leads all Whitecaps in minutes played). Along with him, Tristan Blackmon usually plays on the left while Javain Brown plays on the right, and Jake Nerwinski is the top backup at all three spots. The book on each of these guys hasn’t changed much: Veselinovic and Brown are good interruptors and mediocre at most other aspects (while Veselinovic is actively bad when his team is on the ball, and Brown might be to the stats if not for his only career goal scored in Nashville), and the other options are sort of average in all respects.

Gressel remains the dangerous player he was for DC (and for Atlanta before that). He was rested last weekend, but still managed to score a goal off the bench, and he’s an elite attacking wingback and definitely a good-enough defensive one.

Marcus Godinho has played LWB opposite Gressel in the only game since his arrival, but Ryan Raposo, Pedro Vite, and Cristian Dajome are also in a rotation there – in addition to getting time as the attacking mids in a more pure 3-4-2-1 than NSC plays. Russell Teibert is the closest thing to a stalwart in central midfield, with Andés Cubas’s later April arrival obscuring that he’s clearly the preferred starter. Teibert is an absolute non-entity in attack, but a solid (if uninspiring) defensive player. Cubas is a destroyer who can advance the ball a little more cleanly than Teibert. According to Har, Teibert did not travel, however.

July 30

It’s been primarily Raposo with a taste of Godinho on the left, while Gressel has mostly relegated Dajome to the bench. The central midfielders should indeed be Cubas and Teibert, both back healthy.

Canaddian International Lucas Cavallini returned to the lineup for the past two games after missing the trip to Nashville (and the two games immediately thereafter. His style is… well, you mostly know what you’re getting from him:

NSC is very content to let opponents whip in crosses, particularly given the absence of Cavallini with 27 of 77 career goals – more than a third – coming from his head. Of course, Brian White has scored 15 of 44 career goals via the header, so being a couple inches shorter isn’t exactly a downgrade in ability. It may be in access to those crosses with Nashville’s aerial ability in the box.

Scotsman Ryan Gauld, a midseason signing last year, is the absolute Dangerman for VWFC in Cavallini’s absence. He’s played as either one of the attacking mid/wingers in the 3-4-2-1 or as the creator in a 3-4-1-2 (without Cavallini available, I doubt we see this). Though he has just one assist this year, he’s on 2.31 xA, so it’s more a matter of teammates not finishing… and he also creates for himself with three goals on 5.42 xG (he outperformed his xG last year if you see that G-xG and immediately think “bad finisher”).

July 30

Alessandro Schöpf has been Gauld’s attacking complement in the past two games, with Vite out of the squad and an unused substitute. Those have been his only two appearances, so don’t read a whole lot into his stats (can’t remember why?), but so far he’s a willing-but-poor dribbler and otherwise not noteworthy.

Nashville SC

The variance gods finally rewarded Nashville last weekend for their patience during the Job routine in the past couple months.

NSC has not had a lower xG total than the opponent since July 3 (the come-from-ahead draw against Portland), and not on the road since May 14(!). The question has been and remains how to pay that off with actual results. If you’re a believer in the essential randomness and bad luck of that streak’s resulting in just a 2-4-4 record… this team should be able to keep the out-creating on a roll. Just have to get the end result.

With a lineup as healthy as ever – namely in the form of Aníbal Godoy – there’s every reason to believe Nashville has a chance to hit its stride.

Projected lineups

Keys to the game

  • Set pieces. Ever has it been, ever shall it be.
  • Win aerials. This is obviously important to Nashville’s game generally. A Vancouver team that depends on wide service may not have a ton of answers if Zimmerman et al are dominant in the box.
  • Stars make magic. Hany MVP train continues.
  • Test the keeper. Whoever plays for Vancouver, he’s a below-average keeper. If it’s Hasal, he’s within the realm of variance making him look worse-than-average. If it’s Cropper, NSC has to put the ball on him in a way that was frustratingly infrequent in GEODIS.

Prediction

Nashville SC 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 1.

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