The Houston Dynamo host the newest Western Conference team Nashville SC at PNC Stadium on Saturday night. To help us get some insight on this weekend’s opponent we spoke to Ben Wright of Broadway Sports Media.
Dynamo Theory (DT): After going to the conference semifinals last season, a lot of people had Nashville as a MLS Cup contender this season. How would you assess their progress so far in 2022, especially coming off the long road trip to begin the season?
Broadway Sports Media (BSM): I think the road trip muddies the waters a bit. Just looking at the table, it probably seems like Nashville have had a disappointing start. But picking up 11 points from eight consecutive road games is a really, really solid haul, and it sets them up well for the rest of the season. They’ve done well in their first two matches at Geodis Park, but they really need to take maximum points at home to live up to their potential, which I think is as a contender for Supporters Shield.
DT: How big is the opening of the new soccer-specific stadium Geodis Park, not just for the club and the team, but for the fans and the people of Nashville?
BSM: It’s absolutely massive. There’s a real buzz around the city about the team coinciding with the opening. Attendance has been great, and it looks like they’ll be sold out (or close to it) for the first several games. In a lot of ways it feels like this is the groundswell of support they didn’t get in their inaugural season, with Covid really killing the momentum from their first game. It’s really fun to see.
DT: Nashville has allowed just 10 goals in 10 games this season with former Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis starting all of those games. What makes Nashville’s defense so strong and what are some ways that Houston could break them down on Saturday, if there are any?
BSM: This team is built to defend. Whoever’s in midfield, be it Dax McCarty, Sean Davis, Anibal Godoy or Brian Anunga, do a ton of work defensively to break down attacks before they even get to the backline. Nashville excel at forcing their opponents to play wide and resort to crosses, and that plays into their hands because Walker Zimmerman is unparalleled in the air. He’s arguably the best center back in Concacaf at the moment, and both Dave Romney and Jack Maher are consistently reliable next to him. The front line also does a lot of under-the-radar work in the press, and Nashville have a really well-worked defensive system in place... as long as they don’t give up set pieces. They concede so many goals from set pieces and no one can seem to figure out why. That’s arguably the biggest weakness in the team.
DT: On the other end of the field, Nashville has scored just 11 goals but have gotten them from 7 different players. What makes their offense so balanced and who are the key figures for Dynamo fans to be on the lookout for this weekend?
BSM: Yeah, part of the 11 goals I think is just playing on the road. They’ve definitely leaned heavily on defense, and I understand why. They’ve been much more aggressive since coming home, and I hope that continues. Hany Mukhtar has played really well, but just hasn’t been rewarded with the goals or assists he got last year. I don’t think he’s played any worse than he did in 2021, and it really feels like a breakout is coming. Randall Leal has really stepped up and carried some of the load, and they’re getting contributions from a couple other players. But it does feel a bit like if Mukhtar is quiet there’s not a clear option to create and score goals. That needs to be addressed, whether it’s Ake Loba finally coming good or making a move in the summer transfer window.
We want to thank Ben for giving us some information about Nashville SC. Best of luck this weekend!