Updated: Nov 20, 2020
The time has come! Nashville SC play in their first MLS postseason match this Friday night at 8pm CST. Their opponent is the other expansion team: Inter Miami CF. Nashville will host the match at Nissan Stadium.
Inter Miami return to Nashville with a record of 0-1-1 against the Boys in Gold; however, this time will be different due to lineups. In the first match, Miami did not have World Cup champion Blaise Matuidi in the midfield, and they lost 1-0. In the second match held in Ft. Lauderdale, Matuidi started, but Nashville had not yet acquired striker Jhonder Cadiz. This third match will have more changes due to the international break. Rodolfo Pizarro and Randall Leal might not play due to travelling to play with Mexico and Costa Rica respectively. MLS is working on a strategy to allow these and other players to skip the quarantine period.
In case they cant play, both teams will need to look to the bench to see who can fill the voids left by these two offensive stars. Pizarro had missed or started on the bench several games toward the end of the season, but still managed four goals and five assists on the season. During his last six games, Pizarro accounted for one goal, one assist, and one shot on goal as the South Florida team had two wins, one draw, and three losses. On the other hand, Leal was voted Offensive Player of the Year for Nashville with three goals and four assists on the season. During his last six games, Leal accounted for two goals, three assists, and three shots on goal as Nashville SC secured three wins, two draws, and one loss.
Based on these numbers, it may seem that Inter Miami has it easier as Leal plays such a vital role in the attack, but Pizarro is still a major player in their offense. Filling his shoes will be one of two young Argentinians: Julian Carranza, who scored only two goals and both in the same match against Orlando City SC, or Matthias Pellegrini, who registered one goal and one assist against New York Red Bulls but in two different matches.
Leal’s choice to represent his country hurts Nashville because behind him in the depth chart are question marks. The obvious choice to replace him would seem to be David Accam, the 30-year-old winger who has been in MLS since joining Chicago Fire in 2015 and has scored 49 goals in his MLS career; despite that, he has only played in seven matches for Nashville and has not started since March, has played only 207 minutes, and scored one goal. After Accam, it’s Handwalla Bwana, the exciting Homegrown player acquired from Seattle who has only played 21 minutes, and Alan Winn, the speedy winger brought up from Nashville’s USL Championship squad who started once and played 243 minutes. Abu Danladi has played on the wing from time to time, but he is out with an injury.
Regardless of who plays, if you look at the regular season, especially the second half of the season, Nashville SC is the favorite to win this game. Inter Miami CF will not make it easy with world-class players like Matuidi and striker Gonzalo Higuain, but Nashville has a roster filled with hard workers who have played well together as a unit with a top defense and an offense that has started clicking at just the right time.