Nashville SC Looks As Strong As Ever Three Games Into The Season

Hany Mukhtar. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Three games into the MLS season and Nashville Soccer Club is sitting strong with seven points, two wins and no goals conceded. It might be safe to say that this is a pretty good start.

Even with a few injuries this early, Nashville has found a way to lockdown opposing offenses and create scoring opportunities with guys like Jacob Shaffelburg and Hany Mukhtar. Goalkeeper Joe Willis has been extremely solid with a fantastic performance in cold New Jersey against the New York Red Bulls on March 4.

Yes, the season has just begun and anything could happen, but a great start out of the gate can allow for wiggle room later on. So, let’s take a dive into the Boys in Gold’s performance so far this season and see what’s working and what can improve.

So right off the bat, the defense is looking as good as it ever has. In the last two games, Head Coach Gary Smith‘s squad has had four players on its backline, which has made scoring on Nashville nearly impossible. Performances from Shaq Moore, Walker Zimmerman, Jack Maher and Dan Lovitz have been fantastic.

In the past three games, Nashville has only given up 25 total shots against opposing teams as well as only 11 corners and just a handful of big chances. Zimmerman and Moore are both sporting accurate passing ratings of at least 70 percent, while Moore has won 86 percent of his tackles. Zimmerman is back at clearing the ball with 19 clearances and 10 head clearances.

We’ve also seen some great work from the Nashville midfield in Sean Davis, who’s played 270 minutes so far this season. Along with Shaffelburg and Mukhtar, the team has been able to create some offensive momentum.

In the club’s opening match, we saw Shaffelburg leave it all on the field with his speed off the ball. He scored during both the opener against NYC FC and Saturday’s (March 11) match against Montreal. His work with Mukhtar and Fafa Picault will be key for Nashville’s success this season.

Another plus was Randall Leal and Aníbal Godoy‘s performances in the home opener. Godoy was injured for most of last season and when he was on the pitch, he was very limited. He is a difference maker in the offensive transition and it was visible against NYC FC. Sadly, he’s been injured for the past two games and the lack of his field presence was emphasized as Nashville struggled to score against the Red Bulls. Leal has also been injured for the last two games, which has hurt the club’s offensive prowess. He is one of the most important players on the team. Though he didn’t score much last season, Leal creates the most scoring chances next to Mukhtar.

However, Nashville needs to work on is keeping possession of the ball. Against Montreal, the team only possessed the ball for 35 percent of the game compared to Montreal’s 65 percent. The Red Bulls had nearly 60 percent of possession, and NYC FC had 62 percent of possession. Even though they struggled to keep possession, the Nashville defense prevented any scoring or any opportunities to score. That being said, this is an issue that needs to be addressed in the midfield. This could be resolved once Leal and Godoy return, or when Picault finds his groove with the team. Smith may need to re-work the formation where a 4-3-3 can allow the midfield and attack to create opportunities and run the ball down the opposing defense’s throat.

There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of teams that will be adapting to Nashville’s play. But once Leal and Godoy return healthy, the Boys in Gold will have the potential to be a very dangerous team for the Eastern Conference.

Steven Boero