After 10 games of the MLS season, Nashville SC is sitting at 7th place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-6-1 record (W-D-L). The first stretch of the season included wins over Eastern Conference Leader, New England Revolution and new expansion team, Austin FC. Also, Nashville showed great resilience as they were able to comeback from down 2 goals in 4 different matches including a stunning 3-2 win over Toronto behind Luke Haakensons first 2 MLS Goals.
Their 6 draws may bore some fans, especially those knew to soccer, but their nearly unbeaten record is proof that Nashville SC is among the best teams in MLS.
This season, Nashville's keys to success have included their dependable defense, perseverance, and production from their biggest players.
The defense, as well as the Center Defensive Mid pairing of Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy and Goalkeeper Joe Willis, has been very good through the first 10 games, conceding the 5th least Goals Against in the league. Recently, an injury to Walker Zimmerman gave 2nd year CB, Jack Maher, an opportunity to start. Maher started the last two games and while he was not perfect defensively, he scored a great goal which was the first of his career.
Another strong point of the defense is the outside backs, Daniel Lovitz and Alistair Johnston, and their ability to attack but also to recover and defend. Their crosses often lead to some of Nashville's best scoring opportunities but they are rarely out of position and chose the right opportunities to move forward. Both defenders are also very good one on one and have shown their speed in recent matches.
Nashville's perseverance has been on full display with the team earnings 8 of their 15 points in games where they were trailing. While they did not necessarily start games slowly, the team excelled in the 70th minute and beyond. The comebacks that they have been able to piece together will be crucial come playoff time and are proof that nobody on the team gives up.
The biggest players, specifically Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal, and Jhonder Cádiz, have been involved in many Nashville goals and are constantly involved in the attack. While depth scoring is nice, Nashville's designated players stepping up is a very good sign.
The Strikers have combined for just 4 goals on the season but they are not to blame as they have not had many good scoring opportunities.
My only notable criticism of Nashville SC so far is their lack of attack through the middle of the field. Both Jhonder Cádiz and C.J. Sapong have shown the ability to hold up play and distribute the ball when needed but most Nashville attacks still go through the wings instead. The outside backs as well as Leal are great at crossing but more variation would benefit the team.
A concern I have is the international duty that many of Nashville's top players will have going forward. Walker Zimmerman, Aníbal Godoy, and Alistair Johnston were all called up to their National Team for the Gold Cup and could miss up to 5 games for Nashville. (U.S., Panama, and Canada respectively)
These 3 players have just missed a combined 3 games this season and we have seen what Nashville looks like without them. Specifically, in the case of Godoy, Nashville looked structureless, the midfield struggled to connect to the attack, and the team overall lacked rhythm.
Tah Brian Anunga is capable of filling in for Godoy on the defensive side of the ball but Godoy's distribution will be difficult to replace. Zimmerman's consistency and leadership as well as Johnston's offensive and defensive contributions are crucial to the team and without them, the rest of the team's job becomes much more difficult.
Overall, Nashville has been quite successful over the last year and will need to continue to get results to stay in a playoff position.
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