Nashville SC

Nashville SC game preview 2023: FC Cincinnati

For the first time in 2023, the Boys in Gold sport a loss on the record. Can they set things straight with a regional rival whose number they’ve had for quite some time? It’s a rivalry matchdate at GEODIS Park.

The essentials

Opponent: FC Cincinnati (12-9-13 in 2022)
Time, Location: Saturday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. CDT • GEODIS Park
Weather: 64ºF, 4% chance of rain, 73% humidity, 6 mph NNW wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV (free) • 104.5 The Zone

Match officials: Referee: Ismir Pekmic. Assistants: Ian McKay, Kevin Lock. Fourth Official: Sergei Boiko. Video Assistants: Daniel Radford, TJ Zablocki

Vegas Odds: Nashville SC +100, Draw +244, Cincinnati +279

Etc.: Rate, review, subscribe bonus pod with Geoff Tebbetts. Gary Smith, Shaq Moore press conference.

Stat (2022)Nashville SCFC Cincinnati
Record (W-L-D)13-10-11 (1.47 PPG)
5th West
10-12-12 (1.24 PPG)
10th East
Recent form (most recent first, 2023)L-W-D-WD-W-D-W
xG Power+0.38 (6th MLS)+0.44 (5th MLS)
G Power+0.22 (6th MLS)+0.06 (11th MLS)
“Luck”-0.16 (20th MLS)-0.39 (28th – i.e. last – MLS)
Offense+0.23 (7th MLS)+0.42 (3rd MLS)
Defense-0.15 (8th MLS)-0.02 (14th MLS)
Venue advantage-0.76 Home (27th MLS)-0.40 Home (25th MLS)
Injury reportOUT.: D Nick DePuy (achilles, season), M Randall Leal (lower body)
QUEST.: M Aníbal Godoy (shoulder)
INT’L Duty: M Marco Angulo (Ecuador), M Junior Moreno (Venezuela)
OUT: M Yuya Kubo (knee)
QUEST.: D Isaiah Foster (ankle)

FC Cincinnati

This looks a lot like a scaled-back version of last year’s team: good offense (though not as good as last year’s), bad defense (though not as bad as last year’s). They’re having a bit better luck, which closes some of the gap, but a run against Houston-Orlando-Seattle-Chicago (25, 13, 24, and 21 in last year’s Supporter’s Shield standings) indicates that we don’t quite know what this team is going to be in 2023. A less-extreme version of last year’s would actually be quite good!

In an effort to be a little firmer at the back while still putting Lucho Acosta behind a strike duo, they’ve doubled down on the 3-5-2 that Pat Noonan implemented in fits and starts over the course of last season. That has meant Matt Miazga as the middle CB flanked by Nick Hagglund and Yerson Mosquera (except last week, when Hagglund was suspended after a red card in the Seattle game). They’re mostly a quiet backline, with Miazga exactly who you remember: an outstanding player with the ball at his feet, but pretty bad at the defending part of being a defender (you traditionally want to avoid being bad at an “ing” when you are called an “er”). Hagglund is not notable, while Mosquera is the opposite, notable for many things good and bad at all times.

With all that said, Cincy is middle of the pack in XG allowed, and Roman Celentano is a slightly better-than-average keeper (91% of xG converted against him). Without the Chicago game – three goals allowed on 2.19 PSxG – he’s be bordering on elite. The second-year player has been a bit of a revelation, and as Geoff Tebbetts said on the pod this week, turned Alec Kann into a bit of a Wally Pipp type.

The wingbacks have been Alvaro Barreal and Ray Gaddis. They’re both pretty active defenders, perhaps surprisingly given the system they play in, while Barreal has been a bit of a liability on the dribble (which is pretty odd for a converted winger, but I digress). Neither has done much in the pure attack, but that’s also an early-season sample-size deal.

Obinna Nwobodo has been nearly an every-minute guy at one DM position (all defense, little offense so far), but his midfield partner is up in the air: Yuya Kubo has been and remains out with injury, while Junior Moreno is on international duty this weekend. They could just plug in Marco Angulo… but he’s also on international duty. It’s a good week to face Cincy, and I imagine that they’ll have to alter their tactics somewhat significantly to make up for the personnel deficiencies.

Lucho Acosta remains Lucha Acosta: an elite creator as a classic No. 10, and a piece that would improve basically any team in MLS. He’s in the positive in all six G+ breakout categories, with dribbling, passing, and shooting marks that are among the best in the league to-date.

In front of him, it’s mostly been US International Brandon Vazquez and Brazilian starlet (and reformed bust – Gass Theorem in action) Brenner. Vazquez is a well-rounded striker with in-behind speed and hold-up strength. He’s underachieving his xG thus far – he’s failed to score on 1.48 expected goals. Brenner is a pure goal-getter at his best, which is why it’s also so obvious when he’s struggling. He also hilariously tried to Panenka Joe Willis in 2021 and got the finger, which rocked.

The Boys in Gold

Nashville went with some unconventional tactics last weekend – an asymmetrical 5-3-2 of sorts – but will probably be back to normal this evening. The team is about as healthy as it’s been since the opener, which unfortunately still means no Anibal Godoy or Randall Leal. But there are plenty of piece in place to overcome those absences, including the addition of Ján Greguš at whichever spot in a midfield needs it most.

Keys to the game

  • Don’t let Acosta beat you. He is v. v. capable of doing that. Being physical with him and preventing those passing lanes from being wide open has to be the key.
  • Exploit the backup midfielders. Cincinnati is either going to have guys playing out of position, or on the field for the first time this year. The alternative would be changing shape away from what they’ve done all year… which would also not be ideal for cohesion. Nashville needs to emphasize getting good on-ball players into positions where they can attack that spot.
  • Test a young keeper. Celentano’s good, but in just his sophomore year as a pro, there is every reason to want to get into his head and hope he makes a mistake or two. The Chicago goals weren’t primarily his fault… but he didn’t bail his team out, either.
  • Set pieces. Ever has it been, ever shall it be.


Nashville SC 3, FC Cincinnati 2. A shorthanded Cincinnati team feels like the perfect opportunity to really open things up – for good and forbad. Give the home crowd some excitement.

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