Nashville SC lead the league in expected goals with 5.81, in shots with 49, in expected goal difference with 4.12, and expected points with 4.86. They are in fifth in the league with 1.69 expected goals against.
With these stats, you would expect Nashville to be at the top of the table, but they are seventh in the East with only two points in two matches. These “expected” stats are next-level statistics that are based on the quality of shots taken. So, Nashville have been taking high-quality shots and giving up low-quality shots. Unfortunately, Nashville haven’t converted their chances, and their opponents have.
Cincinnati’s first goal was the only goal that Nashville has given up that should have been stopped. The second goal in that match was a penalty. Montreal’s first goal was an incredible shot that nine out of ten shooters miss, but Mason Toye’s shot went in. The second goal deflected off Dave Romney as well as the cross bar before going into the net. Out of the four goals given up this season, three were low-percentage chances.
Nashville SC desperately need to get off to a hotter start this Sunday against expansion mate Inter Miami CF. The South Florida club are actually higher than the Boys in Gold in the table with three points after they defeated Philadelphia Union last week 2-1.
Inter Miami have a new coach this season in England international Phil Neville, who most recently was coaching the England women’s national team. Neville played for two legendary clubs in Manchester United and Everton as well as the senior England men’s national team for over a decade. He won six Premier League titles, three FA Cups, and the UEFA Champions League with Manchester United and three European Championships with England.
Neville comes into a situation in South Florida that is less than ideal. The club, owned by his former teammate and England legend David Beckham, made some questionable decisions when they brought in what turned out to be four Designated Players with Rodolfo Pizarro, Gonzalo Higuain, Matias Pellegrini, and Blaise Matuidi.
Matuidi was announced to have been bought with Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) and would not be a DP, but it was later discovered that this was not true, and now the league is investigating the club. TAM allows clubs to sign players whose annual budget charge falls between $612,500 and $1.612 million. Before the start of this season, Inter Miami had to get its roster compliant, so the club bought Pellegrini’s contract down and loaned him to its USL League One affiliate Fort Lauderdale CF.
This Monday, it was reported that Nancy Zacarias, the mother of Inter Miami stars Gonzalo and Frederico Higuain, had passed away after a five-year battle with cancer. On Wednesday, the club announced that the brothers would miss the match against Nashville SC to travel back to their native Argentina for their mother’s funeral. This is a very sad time for the Higuain family, and it could spell trouble for Inter Miami.
In the first two matches, Inter Miami lost 3-2 to Los Angeles Galaxy and beat Philadelphia Union 2-1. All four goals for the club involved one of the Higuain brothers with Gonzalo scoring two and assisting one and Frederico scoring one. Will the club be able to score without the Argentinians?
On Thursday, Franco Panizo of SBISoccer.com tweeted that Pizarro, the starting central attacking midfielder, had missed training that morning. Panizo reported that Neville later said that Pizarro was getting his green card and the Mexican international would not play Sunday. He also announced that attackers Robbie Robinson and Julian Carranza would also miss the match. It is safe to say that Miami’s depth will be tested this weekend as there were several USL players in training including Pelegrini, though he is unable to play on the MLS roster due to the restructure of his contract.
Nashville SC have Inter Miami at a disadvantage and will look to continue their run of offensive prowess against a squad that has also surrendered four goals in two matches. Jhonder Cadiz has scored two goals in his first two games and Randall Leal has two assists and a goal. Both seem to be on a hot streak, and the Boys in Gold need to ride those streaks to a win this Sunday at noon in Nissan Stadium. The three points from a win would put Nashville SC in a much favorable position in the table as well as give the team confidence to continue their unbeaten streak.
In what is now a must-win match for the Boys in Gold, I am predicting a 3-1 Nashville win with goals coming from Leal, Cadiz, and Hany Mukhtar. It's hard to predict Nashville getting a shutout given their luck so far this season, but with so many attacking players missing, I have no idea from where Inter Miami's goal will come. If Nashville drops points in this match, it will be time to panic in Music City.
Nashville SC photos are courtesy of Nashville SC. Photo of the Higuain brothers is credited to Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images