Gary Smith insists Nashville SC has proved it is capable of overcoming any challenge as it prepares to take on New York City FC at Nissan Stadium on Friday night.
The Boys in Gold ended an eight-game winless stretch on their travels with a 2-0 victory at Atlanta United last weekend, a win that leaves them third in the Eastern Conference.
Nashville has a run of four successive road games on the horizon, but first is a huge home clash with a New York City side positioned one point and one place below it.
After ending its away hoodoo last time out, while at the same time stretching its overall unbeaten run to three matches, Smith’s side will enter this showdown on a high.
“That win was a monkey off everyone’s back,” he said. “It’ll give all of the guys huge confidence to have won against our local rivals and a top team. Hopefully, as we go back home for Friday’s game, there’ll be something in the back of their mind that says, ‘we’ve shown some excellent form at home, and we know if things don’t always go our way, we’re capable of earning all three points entering difficult surroundings’.
“I’ll be honest: I’m not sure they come much more difficult than that game.”
Friday’s contest will be the first time Nashville and New York City have ever met, with the teams also due to face off again in early October.
Ronny Deila’s side picked up an impressive 2-0 win over the New England Revolution in its last game, but is without a victory in five away from home and faces another tricky test on Friday.
“It’s one thing seeing video and another to see them live. It’s going to be a difficult game since it’s the first time we play them,” Deila said. “We need to be our best, they’re a good team.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nashville SC – Hany Mukhtar
Both sides will be without some key players due to international call-ups. Former Germany age-grade international Mukhtar will be available for selection, though, and that is good news for Nashville. The 26-year-old has three goals and an assist in his last four matches. He may not have registered a goal involvement against Atlanta, but he played a big part in the win with his movement and will be a real handful for NYCFC to deal with.
New York City FC – Tayvon Gray
Anton Tinnerholm and Sean Johnson are the only two players remaining from the back five that started City’s last match due to international call-ups. That could mean just a second start of the season for youngster Gray. In the four matches he has played in this term, City has won 5-0, 1-0, 5-0 and drawn 2-2.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first-ever meeting between Nashville SC and New York City FC.
– Nashville has lost only one of its last 24 home matches (W12 D11, including playoffs) after losing its first home MLS match. Nashville’s 14 straight home matches without defeat (W8 D6, including playoffs) is the longest active streak in MLS.
– New York City extended its home winning streak to seven games with a victory over New England on Saturday, but is winless in five straight on the road (D2 L3) dating back to a late-May win at LAFC.
– Nashville has been beaten only twice all season, losing at the Red Bulls and Inter Miami. Nashville is the fourth team in MLS history to have just two losses through 21 games of a season, along with LA Galaxy in 2011, FC Dallas in 2010 and D.C. United in 2006.
– Valentin Castellanos was involved in all six goals New York City FC scored in August (four goals, two assists), including scoring braces in two of NYCFC’s last three matches. Maxi Moralez assisted on three of the four goals Castellanos scored in that time, while the other came from the penalty spot.