Head to Head
The Sounders are yet to gain a point off Nashville SC in the clubs' head to head history. With this being said, there have only been two matches between the clubs, both in 2022, where Nashville won 1-0 a piece. Hany Mukhtar, one of the premier players in the MLS, has a good record against the Sounders, netting a goal and a MOTM worthy appearance in his last match against Seattle.
Getting Familiar With Nashville
Nashville currently sit at seventh in the East, with 44 points in 29 matches, and 1-3-1 in their last five. On paper, this makes them a really even matchup for Seattle. This Nashville squad has had an up and down season, much akin to the Sounders. Looking at their squad, they have a very solid backline with capped USMNT players such as Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore and strong, physical players like Anibal Godoy and Dax McCarthy in the midfield. Of course, with Mukhtar up top, they're nearly guaranteed to get some sort of creativity and forward progression throughout the stages of any given match.
Nashville also added English national Sam Surridge, from Nottingham Forest over the summer, who is a large presence in the box with great finishing capabilities. They've underutilized Surridge thus far, and I believe the Sounders would be better off seeing him on the bench than the Starting XI come Saturday evening.
This season, Mukhtar has seemingly been all of Nashville's offense, generating an astounding 23 goal contributions in 33 appearances, putting him at third in the MLS. Mukhtar also has an interesting history with the Sounders, as they previously claimed his discovery rights and got $100,000 in GAM from Nashville when he signed as a designated player there in 2020.
How The Sounders Can Get A Result
Schmetzer's XI at Colorado a week ago showed many promising signs heading into the final stretch of the 2023 season. For myself and many others, the starting XI was essentially as good as it can get and I hope to see a similar lineup out there this week. A huge blow for the squad will be missing Nouhou due to yellow card accumulation. Nouhou being out will certainly not make things easier when looking to contain Mukhtar. With Kelyn Rowe still out and Cody Baker's uncertain status due to a concussion, it looks like the fullbacks will be Reed Baker-Whiting and Alex Roldan.
In order to garner pressure on Nashville's strong defending line, the Sounders should engage in a higher press than we've seen in prior matches. Given this, it would be most helpful to have Nico Lodeiro on the pitch for press-related involvements. If I were Schmetzer, I'd run the same lineup as last week (of course, without Nouhou) and make an extremely rare halftime sub, bringing Lodeiro on, if we need to put more pressure on Nashville's backline.
What to Look Out For
1) Substitutions: With three matches in the next seven days, it will be crucial to see how Schmetzer decides to manage fitness and substitutions. If he doesn't make earlier substitutions in this match, the Sounders could be in for a rough Wednesday evening at home against LA Galaxy.
2) Mukhtar: The midfield and defense will have to be on their toes and play smart, it won't be easy to contain Mukhtar and his technical prowess. With his ability to accelerate and get in behind defenders, it wouldn't be surprising to see Seattle running a lower defensive line.
3) Leo Chu: Coming off a great performance, netting a goal last week, it will be interesting to see if Chu can capitalize on this form. He'll have a dificult matchup with Shaq Moore at right back and if he's getting shut down by Moore, I'd like to see the Sounders play through the middle more than last week.
I'd obviously love to see the Sounders win this week and I have faith that they can do it. They need to properly manage substitutions and fitness, while making any necessary tactical changes when moving the ball up the pitch if things aren't going smoothly.
What's your prediction for Saturday evening in Nashville? Will the Sounders win, draw, or lose and why? Let us know in the comment section below.