Nashville SC to play preseason friendly in Birmingham

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Here’s a picture of Bolu Akinyode. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

From club release:

NASHVILLE (January 16, 2019) – Nashville Soccer Club will be the opponent for USL Championship expansion club Birmingham Legion FC’s inaugural home friendly on Saturday, February 16 at 4 p.m. CST at BBVA Compass Field. The friendly will be a precursor to the two regular season games between the clubs in the 2019 USL Championship season.

“I’m delighted to have such a challenging game as part of our preparations,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “Birmingham have recruited well and have a wealth of experience on their technical staff, I expect our preseason game will be the start of a competitive rivalry.”

Legion FC are one of seven USL Championship expansion teams this season, and one of four joining the Eastern Conference. The club will play in a newly renovated BBVA Compass Field, home to the University of Alabama-Birmingham soccer teams, which will hold around 7,500 fans. Nashville is scheduled to play at Birmingham on May 22 in the USL Championship regular season and will host Legion FC on September 17.

“We learned a lot about our team last preseason by taking on top USL competition, and expect any group led by Jay Heaps and Tommy Soehn to be among the league’s elite this season,” said Nashville SC VP of soccer operations and technical director Mike Jacobs. “It should be another good test for our group.”

Limited tickets to the game will be available for Nashville SC fans. Details on how to purchase tickets to the game will be announced in the coming weeks.

Not a ton to react to here. NSC played multiple regular-season opponents in the preseason last year, as well. It’s a reasonable road trip if fans would like to make the trip (and while there’s a mention of tickets being reserved for Nashville… come on, they aren’t selling out 5,000 seats for a friendly).

It’ll be a good first measuring stick against the expansion team, too. See the full Nashville SC schedule here.

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Mike Jacobs announces Lipscomb friendly on Fox 17

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Alan Winn went from depth player to squad regular during last year’s preseason.

On an appearance on Fox17 this morning, Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs announced another preseason friendly for this USL season: the Boys in Gold will play a second annual game against Lipscomb University. The game will take place on Lipscomb’s campus Feb. 27. A 5 p.m. kickoff awaits the city’s top professional and college men’s teams.

Nashville played primarily depth squad members in last season’s game and emerged with a 2-0 win over the Bisons. However, several who made an impact on that game ultimately turned into key players for NSC over the course of the season, including Alan Winn, Ropapa Mensah, Bolu Akinyode, and Taylor Washington. The game’s goal-scorers, midfielders Ian McGrath and Martim Galvão, did not see regular-season action for the club, however.

The Bisons went on to make the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, the best season in school history.

This is the fourth known preseason game (and first against an amateur club), with more on the way. See the full preseason and regular-season schedule here.

Club release:

NASHVILLE (January 15, 2018) – Nashville Soccer Club will have a second preseason game in Music City in 2019. The club announced it will make a return to the campus of Lipscomb University for a preseason friendly against the Bisons on Wednesday, February 27 at 5 p.m. CST. It will be the second consecutive preseason that Nashville SC has played at Lipscomb. In 2018, the teams met for a friendly at Lipscomb Soccer Complex where Nashville SC took home the 2-0 victory in front of more than 500 soccer fans.

“I am delighted to be playing Lipscomb again,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “Last year’s game was ultra-competitive and we know Lipscomb will give us a good preseason test. At the same time, this game allows us to keep an eye on the young collegiate talent in our city.”

The Bisons are coming off their best season in program history. Lipscomb won the ASUN regular season and tournament championships, qualifying for its second consecutive NCAA Tournament. Behind an improbable run, the Bisons advanced to the Sweet 16 of the tournament with a shootout win against Washington and an OT win over Central Florida.

“An exhibition with Lipscomb gives our fans another opportunity to see the 2019 club in action here in Nashville,” said Nashville SC VP of soccer operations and technical director Mike Jacobs. “[Head coach] Charles Morrow and his Lipscomb team had a magical NCAA Tournament run in the Fall, and gave soccer fans here in Nashville something to be very proud of.”

This game is the fourth on the preseason schedule so far for Nashville as it will kick off its preseason in Florida at IMG Academy against Montreal Impact of MLS and defending USL champions Louisville City FC. The club has also announced a home friendly against New York City FC of MLS on February 22 at First Tennessee Park at 7 p.m.

Tickets to the game at Lipscomb are available through lipscombsports.com and are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Nashville SC adds preseason friendly against Louisville City FC

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(Courtesy USL)

From club release:

NASHVILLE (January 4, 2018) – Nashville Soccer Club will renew its rivalry against two-time defending USL Cup champions Louisville City FC earlier than expected in 2019. While the matchup isn’t on the USL Championship regular season schedule until August, the teams will meet in the preseason at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. on February 9 at 2:00 p.m. CT.

Nashville and Louisville met four times last season, three in regular season play, and in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The teams split the regular season matchups, as each won once and the sides played to a draw once. In the Open Cup, Louisville beat Nashville to advance in the domestic tournament.

