A realistic goal for head coach Gary Smith and his players should be to make the USL playoffs. Nashville needs to finish no worse than eighth place out 16 teams in the Eastern Conference.
Nashville fans should feel confident based on the previous performances of expansion teams making their USL debut. Four expansion teams (FC Cincinnati, Rio Grande Valley FC, Swope Park Rangers and Orlando City B) made the playoffs in 2016 and Reno 1868 FC made the playoffs in 2017.
Unfortunately, once an expansion team makes it to the playoffs their luck runs out. Reno 1868 FC, FC Cincinnati, Orlando City B and Rio Grande Valley FC were all knocked out in the first round, but Swope Park made it all the way to the USL Cup Championship match their first season. The Rangers lost 5-1 to New York Red Bulls II in 2016.
Putting points on the board early
Nashville starts the 2018 regular season on the road against the defending USL Cup Champions Louisville City FC. Smith stressed the importance of getting off to a good start and its potential impact on the rest of the season.
“I would hope by the time we start and face a challenge in Louisville, which will be an extremely tough one, we’re in good shape. I’m sure we will be,” Smith said. “For the group, now, starting off well and having a decent three-or-four game opening where we can put some points on the board and just add to what I hope will be a productive opening, a coming together of players.”
How many points does Nashville need to make the playoffs?
Last year, Bethlehem Steel FC finished in the eighth spot in the East after tallying 44 points with a 12-12-8 record in 32 games. Sacramento Republic FC finished in the eighth spot in the West with 46 points and a 13-12-7 record.
With a 34-game regular season in 2018, we are projecting Nashville SC will need at least 46 points to make the playoffs based on previous USL seasons. There are many different ways to compile this magic number. For example, Nashville could finish the 2018 regular season with 6 wins, 28 draws and no losses to reach 46 points. But this scenario is highly unlikely and we are hoping Smith doesn’t turn in to Jose Mourinho to “park the bus.”
The easiest way to reach 46 points is to win games. Orlando City B snuck into the 2016 playoffs with just nine wins out of 30 games. The realistic number of wins Nashville will need is 13 giving them 21 games to grab an additional seven points.
What type of playoff experience does Nashville’s roster have?
Nashville’s 23-man roster has nine players who made it to the USL playoffs last season:
- Matt Pickens – Tampa Bay Rowdies
- C.J. Cochran – OKC Energy
- Lebo Moloto – Swope Park Rangers
- Liam Doyle – Swope Park Rangers
- Matt LaGrassa – Reno 1868 FC
- Ryan James – Rochester Rhinos
- Bradley Bourgeois – Tulsa Roughnecks
- Kosuke Kimura – Tulsa Roughnecks
- Michael Reed – San Antonio FC
Moloto and Doyle reached the 2017 USL Cup finals, but lost to Louisville City FC 1-0.
2017 USL regular season results
|1||Louisville City FC||32||18||6||8||27||62|
|3||Tampa Bay Rowdies||32||14||7||11||15||53|
|7||New York Red Bulls II||32||13||14||5||-3||44|
|8||Bethlehem Steel FC||32||12||12||8||1||44|
|9||Orlando City B||32||10||10||12||1||42|
|10||Ottawa Fury FC||32||8||10||14||1||38|
|12||Saint Louis FC||32||9||14||9||-13||36|
|15||Toronto FC II||32||6||19||7||-27||25|
|1||Real Monarchs SLC||32||20||5||7||28||67|
|2||San Antonio FC||32||17||4||11||21||62|
|3||Reno 1868 FC||32||17||7||8||36||59|
|4||Swope Park Rangers||32||17||8||7||18||58|
|5||Phoenix Rising FC||32||17||8||7||13||58|
|6||OKC Energy FC||32||14||11||7||5||49|
|7||Tulsa Roughnecks FC||32||14||14||4||-3||46|
|8||Sacramento Republic FC||32||13||12||7||2||46|
|9||Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC||32||12||12||8||4||44|
|10||Orange County SC||32||11||11||10||-4||43|
|11||Rio Grande Valley FC||32||9||15||8||-13||35|
|12||Seattle Sounders FC 2||32||9||19||4||-19||31|
|13||LA Galaxy II||32||8||19||5||-32||29|
|14||Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2||32||5||18||9||-20||24|
|15||Portland Timbers 2||32||3||23||6||-36||15|