Nashville SC

Nashville SC game preview 2023: at Charlotte FC

Charlotte spent last year like a less extreme version of this year’s St. Louis City: not very good, but with a major good-luck horseshoe up their collective butt. This year’s team… is worse than last years and playing much worse, so without that luck, it has not been pretty. Nashville SC heads to Queen City with a bit of revenge on the mind.

The essentials

Opponent: Charlotte FC (5-5-3)
Time, Location: Saturday, May 20, 6:30 p.m. CDT (7:30 local) • Charlotte, N.C.
Weather: 79ºF, 22% chance of rain, 72% humidity, negligible wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV ($) • 104.5 The Zone

Match officials: Referee: Rubiel Vazquez, Assistants: Andrew Bigelow, Kevin Klinger. Fourth official: Jeffrey Greeson. Video assistants: Malik Badawi, Mike Kampmeinert

Vegas Odds: Nashville SC +179, Draw +227, Charlotte FC +156

Etc.: Rate, review, subscribe. Gary Smith and Lukas MacNaughton presser.

Stat Nashville SCCharlotte FC
Record (W-L-D)6-3-4 (1.69 PPG)
3rd East
5-5-3 (1.38 PPG)
7th East
Recent form (most recent first)W-D-W-W-DW-W-W-L-W
xG Power+0.29 (8th MLS)-0.76 (28th MLS)
G Power+0.49 (4th MLS)-0.42 (25th MLS)
“Luck”+0.20 (11th MLS)+0.34 (8th MLS)
Offense-0.15 (19 MLS)-0.32 (24th MLS)
Defense-0.45 (3rd MLS)+0.44 (28th MLS)
Venue advantage-0.40 Away Home (24th MLS)+0.91 Home (5th MLS)
Injury reportOUT: D Nick DePuy (leg, season)
QUEST.: D Walker Zimmerman (groin)
OUT: M Ben Bender (calf), W McKinzie Gaines (knee), W Kamil Jozwiak (thigh), GK George Marks (calf)
QUEST.: CB Guzman Corujo (knee), W Kerwin Vargas (calf)

Charlotte FC

The Charlotte attack is bad, the Charlotte defense is bad. They’ve allowed two goals more than the second-worst team in the league (Atlanta United) on that end of the pitch, and the adjusted xG numbers say it really hasn’t been fluky: this team gives up a ton of high-quality chances.

The centerbacks have been Adilson Malanda (an every-minute player so far) and mostly Bill Tuiloma with Jan Sobociński filling in when Tuiloma has been out. According to American Soccer Analysis‘s Goals Added (G+) Malanda’s a solid though not notable interruptor, while Tuiloma has been straight-up bad in the interrupting department, which is particularly odd given that he was elite in that breakout metric with the Timbers last year. Guzman Corujo, who was the team’s third-most played field guy last year, has been out all season with a knee injury, though he’s questionable this evening and hypothetically could make his season debut. His return at full strength is direly needed. Tuiloma was a late add to the roster after the passing of Anton Walkes during preseason, but it hasn’t really worked out. He’s a good enough player that it could just click at some point. The fullbacks have been fairly consistent: Jaylin Lindsey on the right and Nathan Byrne on the left. Harrison Afful is the rotation piece on the left (with Byrne shifting to the right in Lindsey’s absence). It appears that Lindsey – an old Mike Jacobs compatriot from the Swope Park Rangers days – has simply beaten out Afful and led to the shuffle, but either way all the most-used guys are pretty much the same: very little in the way of interruption, not adding much in attack (though Lindsey’s a better passer than the rest). Byrne is a profoundly bad dribbler, the only other statistically notable aspect of the fullbacks.

Of course, there’s one important note: Brandon Cambridge came on as a substitute and scored two goals in the midweek, and is the reigning MLS Player of the Matchdate. Does that performance earn him his first MLS start? It seems unlikely given the fairly strict rotation that we’d seen, but certainly something to keep in mind.