The preseason contest will also serve as Nashville SC forward Cameron Lancaster’s first game against his former club. Lancaster spent the last four seasons at Louisville City, leading them to back-to-back USL Championship titles in 2017 and 2018 before becoming the second signing with Nashville MLS. Lancaster has been loaned to Nashville SC until Nashville MLS begins play.

IMG Academy is a popular destination for many USL and MLS teams during preseason training camp, and Nashville SC will be making its second trip there in as many years. Last season, Nashville SC played twice at IMG, picking up draws against the Chicago Fire (0-0) and Ottawa Fury (1-1). In addition to the Louisville City game, Nashville will play the Montréal Impact on Feb. 6, although that game will be held at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakeland, Fla.

More analysis later. It’s cool to play the best (especially with Nashville wanting an early measuring stick), and an opportunity for Lancaster to get acclimated to his new team while playing against his old one.

Taking a closer look at Nashville SC’s 2019 schedule

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It’s some FTP Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

With yesterday’s release of the 2019 USL Championship schedule, we now know the dates and locations for Nashville SC’s games. Let’s take a closer look at the slate for some takeaways.

First off, here’s a chart showing the percentage of Nashville’s games played at home (blue line) over the course of the season, with a running five-game average (red line), as well. Of course, the average team will play 50% of its games at home consistently, since each game has a home team and road team.

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Nashville’s season is one of some pretty big swings: three of the first five games at home, but then only five of the next 15 (including a three-game homestand in late May), and then the rolling five-game average doesn’t get back above 50% home games until mid-August. This is a schedule that is heavy on home games to start the year, but sees the team become road warriors in the mid-season. Then, eight of the last twelve (and five of the final six) are at home to bring the year to a close on a strong streak.

How much rest will Nashville SC get between games? There are some interesting takeaways there, too. There are seven mid-week games (and one Sunday game), but fortunately most of those come in the friendly confines of First Tennessee Park. From Eliot McKinley of American Soccer Analysis:

As you can see in Eliot’s first tweet, Nashville is right on the median line for mid-week games, and while they have the second-most games on three- or four-day rest in the league (only Seattle Sounders 2 has it tougher, thanks to 10(!) games on three days’ recovery), they also have the second-highest number of long gaps (10-plus days) between games, behind only Indy Eleven. Of course, some of those long gaps will be filled by US Open Cup games: Nashville’s four USOC dates last year were May 16, May 23, June 6, and June 20, while this year’s long gaps include May 25-June 8 (a likely USOC gap) and July 6-July 17 (a possibility if NSC is still in the competition).

Eliot’s second tweet shows that Nashville’s weekday games are primarily concentrated at home, which is a better situation than having to travel in the mid-week. The downside of that is that the two away games in the midweek are both drivable for NSC supporters, with the games in Memphis and Birmingham. However, expecting folks to be able to go on roadtrips on a weekday is sort of a tough ask. It looks like USL intentionally put drivable games on the midweek (NSC also hosts Birmingham and Louisville for weekday games), but without regard for a concept of fostering an away supporter culture.

(The backlash on these two games specifically has been a little over the top, but it’s still poor planning by a league that direly needs to court the types of folks who would drive three hours on a Saturday for second-division soccer but can’t do so on a Wednesday).

Let’s also take a look at quality of opposition over the course of the year. Using the 2018 season’s final USL Power ratings, here’s the caliber of opponent for each game (blue) and a five-game rolling average (again in red) as the calendar plays out:

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 10.08.49 AMA reminder on what the numbers represent here: “0” is completely average given the location of the game. Higher numbers mean the team is better than average, lower mean worse than average. I gave all expansion teams a value of zero for the time being, though I’ll have further analysis on the year-to-year quality of new franchises at some point soon and assuming they’ll be average is probably charitable.

As you can see, during that middle road stretch, Nashville SC has some of its easier games. The home stretches at the beginning (@ New York Red Bulls II, @ Pittsburgh Riverhounds – obviously not part of the home slate) and end (v. Pittsburgh and Louisville, both at home – against two of the top three road teams in the East last year) are where the tough games really lie. Less fixture density and travel fatigue should set up nicely to have NSC at its peak performance for those ones.

Assuming all teams are about the same quality that they were last year (another unfair assumption!), you chop Cincinnati off the top end of the Eastern Conference, both Toronto FC II and Richmond off the bottom and Penn FC fourth-bottom, and slide Nos. 14 St. Louis and 19 Swope Park Rangers (of 35 USL teams in 2018) into the East, then add expansion teams in Birmingham, Hartford, Loudoun, and Memphis. Unless the expansion teams are better than expected, simple year-to-year improvement for Nashville (having a returning core of 14 players and the improved chemistry resulting from that continuity) would probably be safely assumed as a top-4-ish team in the East. Indeed, they were around that range for much of the year before a late swoon in 2018.

Playoffs?

Less-heralded than the schedule release itself but also important, USL also released a change to the Championship’s playoff format, largely facilitated by an increase in the number of teams. Last season, 8/16 in the East and 8/17 in the West (45.7% of the league) made the playoffs. With three-team net growth – the four departing East teams mentioned above, and seven total expansion teams – the playoff in each conference has expanded to 10 teams. That’s 55.6% of the league now making the playoffs.

