Draw or Win to Real Salt Lake, and a decent chance both teams will score.
Neither of these sides have been ruthless in front of goal, but have both shown to have good defensive setups. When two teams of this disposition meet, it is hard to expect either one to move away from a cautious approach.
Real Salt Lake have made the most of their chances this season and were in control of their last two matches. They did find it hard against the Houston Dynamo but held on to a goalless draw despite the opponents’ dominance.
Nashville started with a late win over Seattle Sounders but have not impressed since then. They shared points with Minnesota United, while FC Dallas outplayed them in the whole game. We don’t see them winning this game.
Real Salt Lake played out a goalless draw with Nashville SC last season, and a similar result is expected this time around, although we think they will get on the scoresheet and possibly seek out a narrow win.
There is a stark contrast in the two styles on the pitch, but they are set up to play with the same motive – to have 5 in attack and 5 in defense at all times. This match will likely see very few chances created, and the possession will likely be shared right down the middle.
There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 9 of Nashville SC’s last ten away games in the MLS, and that trend is likely to continue.
The home side are now under new management, and head coach Pablo Mastroeni has gone for a more attacking setup. Salt Lake have switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-2-1, which is very similar to Thomas Tuchel’s tactics at Chelsea. The switch has seen them get extra cover in defense and more width in attack – the main reason for their unbeaten start this season.
Mastroeni started the season with a 3-4-3 against Houston Dynamo, and his side could not keep hold of the ball for long, with the opponents comfortable in possession in the middle of the pitch. They held on to a goalless draw at the BBVA Compass Stadium, despite having 38 percent of the ball and just two shots on target.
Salt Lake then went in with the same formation against the Seattle Sounders, and once again struggled to dominate possession. They did manage 16 shots on goal against the Sounders, however, and it took a defensive fumble for Bobby Wood to score the lone goal of the game – one that was enough to seal the win for RSL.
The win was a much-needed one for Mastroeni, but he did change the formation to a more dynamic 3-4-2-1. The switch saw them keep hold of the ball for longer, and a free-flowing style of football was now more viable. A solid display against the New England Revolution saw them come from 2-0 down to win 3-2, thanks to a 93rd-minute winner from Tate Schmitt.
Mastroeni is likely to stick with the 3-4-2-1 against Nashville as he is up against a defensive setup. There could be a couple of changes in the starting XI with Sergio Córdova coming in for the injured Maikel Chang. Everton Luiz has done well to prove his worth in the last two games and could also be handed a start.
Nashville SC were outplayed by FC Dallas in their last game, and they’ll be looking to quickly forget that result. The side from Tennessee were unable to create a single chance in the second half and had to defend tirelessly throughout the final 45 minutes. They even managed to do that well, but it was never going to be sustainable – Walker Zimmerman’s push on Alan Velasco meant the home side got a penalty in the 83rd minute.
Franco Jara made no mistake from the spot to hand Dallas the lead, and as Nashville chased the game in the final stages, leaving their own half exposed, Velasco went on a stunning solo run and scored via a lucky deflection to seal the win for the Texas side. Gary Smith’s tactic to move from his 4-3-1-2 to a defensive 4-1-3-2 didn’t quite work out for them.
The good news for Nashville is that they have not been poor this season. The loss could be seen as a one-off, but there is plenty to improve upon. They’ve tended to concede a lot of late goals, even with a small sample size, and that was the case in the second game of the season as well.
While playing at the Allianz Field against Minnesota United, Nashville took the lead via Charles Sapong very early in the game. They were the better team in the first 45 but managed to create more chances when they were pinned back in the second half. The issue, however, was the late goal they conceded and ended up sharing points.
It was the same against the Seattle Sounders in the first game of the season too, but luckily for Nashville, the Sounders were unable to make the most of their chances late in the game, and Anibal Godoy’s late goal was enough for the three points.
We expect them to line-up with a similar deep, counterattacking focus, against Real Salt Lake.
|Real Salt Lake vs Nashville SC|
|Teams||Real Salt Lake vs Nashville SC|
|Location||Rio Tinto Stadium|
|Time||Saturday, March 19 at 9.30 pm EST|
|How to watch||MLS LIVE on ESPN+, MLS LIVE on DAZN|
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Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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