Nashville SC

Nashville SC game preview 2023: CF Montreal

The Boys in Gold are back in GEODIS Park, and against the Eastern Conference teams whose beginning to the season has been as rough as just about anyone’s. Can a move to seven points be on the way?

The essentials

“Will he ever use a current Montreal logo?” Only the streets know.

Opponent: CF Montreal (20-9-5 in 2022)
Time, Location: Saturday, March 11, 7:30 p.m. CDT • GEODIS Park
Weather: 51ºF, 69% chance of rain, 90% humidity, 6 mph Easterly wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MLS Live on Apple TV (free) • 104.5 The Zone

Match officials: Referee: Rubiel Vazquez.
Assistants: Corey Parker, Walt Heatherly. Fourth Official: Ted Unkel. Video Assistants: Jose Carlos Rivero, Joshua Patlak

Vegas Odds: Nashville SC -118, Draw +260, CF MTL + #15

Etc.: Rate, review, subscribe. Gary Smith, Dan Lovitz press conference.

Stat (2022)Nashville SCCF Montreal
Record (W-L-D)13-10-11 (1.47 PPG)
5th West
20-9-5 (1.91 PPG)
2nd East
Recent form (most recent first, 2023)D-WL-L
xG Power+0.38 (6th MLS)+0.66 (4th MLS)
G Power+0.22 (6th MLS)+0.33 (3rd MLS)
“Luck”-0.16 (20th MLS)-0.34 (25th MLS)
Offense+0.23 (7th MLS)+0.14 (8th MLS)
Defense-0.15 (8th MLS)-0.52 (1st MLS)
Venue advantage+0.76 Home (27th MLS)+0.15 Away (10th MLS)
Injury reportOUT.: D Nick DePuy (achilles, season), M Aníbal Godoy (shoulder), M Randall Leal (lower body)
QUEST.: M Luke Haakenson (lower body)
OUT: D George Campbell (Ankle), M Jojea Kwizera (hamstring), M Matko Miljevic (knee), G James Pantemis (shoulder)

CF Montreal

This is one of just four MLS teams that has yet to score a goal, and among teams that have played two games, only Colorado Rapids’ and Houston Dynamo’s -4 GDs are worse than Montreal’s -3. There are some mitigating factors: of course this is a new coaching administration and a team that saw tons of personnel turnover in the offseason. Only Toronto, NYC, and Sporting KC have yet to debut at home… but of course that’s little solace for a Montreal team that won’t be making its home debut today, either. It’s also worth noting that the xGoal differential is not as bad as some teams that have better results so far: the table is unfair this early in the year when we have such (say it with me now) small sample sizes.

That said, 4.12 xG against is rough, and when you consider that four defensive players – centerbacks Rudy Camacho and Kamal Miller, CB/wingback Aaron Herrera, and holding mid Victor Wanyama – are the ones who’ve played every minute in the field so far, it might be time to lick your chops and think about what evils can be committed before this team settles in with a new coach. Herrera has good interrupting and receiving numbers to date, but the rest of ’em haven’t caught the attention of ASA‘s Goals Added just yet (aside from Wanyama, who’s below-average in every category but not standout-level bad in any of them).

New head coach Hernán Losada is clearly trying to find something that works at the third CB position in his back five: it was Herrera, a natural wingback, one time. Then it was Samuel Piette, a 5-7 holding midfielder, last weekend. Each guy played his normal position in the other outing, but Zachary Brault-Guillard and Sean Rea were non-factors at WB when they had their shot, while Nathan Saliba was very poor in Piette’s stead (he was worse, particularly as a passer, when he played as the playmaker in a 3-5-2 against Miami). It’s not an easy problem to solve as long as George Campbell remains out with injury.

Given the above, you may guess that the goalkeeper has kept Montreal in the games, and you’d be mostly right. There’ve actually been two keepers since James Pantemis left the opener with injury, and he remains out. On a very small sample size of just over a single game, his backup Jonathan Sirois has been straight-up elite, allowing just one goal on 1.92 xG against. That’s a v. small sample size though, facing only six shots on-target (about which: an average of 0.32 xG per shot against, and Pantemis faced 0.38 xG/shot. The Montreal backline has been terrible).

