After facing two MLS teams, Nashville SC gets its first crack at a USL Eastern Conference foe. The Boys in Gold take on Ottawa Fury FC at 2 p.m. CST Friday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
The game can be streamed on IMG Academy’s YouTube channel.
Can Nashville Get Its First Victory?
With Ottawa making its first official start of the preseason, Nashville should have an advantage with two games under its belt.
Nashville head coach Gary Smith can take stock of his team’s defensive performances against Atlanta United FC and the Chicago Fire, but needs his players to build continuity on offense and create more quality scoring opportunities.
This game presents an ideal opportunity to turn on the attack and find their first preseason victory. Smith has started Robin Shroot and Michael Cox up top for the two previous matches, but mixing and matching his forward combinations with Ropapa Mensah, Tucker Hume and getting Austin Winn a start could provide an offensive spark. The preseason is all about building chemistry and finding the right combinations.
Maybe Mensah can find the back of the net again against the Fury. The 20-year-old scored the game-winning goal for the Harrisburg City Islanders (now Penn FC) in 1-0 victory over Ottawa on Sept. 27, 2017.
Pushing up Through the Middle
Nashville’s Kosuke Kimura and Ryan James have shown fearless play attacking on the wings in Smith’s hybrid 3-5-2 formation, but players in the central midfield need to step up offensively.
Lebo Moloto can be the catalyst for Nashville’s attack by controlling possession and feeding the forwards into dangerous areas of the pitch. Nashville traded for Moloto and made him their No. 10 because of his creativity, vision and ability to make key passes. He demonstrated these skills last season by creating 52 scoring chances for the Swope Park Rangers.
If Moloto can get going against Ottawa, expect Nashville to rack up multiple goals on Friday.
Ottawa’s 2017 Stats and Players to Watch
The Fury moved from the NASL to the USL last year and finished the 2017 season outside of the playoffs in 10th place with an 8-10-14 record. Like most USL teams, Ottawa’s roster has seen some turnover from last season. The Fury lost four players and made eight additions in the offseason.
A couple players to watch out for Ottawa include Steevan Dos Santos and Gerardo Bruna. Dos Santos was the Fury’s top scorer last season with 10 goals. The 6-foot-4 forward has scored 27 goals over the last three seasons in the USL. Before joining the Fury in 2017, Dos Santos played two seasons for the Rochester Rhinos.
Once called “the next Lionel Messi” after impressing for the Argentina U20s, Bruna was signed by Liverpool FC in 2007 at the age of 16 from Real Madrid’s academy. Unfortunately, the Argentine midfielder never saw any first team minutes with Liverpool after struggling with injuries. After bouncing around different international leagues, Bruna made 26 appearances and created 41 scoring chances for the Fury in 2017.
Ottawa ranked toward the middle of the pack in goals, shots on goal and goals conceded. The team lacked in overall possession and passing accuracy finishing in second to last place in both categories.
- Goals scored: 42 (18th most)
- Shots on goal: 405 (14th most)
- Goals conceded: 41 (12th fewest)
- Clean sheets: 7 (17th place)
- Total passes: 11,435 (28th place)
- Passing accuracy: 72% (29th place)
Hume Faces Former Team
One of the key losses for Ottawa is Nashville’s gain. Tucker Hume will face his former team on Friday. He scored three goals for the Fury making 23 appearances and playing a total 1,206 minutes for the Fury.
He’s yet to crack Nashville’s starting XI, but has been an offensive catalyst coming on in the second half. Hume played a critical role flicking on a header which led to Nashville’s only goal so far in the preseason. We wouldn’t be shocked if Smith inserted the 6-foot-5 forward into Friday’s starting lineup.