NASHVILLE – Nashville Soccer Club has been nearly unstoppable on the road, taking points in seven of eight road matches this season and already matching its 2018 season total of four victories away from home. This Sunday presents an opportunity to cap off a season-long four match road trip with 10 of a possible 12 points with a match against Hartford Athletic at 2 p.m. CT.
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Last Time Out
Nashville SC completed another club first last weekend when it rallied to beat Bethlehem Steel FC 4-1. It was the first come-from-behind win for Nashville in its professional history. After falling behind 1-0, a Ken Tribbett header equalized the scoreline just two minutes later in the first half. Tied at halftime, Nashville blitzed the Steel in the second half, scoring three more unanswered goals courtesy of Ropapa Mensah, Kosuke Kimura and Cameron Lancaster.
It was the sixth multi-goal win for Nashville this season after recording just eight in 2018. It was also the fourth road victory in 2019 which matches last season’s total.
Scouting Hartford Athletic
Hartford’s inaugural season did not get off to a good start as the Athletic lost its first eight USL Championship matches, scoring just four total goals in the eight losses. However, that nightmare start is far behind the club as Hartford has earned results in five of its last six matches, including each of its last four, and has eight goals in those six matches. An eight-match road trip can be attributed to the winless start as Hartford is in the process of renovating Dillon Stadium to be its future home. Currently, home matches are played at Rentschler Field, home of UCONN football.
The two wins and three draws have boosted Hartford from last place in the Eastern Conference to just four points from the playoff line. Forward Jose Angulo is the Athletic’s most dangerous weapon and has three goals and two assists, both club highs.
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Nashville’s Record Below the Line
While Nashville SC has been battle-tested, playing against all but two of the current playoff teams, it has done its job against teams sitting below the playoff line. Against teams 11-18 in the standings, Nashville is 5-0-2, outscoring those teams 17-5. Coach Smith will want to take advantage of the chance to add points to the ledger on Sunday against a Hartford team that has just five results in 14 matches.
Forwards Back to Fitness
MLS-signed forwards Daniel Ríos and Cameron Lancaster have not seen the field together much this season due to Lancaster being bitten by the injury bug multiple times this season. He is now healthy, and Smith can utilize both on Sunday. The MLS Cup-winning head coach has been able to start the pair just twice together all season, the first two week of the campaign, but will have the option to do so this weekend.
Defense Key To Run
A lot has been made of Nashville’s increase in scoring in 2019, and it’s indeed true that Nashville SC is putting the ball in the back of the net more frequently this season. In fact, Nashville’s 24 goals through 14 matches are 10 more than its output in 2018. But the current five-match unbeaten streak has been more about defense than offense. Nashville has allowed just three total goals in the last five matches as the defense ranks tied for fourth-best in goals allowed with just 11 this season.
The next opportunity to catch the Boys in Gold at home is June 22 against Ottawa Fury FC.