Nashville SC-Real Salt Lake Preview
Freddy Juarez compared Nashville SC to Atletico Madrid as he outlined the task before Real Salt Lake this weekend.
The RSL coach is preparing to face Nashville for the first time since their MLS bow in 2020.
Nashville established themselves as a tough opponent in their debut campaign, though, reaching the playoffs and then advancing through the first round in the East.
Juarez therefore had a word of warning for any fans writing this week's visitors off.
"They're a very good team," he told ESPN700. "People are going to be, 'Nashville? Nashville who?' I think that's the same thing they said about Salt Lake.
"But it's a playoff team, they know what they play for, 4-4-2 and defending very good. Almost like in Atletico Madrid, they pride themselves in not giving up a whole lot.
"They're all very honest workers. It's going to be a tough game on offense."
He added: "I think the fans are going to see a team that comes here and will try to control the match with good structure. They're going to be a team that's very hard to break down.
"What we've been talking about to the guys is: play us, and try to be us from the second half of Kansas City [a 3-1 win]."
Although Nashville's system rarely changes, the personnel can. And Gary Smith included CJ Sapong off Dominique Badji for the win against the New England Revolution.
"Each game presents a very different challenge," Smith said. "This weekend with an RSL team that are very good at home and play their home field advantage extremely well, it may lend itself to something slightly different.
"We're trying to build a group here that has strength in depth in all departments.
"And last weekend gave us a little bit of a peek behind the curtains of what it looks like to have two up top and what that pairing can offer us."
Real Salt Lake – Rubio Rubin
Rubin is undoubtedly RSL's man of the moment. Even in last week's defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes, he netted a remarkable overhead kick. The forward would appear the most obvious candidate to come up with a moment of ingenuity to get the better of this Nashville defence.
Nashville SC – CJ Sapong
Even if Smith moves away from last week's XI, surely Sapong has done enough to keep his place. He created three chances as well as scoring his first goal for Nashville from his only shot on his full debut.
- This will be the first MLS meeting between Real Salt Lake and Nashville SC.
- Real Salt Lake lost their previous home match 2-1 to San Jose on May 7. RSL have recorded consecutive home defeats just once in the past four years, losing to Colorado and Vancouver in September 2020.
- After conceding two goals in each of their first two matches this season, Nashville have kept clean sheets in two straight games. It is the fourth time since the club joined MLS last year that they have kept clean sheets in consecutive matches (including playoffs), though Nashville have never managed to do so in three straight games.
- Rubin has been directly involved in at least one goal in each of the first three matches this season. The only RSL player to contribute to a goal in the first four or more matches of a season was Joao Plata, who did so in six straight to start the 2016 season.
- Daniel Lovitz has created 3.75 chances per game this season; only Carles Gil of New England has created more (4.6) for any player to have played a minimum of two games this season.
Updated May 14, 2021