BRADENTON, Fla. – It’s Nashville SC vs. Louisville City FC - Round 5. While Saturday’s 2 p.m. CST friendly at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. won’t count for as much as the previous four matchups between the teams, it will still attract attention as both teams figure to be amongst the USL Championship’s best in 2019. The teams split the three USL Championship games last season with each side winning a home game and Louisville hosting a draw. The defending USL Cup champs did get the better of NSC in the U.S. Open Cup last year, as Louisville beat Nashville 2-1 in the round of 16.
While many Nashville fans are familiar with Louisville City from the four matchups last season, a handful of key contributors are gone from a year ago. Forward Ilija Ilic signed with USL’s Indy Eleven and defender Kyle Smith and keeper Greg Ranjitsingh moved to Orlando City SC of MLS. Of course, Nashville’s MLS team signed Louisville’s record-setting goalscorer Cameron Lancaster, and he will be playing for Nashville SC this season on loan.
Louisville didn’t remain idle through the offseason however as it added forwards in Sunny Jane, formerly of Richmond Kickers and Lucky Mkosana, of Penn FC. They have also brought in two keepers, Chris Hubbard from Notre Dame, and Ben Lundt, on loan from FC Cincinnati of MLS. While the additions are noteworthy, Louisville returns a powerful core of players in forwards Luke Spencer and Brian Ownby, midfielders Devon “Speedy” Williams, Magnus Rasmussen and Niall McCabe and defenders Paco Craig, Shaun Francis, Alexis Souahy and Oscar Jimenez.
Like Nashville, the two-time defending USL Cup champions are in training camp at IMG Academy and have played one preseason friendly, a 1-0 loss to Orlando City. The teams have locker rooms next door to each other and have seen quite a bit of the other throughout the week.
Nashville SC will end its week at IMG Academy with its matchup on Saturday afternoon against Louisville. While its first preseason friendly didn’t go its way, a 2-0 loss to Montreal Impact of MLS, NSC will have a chance to wrap up the week with a statement preseason victory. All Nashville SC rostered players took the field against Montreal, except for Lancaster and Daniel Ríos, Nashville’s two MLS signings. Both have been training this week with the team at IMG and could see the field on Saturday.
The game will kick off weekend soccer for Nashville SC this season, with the team playing preseason matches the next four weekends including a Friday night home friendly against New York City FC on February 22. Tickets to the match are available at NashvilleSC.com/tickets. Fans won’t have to wait long for games that count as Saturday will mark four weeks until the beginning of the 2019 USL Championship season.
“Every single time we play them it’s been a challenge,” said head coach Gary Smith. “I expect no different here. The fact that it’s preseason and it’s a new year, I suspect there will be some changes in the game, there will be bodies that we want to keep healthy. Overall for us, it’s important that guys get through it. We move another step closer to the start of the season. In terms of an opponent they will be our closest rivals next year, no two ways about it. Whether we like it or not, there will always be a little bit of added spice to these games. As long as everyone can keep their cool, stay competitive, not get too overzealous, I think we will both be happy, whatever happens.”
How to Follow
The game will not be streamed, but live updates will be provided on social media @NashvilleSC.
Nashville SC will open up USL Championship newcomer Birmingham Legion FC’s home preseason schedule next Saturday on the campus of Alabama-Birmingham. Legion FC are one of four expansion clubs in the Eastern Conference this season. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 4 p.m. CST.