Gio Savarese is relishing the opportunity to lead the Portland Timbers out at Nashville SC’s Geodis Park for the first time on Sunday.

Nashville moved into their new stadium at the start of May, having played their first eight matches of the 2022 season away from home.

The team’s patience was rewarded as they enjoyed a fine start to life at their new home, beginning with a five-match unbeaten run.

That streak was ended in Nashville’s previous home game, as they lost to Sporting Kansas City, but trips to a 30,000-capacity soccer-specific stadium still appeal to rivals.

Certainly, for Portland, who have won their past two games to close to within a point of the playoff places in the West, there is excitement ahead of Sunday’s game.

“Nashville is a team that is very pragmatic,” Timbers coach Savarese said. “They defend well, they’re very quick in transition to attack, to find good areas.

“They have fast players up top who are able to make that attacking transition in a very dangerous way. They get into the area, they put good crosses in, they are very determined to attack, and they have quality up top.

“So, we expect a difficult game in a stadium that we’re excited to be part of and be present there for the first time traveling to Nashville.

“I think it’s going to be a good and competitive match.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nashville SC – Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar is enjoying another fine season, but only two of his eight league goals have come at Nashville’s Geodis Park. Those home fans will feel it is about time their talisman really turned it on in a big game at their new stadium.

Portland Timbers – Santiago Moreno

Moreno was used largely as an impact substitute in the early stages of his MLS career, failing to score a single goal in 2021. But he has been given opportunities from the start in recent weeks and rewarded Savarese for his faith with two goals – his second and third of the season – in the midweek win over the Houston Dynamo.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Minnesota United won their first four home MLS matches against Real Salt Lake, scoring at least three goals in each match. RSL are unbeaten in their two visits to Minnesota since (W1 D1), holding the Loons to one total goal over the two games.

– This will be the second meeting between Portland and Nashville in MLS, with the Timbers recording a 1-0 home win in Nashville’s second ever match in March 2020.

– Nashville SC suffered their first home defeat in over a year and a half in their last home match, a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on June 19. The loss was only the third defeat Nashville have suffered in 36 home MLS matches (W16 D17, including playoffs).

– The Timbers have won consecutive matches for the first time this season following a 2-1 win over Houston on Wednesday. Portland, however, are winless in six straight away matches (D3 L3) and have just one road win this season, a 3-2 victory in Vancouver in April.

– Mukhtar scored twice in Nashville’s 3-1 win at DC United on Saturday. It was his eighth multi-goal performance in MLS, the most in the regular season since he joined the league in 2020.

– Moreno scored both of Portland’s goals in the win over Houston on Wednesday, including one from the penalty spot. It was Portland’s fourth penalty kick this season, and Moreno was the fourth different player to attempt one, with all four penalties being converted.