Let’s run it back. For the first time since the USL days (when it was a regular occurrence), the Boys in Gold take to the diamond. New York City FC is historically pretty strong on home dirt, so don’t assume another 2-0 NSC win.
Opponent: New York City FC (2-2-3)
Time, Location: Saturday, April 15, 6:30 p.m. CDT • Queens, N.Y.
Weather: 62ºF, 51% chance of rain, 71% humidity, 9 mph SE wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MLS Live on Apple TV • 104.5 The Zone
Match officials: Referee: Allen Chapman. Assistants: Kyle Atkins, Adam Wienckowski. Fourth Official: Ben Pilgrim. Video Assistants: Jorge Gonzalez, Craig Lowry
Vegas Odds: Nashville SC +1475, Draw +240, NYCFC +100
Etc.: Rate, review, subscribe. Gary Smith and Fafa Picault presser. Preview of the first time around.
|Record (W-L-D)||3-2-2 (1.57 PPG)|
|2-2-3 (1.29 PPG)|
|Recent form (most recent first)||D-W-L-L-W||D-D-L-W-W|
|xG Power||+0.00 (19th MLS)||+0.06 (17th MLS)|
|G Power||+0.50 (6th MLS)||+0.15 (10th MLS)|
|“Luck”||+0.50 (6th MLS)||+0.09 (11th MLS)|
|Offense||-0.39 (27th MLS)||-0.17 (19th MLS)|
|Defense||-0.39 (3rd MLS)||-0.24 (11th MLS)|
|Venue advantage||+0.45 Away (11th MLS)||-0.20 Home (17th MLS)|
|Injury report||OUT: D Nick DePuy (leg, season), M Randall Leal (ankle)||None|
New York City FC
We shall be relying heavily upon the previous preview (prev-ception) here. NYCFC was largely an unknown coming into the year, but what we know about the players remains the same.
Winger Talles Magno [is] an offensive dynamo who sort of goes through the motions defensively. He undershot his expected goals (seven on 9.49 xG) but overachieved expected assists (eight on 4.95 xA) last year, and loves to beat guys off the dribble as Priority No. 1.
Fellow winger Thiago is the next-leading returning producer on offense… with five goals on 4.58 xG and two assists on 1.87 xA. Gabriel Pereira, another winger, massively outperformed his xG (eight goals on 4.50). My assumption is that these are your starting wingers while Magno plays up top.Feb. 27
Magno started the year up top, which is an unnatural position for him, but has since settled in on the left wing, where he’s better. He has two goals on 1.73 xG this year. Andrade was loaned to Brazilian club Araras after not really contributing in attack so far this year.
The club has added a key piece in attack: Uruguayan No. 10 (in position and in jersey number) Santiago Rodríguez. He has a goal on 1.19 xG and one assist on 1.18 xA, and after being eased in with 17 minutes against the Fire in the match immediately after NYCFC’s trip to Nashville, he is back to full strength and is an every-minute player. He was an elite dribbler last year and just an OK passer, and he’s flipped those so far in his 540 minutes this season, with elite passing and well below-average dribbling. The dribbling breakout in ASA‘s Goals Added is obviously low in sample this year, so I would imagine there’s some recovery by the end of the year. Either way, he’s gonna try stuff on the dribble. So far it hasn’t worked out, but that doesn’t mean it won’t going forward.
Pereira has split time with Matías Pellegrini (formerly of Inter Miami and also their USL team during the 2020 “these guys cheatin'” DP scandal) on the non-Magno wing, and Gabriel Segal is playing up top if Magno is not. He’s taken just two shots and has one key pass in under two matches worth of time since joining the team.
Moving back in the formation:
Keaton Parks is an outstanding holding midfielder, but his contributions have been limited over the past few years. He had his first mostly-healthy season in 2021, and then missed half of last year after having surgery to remove a blood clot from his right leg. When healthy, he’s a mediocre defender as a defensive midfielder, but impeccable in distribution, and he contributes directly to the attack just a bit, as well.Feb. 27
He’s been joined by former NYCFC DM/CB hybrid James Sands, returned early from a loan to Scotland’s Rangers. Sands is relatively immobile as a holding mid (but too mobile to be a CB – hence the hybrid role he’s played in the past!), but alongside a partner like Parks, he can still make a defensive impact. He’s always been known for his big diagonal passing – the Michael Bradley Ball – which can at times be boom-or-bust. He does not get directly involved in the attack (he’s even played as a true CB when needed in his short sample this year).
To the backline:
Maxime Chanot and Thiago Martins should form a solid centerback pairing, and while losing Alex Callens – for my money, one of the better centerbacks in the league in recent years – is not exactly “no big deal” territory, at least there’s some continuity. Martins is sort of bad, is the main issue here. Both of them are non-huge, as well, which could mean the aerial route for Nashville (including on set pieces) makes sense. Flanking them are Malte Amundsen and Tayvon Gray at fullback. You might expect, given the reputation of NYCFC over the years for engaging a ton of bodies in attack, that they’re both fine defenders but very good attacking players… but that’s not the case! Gray is a highly disruptive defender who absolutely stunk getting involved in the attack last year, while Amundsen is sort of above-average all around.Feb. 27
Braian Cufré has replaced Amundsen at LB. He’s a good interruptor who’s not providing much in attack so far for the Pigeons.
I called goalkeeper a major question mark for NYCFC in the earlier preview, and we have one answer: Luis Barraza has played every minute so far. The quality remains an open question though, as he’s been fine at-best, allowing 107% of expected goals against.
The Boys in Gold
This is as healthy as NSC has been all year (which unfortunately means still no Randall Leal), so expect a first-choice lineup, and a focus on hitting on the counter – much like you saw
Keys to the game
- Don’t get intimidated by field dimensions. NYC runs a City Football Group-expected “press-and-possess” style, and they ramp up the press portion of it when they’re playing on their small home fields in baseball stadia. I don’t expect Nashville SC to connect beautifully through the press, but certainly avoiding getting flustered is important.
- Be willing to play against the ball. This is the precise opposite of one of the keys I gave last time around (since I think Nashville wants to be a little more expansive at GEODIS Park this year), but on the road, this team wants to draw opponents forward to hit on the counter.
- Convert the opportunities. If you’re playing a counter-style strategy in attack, you’re gonna get just a few chances, but they may well be golden ones. Hit ’em.
- Set pieces. Of the 39.10 expected goals NYCFC conceded last year, 7.60 came from dead-ball opportunities. That turned into seven goals. Nashville has historically been fairly set-piece-reliant, and given all the above, it should be a fairly profitable avenue on this day.
Nashville SC 1, NYCFC 2