Nashville SC will open the 2018 season on the road against Louisville City FC on Saturday, March 17. Nashville’s inaugural home opener will be against The Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, March 24 at First Tennessee Park.
Louisville City FC is a tough welcome to the USL. The defending USL Cup Champions have resigned 16 players from last season’s roster and added depth at defender and midfield positions.
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith called the game a “cracking opening fixture” on the team’s website.
“It should be a fantastic atmosphere in Louisville, and we’ll be ready to test ourselves against the reigning champs,” Smith said.
Closer Look at Louisville City FC:
- Affiliation: None
- Stadium: Louisville Slugger Field (8,000)
- Home of the Louisville Bats, the AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds
- Although the stadium seats more than 13,000 fans, a soccer sellout is 8,000 due to limited-view seats
- The pitchers’ mound is outfitted with a retractable mound so it can be removed prior to soccer games
- Coach: James O’Connor (4th season)
- O’Connor is a striking 60-23-23 since leading Louisville into the USL in 2015
- O’Connor scored 16 goals in five seasons at Stoke, earning the club’s Player of the Year honor in 2000
- He won a USL title with Orlando City in 2014, the final year before the team moved to the MLS
- First Season: 2015
- 2017 Finish: 18-8-6 (League champions)
- Best-ever Finish: 2017
- Supporters’ Groups: The Coopers, Scouse’s House
- Three Fun Facts:
- Louisville City FC scored the second-most goals, took the most shots and delivered the most clean sheets in the league en route to the franchise’s first title last year
- The initial rendering of the team’s logo included a Fleur-de-Lis resting atop a bourbon barrel; however, fans ridiculed it and the team picked an “abstract” new logo designed by a fan
- Louisville City plays in The Dirty River Derby vs. FC Cincinnati
Breaking down the home opener
The hope opening on Saturday, March 24 at First Tennessee Park will be a historic game for Nashville SC.
Pittsburgh should be an easier test than Louisville City FC. The Riverhounds finished in 13th place in the East last season and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
But a lot has changed this offseason for Pittsburgh. The team hired a new coaching staff led by Bob Lilley. Lilley left the Rochester Rhinos after the team announced it would be on hiatus in 2018.
Smith said he expects Lilley to have the Riverhounds well organized and to bring a competitive team to First Tennessee Park.
“It will be a great occasion, an exciting game, and the first chance for Nashville SC supporters to see our team firing on all cylinders,” said Smith.
Team: Pittsburgh Riverhounds
- Affiliation: Columbus Crew SC
- Stadium: Highmark Stadium (3,500)
- Built in 2013, the stadium is on the Monongahela River just east of where it meets the Allegheny at Heinz Field
- The field surface is FIFA 2-star certified artificial turf, the highest rating that an artificial surface can achieve, one of only six fields in the country to earn that rating
- Coach: Bob Lilley (1st season)
- Lilley previously coached the Rochester Rhinos, which are taking a one-year hiatus this season
- He led the Rhinos to four consecutive playoff appearances from 2014 to 2017 and the 2015 USL championship
- Lilley played alongside Penn FC coach Bill Becher for six seasons with the indoor Harrisburg Heat and one with the Hershey Impact. The two are longtime friends and speak well of each other
- First Season: 1999 (then a member of the USL A-League)
- 2017 Finish: 8-12-12 (13th Eastern Conference)
- Best-ever Finish: 2015 (5th East, Conference Quarterfinals)
- Supporters Group: Steel Army
- Three Fun Facts:
- In its 19-year history in the A-League and USL, Pittsburgh has only won its division once and never qualified for a championship match; in fact, the Riverhounds have endured eight losing seasons in their last 10 campaigns
- Scottish midfielder Kevin Kerr is third all-time in appearances for the team; he has played in 146 matches since joining the squad in 2013
- Pittsburgh conceded the fewest fouls of any USL team in 2017