As alluded to above, there have been two philosophies with the front three: a creator behind a strike pairing, And a single striker with two winger/creator-types behind. Romell Quioto has been the link between all, and while the numbers have not been pretty (five shots, 0.91 xG), you could fairly look at the team around him and guess it’s not all – or even mostly – his fault that he hasn’t been productive.

Mathieu Choinière was the left winger/dual 10 against Austin, and was also a halftime sub as the lone 10 i the other game. He has two key passes and four shots (one on-target) in that time, and while G+ has been lukewarm on his receiving and shooting to date, it’s unimpressed with his passing – important in a creator role! – and down on his defensive and progressive production.

Sunusi Ibrahim and Chinonso Offor have been the other guys contributing in attack. Standing on the field in attacking roles may be a more accurate way to put it. Ibrahim is a lil guy at 5-6 (though well-built at 177 pounds), and played as Quioto’s strike partner in the top two before coming in as a late attacking sub against Austin – though he didn’t play enough to really determine where he was playing (he replaced a CB). He really impressed with his passing, which should be something to watch, no matter where he plays, as long as he gets on the field. Offor has played both second striker and as the right winger/creator, and aside from getting in a good position to receive some passes, he hasn’t contributed a whole lot.

This is an attack that has pieces but simply hasn’t come together. The other end of the pitch feels like a total mess unless/until Campbell comes back, with a rotating cast of “not a centerback” playing at CB, and the defense looking really, really gross in the process. If you’re going to be scared of Montreal’s breakout i the final third, though, there’s some solace in knowing that you’ll have your chances, as well. If I were Hernán Losada (thankfully I am not), I would probably stick Piette in the midfield and hope to disrupt Hany Mukhtar before he ever faces the backline, but there are no easy answers because Piette is not particularly good, and he’s still going to be shielding someone else who’s playing out of position.

The Boys in Gold

No Leal, no Godoy, no fun. Well, probably still fun, but you’d prefer to have them available! Nashville is thin in central midfield (particularly since Leal can cover there in a pinch), but the absence of Leal from the wing, at least, is one that can be papered over with this year’s newfound depth. Nick DePuy is lost for the year, which is obviously unfortunate, and at this stage you have to think the management if looking into other options to add to the roster, knowing that he won’t be available.

In terms of how it all plays out on the field… Gary Smith has historically liked to match formations when going against a team that plays the odd backline. In this game, given how bad that odd backline is, it doesn’t feel like it would make sense (though he half-implied on Thursday that it was on his mind). Since I don’t have any of The Injured in the projected lineup, I’ll recycle my projected group from last week’s game – which it must be noted was not the actual starting lineup, but with another week of working back toward full fitness for CJ Sapong and Hany Mukhtar, they should be ready for a start. Also I just don’t want to make a new graphic.

Projected lineup

Keys to the game

  • Attack the backline. This unit has stunk in every way through two games, and is probably going to be playing a 5-11 wingback or a 5-7 midfielder at one of the CB positions. With Nashville’s ability to play through the No. 10 and the speedy wingers, going at those guys again and again should prove fruitful in producing chances. Catching the CFMTL wingbacks up the pitch in attack with NSC’s wing talent is going to make life tough on a bad back three.
  • Put shots on the keeper. The numbers are good through a game-plus for Sirois. But a 21-year old keeper in his fourth pro season only having that amount of playing time… may very well lose some confidence if the Boys in Gold can test him repeatedly.
  • Don’t get complacent defensively. Whereas I think the backline has stunk and will continue to stink, there is attacking talent on this team that can change the narrative with a single blast from the leg of Romell Quioto, or a solid throughball that finds its intended target (likely also Quioto!). It feels like the attacking struggle is one that Montreal will snap out of in a way that the defensive struggle isn’t. And Nashville won’t want that to happen this evening.
  • Set pieces. Because always.


Nashville SC 3, CF Montreal Impact Saputos 1

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