Nashville SC ventures north in search of points

We’re past the halfway point of Nashville SC inaugural season, and so far it can best be summed up in two Ron Swanson GIFs.

During the 11-game winning streak:

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And now in their current form, where they’ve dropped points in three of their last four matches:

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But despite the recent form, there’s little reason for panic. The Boys in Gold now go on a stretch where four of their next five opponents are currently outside the playoff bubble in the USL Eastern Conference, which starts Saturday with a trip to Ottawa Fury FC.

Team: Ottawa Fury FC

  • Affiliation: Montreal Impact
  • Stadium: TD Place Stadium (24,000)
    • TD Place Stadium is also home to the Ottawa Redblacks Canadian Football League team and hosted the 2017 Grey Cup
    • The stadium site has hosted sporting events since 1908 as Landsdowne Park but never played home to a soccer team until the Fury were formed in 2014
  • Coach: Nikola Popovic (1st season)
    • Popovic led the 2017 Swope Park Rangers to a 17-8-7 record and a Western Conference championship in his only year as coach, then the parties mutually agreed to part ways
    • Popovic has coached teams in four continents — Europe, Asia, Africa and North America
    • His first coaching job came in 2012, when he managed Portuguese second-division side Sertanense FC
  • First Season: 2014 (joined USL in 2017)
  • 2017 Finish: 8-10-14 (10th Eastern Conference, missed playoffs)
  • Best-ever Finish: 2017
  • Supporters Group: Bytown Boys, Stony Monday Riot
  • Three Fun Facts: Ottawa Fury FC moved from the NASL to the USL after the 2016 season, citing cost savings (of around $200,000) and attendance growth as reasons for the switch
    1. Ottawa ranked near the bottom of the league in passing last year and ended the campaign with eight draws in its final 11 matches — and a league-leading 14 draws all season
    1. Fury FC played Scottish stalwart Rangers in a 2014 friendly, losing 1-0 in a match at the newly opened TD Place.

Here’s what Nashville SC coach Gary Smith had to say about Ottawa.

Why it matters for Nashville: This side will obviously want to get back into the form it was in during the unbeaten stretch a couple of months ago. Since the U.S. Open Cup loss against Louisville, the Boys in Gold have fallen from as high as third place, to now sitting in seventh place tied with Charlotte Independence on points with 27.

And, as mentioned above, this next stretch of games is an opportune time to pick up points and get back into the hunt to host a home playoff game.

Why it matters for Ottawa: The Fury have won three of their last five USL matches to catapult them to within distance of competing for a playoff spot. Plus, they’ve proven to be a menacing host with a 4-3-2 record, so they’ll hope to expand on that record with a slick playing surface.

Projected Nashville SC starting 11

lineup (1)

Goalkeeper: Lather. Rinse. Repeat. (Side note: We are excited to see CJ Cochran back in the side after his brief loan in Fresno.)

Defense: Smith confirmed with the media that Bradley Bourgeois is ok after coming off against FC Cincinnati and not making the trip up to Charlotte, so we expect to see him make a return back to the side. Everything else is self explanatory.

Midfield: Lather. Rinse. Repeat for the middle of the park. As long as the Reed/Akinyode connection is clicking and controlling the midfield, there’s no reason to break up that tandem. Alan Winn is playing some of his best football at the moment and is a constant threat coming down either flank, so we expect him to continue his impressive run of form. Some may have disagreements with Matt LaGrassa on the wing, but his productivity out there (22 key passes on the year) and ability to swap positions with Lebo Moloto during the match is great for keeping the defenders off balance.

Forward: This one could cause some question marks, as Brandon Allen has only scored once in eight games and fans might be asking for Ropapa Mensah. However, he continues to be an asset in the linkup play, which Smith has expressed as one of Allen’s strongest qualities besides being in prominent goal-scoring spots. He could easily start this game, but we can also see Mensah getting a shot up top with Moloto, who isn’t getting removed any time soon.

Prediction: Although this is a tricky fixture, Nashville will be fresh on 10 days of rest. Ottawa is coming off a tough 1-0 loss to Toronto FC Wednesday in the first leg of the Canadian Cup, so there will be some tired legs on that side of the pitch. Nashville should take advantage of the break and pull off a hard-fought victory. 2-1 Nashville SC win.

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