Ahead of tonight’s game between New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC, we asked Ben Wright of Broadway Sports a few questions about the latest Eastern Conference contender the Red Bulls find on the calendar...
OaM: Nashville has been one of the league’s surprises since starting last year. What is the formula Gary Smith has found to have the club launch so well on the field?
Gary Smith and Mike Jacobs have really built from the back, with a focus on defensive solidity as the foundation of this team. It’s paid off for the most part. They have struggled to score goals, but their intentionally strong defense means that scores will almost always be close. There haven’t been many occasions where Nashville hasn’t been in a game. Given the history of the middle-tier budget expansion teams, it seems like a prudent approach.
OaM: Red Bulls fans will be excited to see familiar faces in Dax McCarty and Alex Muyl. How have the two contributed to Nashville’s success and should we expect to see them both on Friday?
McCarty has been what everyone expected: reliably consistent on the field and the face of the club. He’s the clear leader of this team and has really set the tone on the pitch.
Alex Muyl came in last August, and he’s been a fixture in the lineup. Red Bull fans will know all about his work rate and energy, and that’s made him a great fit for Smith’s system. He’s improved his production a bit, notching a couple assists and scoring a goal against New England a few weeks ago.
I think it’s fair to say they’ve both been bug successes in Nashville so far.
OaM: Are there any absences due to injury or internationals that Nashville will have to contend with for this fixture?
Jhonder Cádiz is with Venezuela at the Copa America, so he’ll be out. As far as injuries, Brian Anunga has been out for most of the season. He’s close to fitness but won’t be ready for Friday. Dom Badji and Daniel Ríos are both out as well.
Ríos especially is a big disappointment. He was the co-leading scorer last year and probably the best pure finisher in the squad. He came off the injury report just before the break and looked close to returning, but he’s unavailable again with a new adductor injury.
OaM: And finally, do you have a score prediction for the match?
I think Nashville are sneakily one of the better teams in the conference. I always feel strange picking them to win on the road, especially against an established side like New York, but I could see them picking up a 1-0 win in this one.