NASHVILLE – Coming off a rough stretch of games that has seen Nashville SC lose five of its last eight games in all competitions, this week offered a chance for head coach Gary Smith and the rest of the technical staff to refocus the club. Practices have been intense, and by Smith’s own admittance, the team has trained angry this week.
They’ll need every bit of that intensity on Saturday night at FC Cincinnati to get a result from the team at the top of the USL table. This will be the second episode in the only USL trilogy between the two clubs after episode one ended in a 0-0 stalemate at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Like that game, this weekend’s atmosphere should be dynamic with around 25,000 fans expected to be in attendance.
FC Cincinnati is a USL club that is aquiring MLS players in preparation for next season’s ascension to the top tier. This is within the rules and Cincinnati will have the opportunity to start to incorporate these players now and build a chemistry. They have made three splash additions this week in Faneusndo Adi, Fatai Alashe and Pa Konate. One or all of them could make their debuts against Nashville on Saturday, and that would make an already tough task that much tougher.
On the field Cincinnati is 3-0-0 since that game in Nashville in early July with all three wins coming at home. They have continued to be potent on offense as they have scored multiple goals in every USL game since the beginning of June, except for the shutout against Nashville SC. Defensively, Cincinnati is also trending positively, allowing one total goal in its last five games. Cincy has 44 points in 21 games and is six points clear of the rest of the Eastern Conference. It’s a team that is good and it’s playing its best soccer of the season.
Unfortunately, Nashville SC has trended the opposite direction of Cincinnati since the 0-0 draw on July 7. Nashville has lost all three of its games on the road since, and hasn’t scored a goal on the road in USL play since June 9 against Tampa Bay Rowdies. It’s no secret that offense has been a struggle, one that was magnified in a 2-0 loss to league-worst Toronto FC II. Don’t be surprised to see Nashville come out with a renewed sense of attack on Saturday night and try to take advantage of what has been, at times, a leaky Cincinnati defense.
One other thing to keep an eye on will be what personnel is available to Gary Smith on Saturday. Keeper Matt Pickens and Midfielder Michael Reed have not played since the club’s loss to Ottawa Fury FC on July 21. Those are two regular starters that have not been available for Nashville’s last two games. Both were pivotal in Nashville’s draw against Cincinnati and are questionable for Saturday, and would be nice assets to have this weekend. Defender Bradley Bourgeois has already been ruled out by the club for the game.
Midfielder Matt LaGrassa
“I think the energy at training this week has been fantastic. Everybody has been super focused, and it’s been very intense. We are all determined as a group to get back on track and to get the results we know we are capable of.”
Watching the East
Nashville remains firmly in playoff position in 7th place in the East, three points ahead of the playoff line. Any points this weekend at Cincinnati would be positive, even if Nashville remains stationary in the standings.
How to Watch
Nashville SC at FC Cincinnati will air locally on MyTV30 at 6:30 p.m. The game will be also broadcast on the radio on ESPN 94.9 Game2. Of course fans can follow the game on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @NashvilleSC for updates and highlights.