FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan does not believe Nashville SC get enough credit for their attacking play under boss Gary Smith.
Nashville have struggled for consistency and were beaten 2-1 by Los Angeles FC last time out, though they are still fifth in the Western Conference.
Only four sides in the 14-team division have scored fewer goals than the 27 managed by Nashville, but Noonan says Smith has what it takes to guide his side to glory.
“I’ve played for Gary. He has clear ideas, defensively, of what it looks like and what it looks like as a team,” Noonan said.
“I think you can see the buy-in has always been there with their group, with understanding how to be a strong team defensively, and that’s what wins championships.
“But I also think they probably don’t get enough credit for how they attack as well. And so, he knows what it’s like to succeed in this league.
“He’s done it many years ago. And you’re seeing it now with his group in Nashville. So, it’ll be a tough challenge for us.”
Cincinnati enter the contest winless in five matches, leaving them hanging onto a place in the Eastern Conference playoffs, while Nashville have won just two of their past seven.
The visitors have bolstered their squad with the addition of United States defender Shaquell Moore, whose availability for the match at TQL Stadium is unknown.
“Shaq has all of the positive attributes that we look for on both sides of the ball, as well as on and off the field,” said Nashville general manager Mike Jacobs.
“He has the ability to be a key contributor in our group, and we are so pleased to have him join us here in Nashville.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
FC Cincinnati – Brenner
Cincinnati forward Brenner is in line to make his 50th career MLS appearances this weekend.
Since the start of the 2021 season, only Brandon Vazquez (51) and Luciano Acosta (50) have featured more frequently for the Orange and Blue.
Nashville SC – Hany Mukhtar
Mukhtar scored Nashville’s equaliser in last week’s loss to Los Angeles FC, with that the fifth game in a row he has found the target in – the first Nashville player to ever do so.
The 27-year-old now has 12 goals for the season and is one short of Valentin Castellanos in the race to be crowned the MLS Golden Boot winner for 2022.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– FC Cincinnati have collected one point from their three matches against Nashville, with their only home match a 6-3 defeat last October. Nashville trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the match, becoming the first team to trail by two goals and come back to win by three since Los Angeles Galaxy beat San Jose Earthquakes 5-2 after trailing 2-0 in July 2015.
– Cincinnati’s club-record six-match unbeaten run ended with a 2-0 loss to Columbus Crew last week. Five of the six matches in the unbeaten run were draws, with Cincinnati having now managed just one win in their past nine league games (D5 L3).
– Nashville have lost two of their past three matches (W1) following a 2-1 loss to LAFC last week. Nashville have not posted the same result in consecutive matches since early April, with wins over Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City.
– The Crew’s second goal on Sunday against Cincinnati was scored from the penalty spot, the league-high seventh penalty Cincinnati have conceded this season. Only one team since 2015 have conceded more penalties through 21 games than Cincinnati this season (Toronto – 9 in 2019).
– Mukhtar is the third player to score in five straight MLS matches this season, after Adam Buksa and Paul Arriola.