Seeds 7-10 will participate in a de facto play-in round, with the 7/10 winners taking on the two-seed in each conference and the 8/9 winners facing off against the top seed. Hopefully from a Nashville perspective, this will only be relevant to us because the first-round opponent will have already participated in a playoff game (meaning NSC is a one- or two-seed), not because the Boys in Gold are scrapping to stay above the seven line and avoid a play-in game.

Nashville SC 2019 schedule released

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UPDATE: 1/16/19 Feb. 16 game at Birmingham Legion added.
UPDATE: 1/15/19: Feb. 27 game at Lipscomb added.
UPDATE: 1/4/19: Feb. 9 game against Louisville City FC added.
UPDATE: 12/21/18:
Feb. 6 game against Montreal Impact added.

We’ve known for a few days when and where Nashville SC will play a couple of its games, and now the whole shebang is available. In chronological order:
Continue reading “Nashville SC 2019 schedule released”

Nashville SC to host New York City FC in preseason

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From club release:

NASHVILLE (December 17, 2018) – Nashville Soccer Club will kick off its 2019 season in exciting fashion as it will host New York City FC of Major League Soccer (MLS) at First Tennessee Park on February 22, 2019 at 7 p.m. CT in a preseason friendly. Tickets to the opening home game on the schedule are currently only available to 2019 Nashville SC Season Ticket Members.

“As we ready ourselves for the 2019 season, we need top competition to prepare our group,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “I am delighted that we have been able to include this matchup in our preseason schedule, and I hope our fans come out and support us against some of the best competition in Major League Soccer.”

Nashville SC VP of soccer operations and technical director Mike Jacobs added, “New York City FC offers us a great opportunity to test ourselves as we prepare for the 2019 USL season, while also bringing in another Major League Soccer team for an exhibition match here at First Tennessee Park.”

Last February, Nashville SC opened its record-breaking season with a friendly against Atlanta United FC of MLS at First Tennessee Park. That game kicked off a year that included the United Soccer League’s (USL) inaugural season ticket record, an average of nearly 10,000 fans at home games and a USL Cup Playoff appearance in 2018.

NYCFC finished its 2018 regular season with a 16-8-10 record and was the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, advancing to the conference semifinals. The Bronx-based club has maintained success since joining MLS in 2015, making the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs each of the last three seasons.

Nashville SC season tickets are available now. To purchase a 2019 Nashville SC Season Ticket Membership, visit NashvilleSC.com/seasontickets or call a ticket representative at (615) 457-8200. Single game tickets to this game and other games in the 2019 season will go on sale at a later date.

With our sample size of one, this obviously means you can go ahead and crown NYCFC the 2019 MLS Champion.

All kidding aside, it’s very cool to bring top-flight teams to Nashville (and I think more exciting to have them in First Tennessee Park, even if the capacity is obviously not what Nissan Stadium can provide). They finished third in the Eastern Conference, lost in the conference semifinal to eventual champion Atlanta United, and while David Villa is no longer there, certainly there will be a test at the highest level available in our country. It’ll be interesting to see if NSC looks like it belongs on a competitive field with an MLS team – it’d be fair to say they didn’t in that particular fixture last preseason, but that was the first time on the field together, and Atlanta United was obviously a different animal.

It’s a Friday game, which is something of a downer, but I’d still expect FTP to be packed out.

Two 2019 Nashville SC fixtures announced

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Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

We’ll have to keep waiting to know the full schedule, but the dates of two Nashville SC games have been released: The Boys in Gold will host expansion club Loudoun United (DC United’s new USL affiliate) March 9 on the league’s opening weekend, and will also serve as the home debut for Ottawa Fury April 6.

NSC opened the regular season on the road in Louisville in its inaugural USL season, falling 2-0 to the eventual USL champions. The home opener came the following weekend against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, with Nissan Stadium serving as the home venue for a 0-0 draw. NSC earned its first road and home wins, respectively, in the subsequent games with a 1-0 victory over Bethlehem Steel and 2-0 result over Charlotte Independence at First Tennessee Park.

The opening weekend of the season has moved up a week to accommodate for a second-straight 34-game season with fewer midweek fixtures required (the regular season will span 33 weeks next year). Other home teams for the weekend are:

  • Atlanta United 2 (v. Hartford Athletic)
  • Birmingham Legion (v. Bethlehem Steel)
  • Charleston Battery (v. Ottawa Fury)
  • Memphis 901 FC (v. Tampa Bay Rowdies)
  • New York Red Bulls II (v. Swope Park Rangers)
  • North Carolina FC (v. Louisville City)
  • St. Louis FC (v. Indy Eleven)

Assuming – certainly unfairly – that returning teams are better than newly established clubs, and that the table will work out reasonably similarly to how it did in 2018, Nashville SC stands a decent chance to begin 2019 atop the Eastern Conference table. Charleston Battery is the only other Eastern Conference team with a home game against a team that did not make the playoffs last year.