NASHVILLE – A showdown with the Charlotte Independance is Nashville SC’s next order of business as it hunts down the top spot in the USL Championship standings. The team heads into the weekend in arguably its best form all year, with five consecutive cleans sheets and a historic unbeaten streak going strong. Earlier this year, Nashville drew 1-1 with Charlotte at First Tennessee Park. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT on Saturday, Aug. 17 in Matthews, N.C.
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Last Time Out
Nashville SC capped off its third match in eight days with a 0-0 draw against Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday, Aug. 10. In prior matches last week, NSC had already accumulated six points in two wins and was looking to keep up the energy to earn another result at home. Nashville’s attack engineered several opportunities on goal especially in the second half, but Bethlehem’s crowded defense proved strong with goal line clearances and big saves. NSC keeper Matt Pickens along with a backline featuring MLS loanees Jimmy Ockford and Forrest Lasso had an outstanding performance to maintain the clean sheet for Nashville. After the match-packed week, Pickens, Ríos and Lasso were recognized by the league for their efforts.
Charlotte Independence has had less fortune than its upcoming opponent. The Independence hasn’t won in four matches with its most recent victory coming over a month ago; however, its two losses in that span have been narrow 1-0 defeats by the hands of Birmingham Legion and Louisville City FC. Despite its poor form, Charlotte is still in the hunt for a playoff spot currently sitting in 12th place with 25 points. The North Carolina team is near the end of the rankings for clean sheets with four compared to Nashville’s 11, but sits just slightly higher when it comes to its attack and goals scored. Charlotte has 28 goals while Nashville boasts 41.
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Coming in Hot
Nashville’s hot streak has boosted several players closer to meeting major career milestones over the last give games. Both Daniel Ríos and Cameron Lancaster are nearing there 50thcareer goals sitting with 27 and 49, respectively. Additionally, Pickens is close to 100 career clean sheets with just one more to go before hitting that mark. With three matches in eight days, these milestones could be reached sooner rather than later.
Clean Sheet Kings
After last Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Bethlehem Steel FC, Nashville SC is tied with Western Conference leader Phoenix Rising FC in clean sheets. The team’s 11 comes from Pickens’ nine shutouts combined with Connor Sparrow’s two. Nashville SC has the third fewest goals conceded with 19, one less than Phoenix.
After captain Michael Reed went out with a season-ending injury last Wednesday against Harford Athletic, the team has seen some rotation in the midfield. Ken Tribbett came back from injury and has played the last two matches in the center of the field as a defensive mid. When he entered the match for an injured Reed, Tribbett opened the flood gates with an impressive header to kick off the four unanswered goals for Nashville SC. The following match, he played a full 90 minutes in the defensive mid role, helping the team earn a shutout for the fifth time in a row. Midfielder Matt LaGrassa has also returned from injury, subbing in for late into the match for Bolu Akinyode against Bethlehem Steel FC. He will be another option for head coach Gary Smith to utilize in the midfield come Saturday.