Match Preview: Nashville SC vs Chicago Fire

London Woodberry practices at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

London Woodberry practices at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. / Nashville SC.

Nashville SC play its second preseason match today at 3 p.m. against another 2017 MLS playoff team, the Chicago Fire. The Chicago Fire finished third place in the MLS Eastern Conference last season with a record of 16-7-11.

The game kicks off at 3 p.m. at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and can be streamed on IMG Academy’s YouTube channel.

23 Days and Counting

Nashville had just 12 days of practice to prepare for Atlanta United FC. The Boys in Gold have now been together 23 days as a team before facing Chicago Fire.

This doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it will go a long way with one game under their belt and an extra 11 days to learn from the 3-1 loss to the Five Stripes. Head coach Gary Smith said “it was a little lack of experience” that led to Atlanta’s goals in the second half. We will be watching for better communication, positioning and overall team chemistry against the Fire.

The team should be excited for warm weather in Florida after practicing in cold and wet conditions for the past few weeks.

Who Will Score Nashville’s Second Goal?

Ropapa Mensah scores the first professional goal for Nashville SC against Atlanta United FC on Feb. 10 at First Tennessee Park.

Ropapa Mensah scores the first professional goal for Nashville SC against Atlanta United FC on Feb. 10 at First Tennessee Park. / Nashville SC

Ropapa Mensah broke through for Nashville SC’s first professional goal against Atlanta, but who is next? We anticipate all of the forwards getting quality minutes as Smith rotates players during the preseason.

Michael Cox and Robin Shroot got the starting nods against Atlanta, but maybe he flips it around with Mensah or Tucker Hume starting up top against Chicago. Smith praised Cox after the Atlanta game for finding “exciting areas” on the attack, but wants his forwards to “have a foundation to work from” for scoring goals.

The Fire conceded 51 goals and kept 11 clean sheets last season.

Chicago Fire 2018 Preseason Record

The Chicago Fire have struggled to score goals against professional sides so far this preseason with a current record of 2-1-1. The Fire easily defeated two college soccer teams, but drew against the Philadelphia Union and lost to the Montreal Impact.

  • 3: Defeated University of South Florida 2-0
  • 8: Scoreless draw against Philadelphia Union
  • 14: Lost 2-1 to Montreal Impact
  • 17: Defeated Florida Gulf Coast University 2-0

Matching Up Against 2017 MLS Golden Boot Winner

Nemanja Nikolic scored 24 goals for the Chicago Fire and won the 2017 MLS Golden Boot.

Nemanja Nikolic scored 24 goals for the Chicago Fire and won the 2017 MLS Golden Boot. / MLS

It doesn’t get any easier for Nashville’s back line. They opened the preseason against Atlanta’s high octane attack and now face Nemanja Nikolic, the 2017 MLS Golden Boot winner.

If the Serbian striker starts for Chicago he presents another tough test for Nashville’s defense. Nikolic scored the most goals (24) and took the second most shots (118) in the MLS last season. How prolific of a goal scorer was Nikolic in 2017? His 24 goals were just three shy of the all-time MLS record and fifth most in league history.

Nashville’s back line combination of Kosuke Kimura, Bradley Bourgeois, London Woodberry, Justin Davis and Ryan James shut out Atlanta in the first half. If this unit can slow down Nikolic and keep him off the score sheet it will go a long way to building the team’s confidence. The striker will definitely test the team’s defensive shape, organization and communication. Chicago scored 61 goals last season, the third most in MLS.

Nikolic has had a slow start to the preseason only scoring one goal so far against the University of South Florida. If he is inserted into the starting lineup he will definitely be on the attack.

Will Bastian Schweinsteiger Get His First Start of 2018?

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian Schweinsteiger was pivotal to the Chicago Fire’s turnaround last season. / MLS

If Bastian Schweinsteiger takes the pitch for Chicago at the IMG Academy, Nashville players will go up against one of the most decorated soccer players in the world. The 33-year-old soccer legend is yet to play any minutes this preseason.

The German midfielder left Manchester United to join Chicago Fire in 2017 and helped the team go from last place to a finishing third in the MLS Eastern Conference. Over his illustrious career, Schweinsteiger has won eight Bundesliga titles, a UEFA Champions League title and a UEFA Super Cup title with Bayern Munich over 13 seasons. Schweinsteiger also played a critical role in Germany’s 2014 FIFA World Cup victory.

Schweinsteiger re-signed with the club in January with a mission to win hardware.

“Last year was a special moment for my career, but it felt incomplete without a trophy,” he said in a team statement.

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