Garay Smith Toronto Win 11.24.20

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After months of waiting, Nashville SC knows who they’ll be hosting when their 2021 Major League Soccer season kicks off on April 17th.

And it’ll be an old foe visiting Nissan Stadium: FC Cincinnati.

Despite not yet playing each other in MLS, Nashville SC and FC Cincinnati have plenty of history, playing four times in USL Championship during 2018, including a heartbreaking penalty shootout loss to Cincinnati in the playoffs.

Head Coach Gary Smith, who led Nashville SC against FC Cincinnati in their USL Championship battles, knows this will be a challenge to start the season.

“With it being a local derby, and the rivalry that we bring with us from [the USL Championship], which is of course where we had some pretty tough battles with Cincinnati, my expectation is it'll be a very tough game as an opener,” he said.

FC Cincinnati finished last in MLS in points during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, with the fewest goals scored in both seasons as well. Even with Cincinnati’s struggles since joining from USL Championship, Smith and company aren’t overlooking their first opponent of the year.

“You have seen a turnaround of head coach,” Smith said. “Jaap Stam is incredibly experienced and was, in my eyes, one of the best defenders to have walked this planet since I've been here. I'm sure with his experiences at some very big clubs, he’ll be trying to impart that with some of those players. It takes a little bit of time to get your message across and see some of those changes come to fruition. Whatever the first year was about will be put behind them, and they'll see this as a really good opportunity to make a bit of a fresh start with some new faces and get off in a bright and purposeful fashion.”

Aside from bringing in Stam midway through last season, FC Cincinnati have overhauled their roster, including the club-record signing of striker Brenner from São Paulo in Brazil and former New York City FC and Costa Rican international left back Rónald Matarrita.

Knowing their first opponent will also help Nashville SC focus through their final stretch of preseason presented by Vanderbilt Health before kicking-off in April.

“I think for our group of players to kind of have that first opponent set and to kind of have a goal in mind to look forward to, helps a lot mentally to kind of get through preseason and helps our players and our staff to prepare better and to kind of have a better understanding of what's coming in that first game,” Miller said.

The countdown to the 2021 MLS Regular Season is on in earnest, and when the lights are on in Nissan Stadium on April 17th and Nashville SC’s second MLS campaign is underway, it’ll be an old USL Championship foe who will greet them there.

Visit NashvilleSC.com and follow the club’s social channels on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to keep up with the team during preseason as we countdown to the first match against FC Cincinnati.