Two weeks after Nashville SC (12W-9L-10D, 46 pts.) took a crucial 3-0 win over Austin FC (16W-9L-6D, 54 pts.) at home, the Boys in Gold and the Verde and Black will meet again for the first time at Q2 Stadium in Austin.
Nashville enters this match on a five-match unbeaten streak in which it is outscoring its opponents 15-2. Dating back to June 19, Nashville SC has scored in a club-record 16 consecutive matches. With one more victory, the Boys in Gold would set a club record with 13 wins in a season.
Landon Donovan MLS 2022 MVP frontrunner and Golden Boot leader Hany Mukhtar scored twice in the first encounter between these two sides on Sept. 3. Mukhtar’s 22 goals, 33 goal contributions, 116 shots and 63 shots on target lead all MLS players.
The Boys in Gold currently sit in fourth in the Western Conference with 46 points, with Minnesota United FC just one point behind in fifth place. With only three matches remaining in the regular season, Saturday’s result could once again swing the race for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and the race for a top-four spot and a home playoff match.
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s match:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 17
Time: 8:00 p.m. CT
Location: Q2 Stadium (Austin, Texas)
Local Stream: NashvilleSC.com/stream, Nashville SC App
English Radio: iHeartRadio Online, Nashville SC App
Spanish Radio: El Jefe 96.7 FM
Watch Party: Central BBQ Hillsboro
The Streak Rolls On – Nashville SC is riding a five-match unbeaten run, including four wins and a draw. All five opponents are currently either in a playoff spot, or still in contention for a playoff spot.
Head Coach Gary Smith says he’s been intrigued by those playoff battles as his team embarks on this streak.
“With no midweek game again, it’s been good to work towards Austin at the weekend,” Smith said. “The guys are in a good place. A slightly different angle to this week was watching some of the other groups in action at such an important juncture of the season. It’s always interesting to see how the other games unfold and how that may affect what goes on in our world. A good week all around and the players are in a good place.”
Playoff Position – The race for the Western Conference playoffs is coming down to the wire.
Only three points separate Nashville SC in fourth from seventh place, and the Boys in Gold are only three points away from third-place FC Dallas. Smith says the compact nature of the standings makes every point matter even more during the last three matches of the season.
“We need to keep that distance between us and that chasing group, and then the job will be done,” Smith said. “It’s very simple: stay focused, get your best team on the field, get the best job done and try to keep adding points. For us, maybe a bit of momentum as well. We’re in an unbeaten run and we want to try and maintain that.”
Austin FC Rematch – For the second time in two weeks, Nashville SC and Austin FC will square off. In the 3-0 victory on Sept. 3, Walker Zimmerman scored the match-winning goal and Mukhtar netted a brace to take the lead of the Golden Boot race. The win gave Nashville a 2W-0L-0D all-time record against Austin FC with a +4 goal differential.
In two matches since their last matchup, Austin has lost 3-0 to Seattle Sounders FC and beat Real Salt Lake 3-0. In the win over Real Salt Lake, Moussa Djitté notched the first hat trick in Austin FC history. MVP challenger Sebastián Driussi is just two goals behind Mukhtar in the Golden Boot race with 20 goals.
Smith says the team will benefit from its recent encounter with Austin.
“It’s fresh in everyone’s mind what Austin is about and how they play,” Smith said. “Although they’re a comparable possessional and technical group to Galaxy, they do have some very different dynamics to their team and the way that they play. There should be some very fresh thoughts and feelings in the players’ minds about what they’re running into.”