The goalkeeper has mostly been George Marks, but with his absence due to injury, it’s likely the Kristijan Kahlina show. He’s allowing goals on 108% of xG against, which isn’t terrible but when you face as much rubber as Charlotte keepers do, “slightly below average” means you’re shipping a bunch of goals. At least, unlike Pablo Sisniega (121%), he has not been actively bad. One thing he struggles with? Controlling rebounds. He’s the seventh-worst keeper in MLS in ASA‘s handling breakout, so there should be second bites at the apple.

There’s a fairly healthy rotation in central midfield, typically with a holder and two advanced midfielders, though the personnel allows this to sometimes play out like a 4-2-3-1 as well, since most of the guys can play as the holder or one of the advanced players. Our old pal Derrick Jones and Brandt Bronico have been the defense-first guys and both have been nothing short of terrible according to G+. The only positive breakout metric for either of them is Bronico’s fouling number barely inching above zero (+0.03), while both have been major liabilities in distribution (Jones only attempts easy passes – this probably sounds familiar to NSC fans! – but completes them below expectations, while Bronico is a little more adventurous but no more successful), and Bronico in interrupting. As poor as the backline has been, this is the area on the pitch where Charlotte’s defensive issues are rooted.

Ashley Westwood has taken over as the more attack-minded central mid, with Ben Bender (injured, and out of the lineup tonight) and Andre Shinyashiki (not suspended, but out of the lineup for over a month in the midst of a sexual assault investigation in which he was not the suspect, but was involved) unavailable. He’s a bad dribbler and not much of a passer himself, and otherwise not notable.

There has been a ton of rotation on the wing, in part because of injury issues for Kerwin Vargas (questionable for tonight), Karol Swiderski – who is also a CF but has played more on the wing this year (he’s healthy, but missed a couple games toward the beginning of the year) – McKinzie Gaines, and Kamil Jozwiak (both out tonight). That leaves Justin Meram, added in a trade early this season, as a likely starter. The MLS journeyman was one vote short of a Player of the Week mantle a couple weeks back, but has largely been a role player in the late stages of his career. Swiderski is the team’s xG+xA leader, though obviously has done some of that as a center forward or member of a strike pairing.

Due to the depth issues on the wing, it’s likely we see a single-striker formation (since the other striker has to, you know, play out on a wing), and that single striker is likely to be Enzo Copetti. The Argentine has four goals on the year, but in the second-most minutes for a field player on the squad, has just 3.06 xG+xA on the year. He’s not been productive even for a decent-enough attack (decent-enough when not paired with an awful defense, that is).

So this is not a good team, but there’s a twist: the home-field advantage metric thinks they’re pretty good at home. That was the case last year, as well (though the split was less stark, they were much luckier at home too, which is not the case this year). It’s actually more like “less bad,” in fairness, but still: Nashville SC got pasted in this venue last year, and taking Charlotte lightly in front of their home crowd is unwise.

Keys to the game

  • Take control. Charlotte is not very good, and is particularly bad in the areas of the field where the game can be controlled. Winning the second balls in the midfield and holding onto the ball a bit against a Charlotte team that possesses OK despite having few good passers? That’s a way to prevent them getting a foothold in the game.
  • Get Hany on the ball to dribble the central midfielders. Unless Phil Neville Christian Lattanzio just crams bodies into the midfield because he knows the top couple options on the depth chart (thanks to injury and suspension bad roster build) need all sorts of help, this should be the area easiest to expose. The available guys are bad in attack distribution, but more importantly, they’re non-entities one mediocre and one bad in interrupting, as well. No YOU just copied a bullet from Wednesday’s game because the next opponent has similar weaknesses.
  • Let the CMs fumble around on the ball. They aren’t very precise in distribution, and Jones in particular is hyper-conservative with his passing. Letting those guys possess and shutting down passing lanes to the more-dangerous players in the front half of the field seems wise. There’s little reason to go out of your way to pressure them, just let them do their thing.
  • Put up shots. The non-Marks goalkeepers are not good, and while the likely starter, Kahlina, is less not good, peppering him with the ball is a good way to give him lots of opportunities to mess up. Plus NSC has developed a bit of a knack for the rebound-oriented scoring pipeline, and Kahlina will give you that opportunity.
  • Set pieces. Ever has it been, ever shall it be.


Nashville SC 1, Charlotte FC 1

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