The grind toward the 2022 season is underway.  

Nashville SC began preseason training this week at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The Boys in Gold began to prepare for their third season in Major League Soccer, and their first full campaign in the Western Conference.  

Here’s what’s been going on at camp in the early days:  

Straight to Work – The start of preseason is typically when coaches evaluate their players’ fitness levels coming out of the offseason. Head Coach Gary Smith says he was delighted with how his players entered camp, and with the work they’ve been able to do in the early going.  

“The group has come back in wonderful shape,” Smith said. “There’s plenty of testing in all the clubs around the country at this point, and I’ve got to say I’m absolutely delighted with the way the guys have turned up. The last couple of days have been very good, really happy with the way things have opened up in this start of preseason.” 

Loba Getting Looks – After being signed from Liga MX giants C.F. Monterrey in the middle of the 2021 season, forward Aké Loba is entering his first full preseason camp as a Nashville SC player. The Ivorian scored one goal and added two assists in 381 minutes in 2021, and Smith says he’s been encouraged by Loba’s play early in a crucial preseason.  

“I don’t like underlining people’s names or situations, but this is Aké’s first full preseason with our group,” Smith said. “The one thing that’s been really encouraging is that he comes into the group when everyone’s on a level playing field. He’s come in great shape. These first couple of days, which is a small sample size, we’ve seen a really encouraging aspect not only to his game, but to everyone around him. I feel like the group, and of course himself individually, will have a big opportunity to gain some much-needed confidence in where this opportunity of his is going.”  

Preparing to Go West – Nashville SC will play in the Western Conference in the 2022 season, shifting over from the Eastern Conference, where the club made the playoffs in its first two seasons in MLS.  

Smith expanded on the challenges that a new conference presents for his team.  

“I think we’ve earned a little bit of respect with what we’ve achieved and how we’ve gone about our business as a brand-new franchise,” Smith said. “That respect counts for something when you’re playing against talented and capable teams. We've earned the right to put a little bit of doubt and put a little bit of fear in people’s minds with what we’re capable of in the Eastern Conference.  

“We go to the West, and I can count on one hand the teams we’ve run into, and we will have changed quite dramatically since we played the majority of those teams early on in our very first year. So not only have we got to get used to their style, but also there’s a completely different look and feel to those games that we’re going to undertake for the majority of the season. Throw in the fact that there’s some tremendous traveling and logistical question marks for the group in the way that we prepare for games, the time zone changes, and the recovery for the next game. For all those reasons, this will be a very different season to the last two.”  

Nashville SC’s first preseason friendly of 2022 takes place next Friday, Jan. 28. For the full preseason schedule and information, click here.

Come on N and be a part of history this season as Nashville SC opens its brand-new stadium on May 1. Click here to get your season tickets.