PREVIEW – We’re in a tradition unlike any other: MLS league play during a summer full of tournaments. While the European Championships, Copa America and Gold Cup are underway, Major League Soccer powers on. This Friday sees a bit of history as the New York Red Bulls play Nashville SC for the very first time. Let’s take a look at the match with a New York Red Bulls Nashville SC preview.
New York Red Bulls Nasvhille SC Preview: RBNY host Nashville in first ever meeting
For the Red Bulls, this clash sees them play their second consecutive unbeaten team. Last time out saw Gerhard Struber’s men squeeze out a 2-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Orlando City. The victory, their third with all three being at Red Bull Arena puts New York in a tie for ninth place along with arch-rivals D.C. United.
As for Nashville, unbeaten and two points above their upcoming opponents in the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Gary Smith has done a fine job with a squad blended with youth and experience at all departments of the pitch. Their last game nearly saw their unbeaten run end at the hands of Atlanta United, before scoring twice in three minutes to scrape a 2-2 draw on the road.
As with all matches, there are certain things to look out for. And with international tournaments underway, squad depth will be tested. Let’s take a look at what to keep an eye on.
Dax McCarty and Alex Muyl return to Harrison
Two household names return to Red Bull Arena in the form of McCarty and Muyl. Lets start with the former, the #11 who spent six fantastic seasons in Harrison. McCarty came in the summer of 2010 without much fanfare following a brief spell at D.C. United. Two-time Supporters Shield winner, he displayed tenacity, heart and a will to win. McCarty’s industry in midfield was the catalyst that got attacks going for the like of Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips. After a few seasons, he became captain and after over 120 appearances, he left a legend. He has since returned after departing in 2017 for Chicago Fire, and was given a wonderful ovation. It wouldn’t be a surprise if his number 11 was eventually retired.
Alex Muyl was a hard-working winger who came up from Red Bulls II. His runs from wide right and decent passing got him a debut under former manager Jesse Marsch and eventually became a favorite under previous coach Chris Armas. And indeed he too won silverware playing a role in the 2018 squad that won the Supporters Shield. In August of last year, Muyl was traded to his current club Nashville. Both players will no doubt have fond memories coming back to New Jersey.
The RBNY midfield without Cristian Casseres Jr
Throughout the start of this campaign, the Venezuelan midfielder has started every single game. He has been one of the first names on the team sheet, and one of its best players. He’s a perfect fit for Gruber’s system but is now away for the time being as Venezuela try to make some hay in Copa America in Brazil.
It’s undoubtedly a big loss and asks questions of how the midfield will take shape on Friday night. Dru Yearwood is likely to take his spot and has worked on match fitness while with the USL outfit. Loan signing Youba Diarra may still not be ready after a hamstring knock in the opening game of the season back in mid-April. Florian Valot is a more offensive option who offers a threat when branching more out wide.
No matter how one slices it, neither option can produce in the manner Casseres can. His tackling is second-to-none, and also has an eye goal after scoring a beautiful free-kick against Orlando. That doesn’t mean it’s a lose-lose situation, at least for now while the team continues to deal with injuries in other areas. Tom Edwards filled in at center-back alongside Sean Nealis and performed well. So it can be done, and Struber will need to work out a formula with the Red Bulls number 23 away for a number of weeks and possibly more depending on quarantine rules.
Nashville looking to keep unbeaten run going
It’s one of the early surprises of the season. Not much was expected of Nashville going into the season as many have them finishing out of the playoffs. And after drawing their opening three games, it seemed as though this team to face a downslide. However, they’ve won two of their last four games and escaped Atlanta with a point. Gary Smith has his team clicking so far, playing the classic 4-4-2 with a solid spine in midfield and defense.
This is a tough team to break down at times, and already have four clean sheets to them. With veterans Walker Zimmerman and McCarty, as well as Dominique Badji and Charles Sapong on the bench, Nashville can call on leadership to help them get results. They will be a bit shorthanded as striker Jhonder Cadiz is also with Venezuela for the Gold Cup. This game represents one of the many with fine interest this weekend.