Nashville SC (6W-2L-10D, 28 pts) is home again for the first time in three weeks on Sunday when it takes on D.C. United (8W-7L-3D, 27 pts) at Nissan Stadium.
The Boys in Gold enter this weekend in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 28 points, while D.C. United sits right behind in sixth place with 27 points. A win for Nashville would put some valuable space between Nashville and D.C. as the playoff race heats up.
Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s match:
Bounce Back – Nashville SC is coming off a three-match road trip that featured draws with Toronto FC and first-place New England Revolution, as well as a 2-1 loss at Inter Miami CF. The loss snapped a nine-match unbeaten run for the Boys in Gold.
Now, the team returns home to Nissan Stadium, where Nashville SC has yet to lose this season (6W-0L-5D). Head Coach Gary Smith says this weekend’s output should look completely different than last Sunday’s loss.
“It was a really tough weekend for us, and one that we can dissect, look at and try to improve from,” Smith said. “But I just don't think there's any similarity between what you're going to see the group at the end of a tough travel week and getting back at home in an arena that you know the guys look confident and positive in all season.”
Rested, Relaxed, Ready – Smith said during Friday’s press conference that defenders Walker Zimmerman and Alistair Johnston will be available for selection on Sunday.
Their return will be a welcomed change for the Boys in Gold, but Smith also says players have been able to step up in their absence.
“We're slowly but surely rounding into full strength,” Smith said. “It will be nice to see those guys back in the group in and around the team for the weekend, but we know that the rest of the guys have had a very competitive and decent six weeks without them.”
Standings Watch – Just one point separates Nashville SC and D.C. United in the standings with just over half of the 2021 season complete. The first team below the playoff line entering the weekend, CF Montréal, sits just five points back of Nashville.
Defender Dan Lovitz knows matches like this one are crucial to securing a playoff spot at the end of the season.
“I think we'll be seeing a lot of [D.C. United] in the standings, and there'll be a team that we're going to look to beat as often as possible,” Lovitz said. “We're going to see them one more time after this, but it's a big point swing. We need to approach this game that way and to get all three points, because you know they'll be in the hunt, and they'll be nipping at our heels throughout the rest of the season.”