Gary Smith has backed his Nashville SC side to bounce back from a couple of disappointing results when they head to Charlotte FC on Saturday.
Following their elimination from the U.S. Open Cup on penalties at the hands of Orlando City, Nashville let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2 with Portland Timbers last time out in MLS.
Smith’s side have won successive league games just once this term – back in early April – yet they occupy a playoff spot in the Western Conference with 18 games played.
In what will be a first-ever meeting with expansion side Charlotte, Smith is hoping to see a response from his players.
“It’s been a feature of this group that when we’ve had the odd situation that has left us a bit deflated and disappointed, that they’ve come back in the following week going into the next game with a renewed vigour, a steely glint in their eye to get back on track and make the most of the games that we have left,” Smith said.
“It’s been a very good week. At the end of three matches in a short period of time again last week, I think we can safely say that they’ll be in the right place mentally and physically at the weekend.”
Charlotte are enjoying a good first season in MLS, sitting as they do just outside of the Eastern Conference playoffs after returning to winning ways at Houston Dynamo last weekend.
That was an historic first victory for Charlotte on their travels, and the aim now is to push on and climb back up the table with rare back-to-back wins.
“I think momentum is a really big thing in this league. Sometimes there are teams who go on runs and I think that if we can do that right now it would be huge for us,” said forward Andre Shinyashiki.
“We just need to carry that confidence because I think when you play with confidence you have a better chance of winning than when you don’t.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Charlotte – Andre Shinyashiki
Shinyashiki scored his fourth goal since being traded to Charlotte in May in last week’s 2-1 win over Houston, with that proving to be the match-winning strike.
Those four goals are already as many as the 25-year-old managed in 32 matches in the division for the Colorado Rapids last season.
Nashville – Hany Mukhtar
Mukhtar was at it again with his strike against the Timbers last week, with that his ninth goal in 18 MLS outings this season.
The German leads the MLS charts for goal contributions (25 goals and 17 assists) since the start of last season, while his six road goals this campaign alone are tied for the most in the division alongside San Jose Earthquakes’ Jeremy Ebobisse.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Nashville have won three of their four MLS matches against expansion teams (D1), including winning two of three against fellow newcomers Inter Miami in 2020. Nashville have never conceded a goal against an expansion side.
– With Charlotte FC recording their first away win on Sunday, a 2-1 victory in Houston, the expansion side sits on 23 points after 19 games. Only four of the previous 17 expansion teams since 2005 have reached the 25-point mark within their first 20 MLS games.
– Nashville’s up-and-down season continued with a 2-2 draw against Portland on Sunday. Nashville has not recorded the same result in consecutive matches in any of their last 13 games (W5 D5 L3).
– Charlotte are unbeaten in matches in which Shinyashiki has scored (W3 D1), with two of his four goals being match-winning strikes.
– With his goal against Portland, Mukhtar has been involved in eight goals in his last seven MLS matches, scoring seven times. Mukhtar’s seven goals are more than any other player in MLS since this run began in mid-May.