MLS: Nashville SC brace for stern test from Charlotte FC

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith said a matchup with Charlotte FC ought to bring some familiar themes.

That’s because Saturday’s contest in Charlotte, N.C., will feature two of the newer teams in the MLS.

“Some of the characteristics of where they’re at and the way we play, does remind me very much of how we were evolving in our first year,” Smith said.

Nashville SC defeated Charlotte FC during the preseason, but that outcome should not matter much, Smith said.

“This is not the Charlotte team we ran into in the preseason. They’ve improved in pretty much all areas of the game,” he said. “The confidence of picking up results at home. They look like a team that work very, very well for each other.”

Charlotte FC (7-10-2, 23 points) are coming off their first road victory in franchise history, a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo. That could be a boost in several ways.

“I think momentum is a really big thing in this league,” forward Andre Shinyashiki said. “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.”

Charlotte FC have changed in many ways, playing the past five games under interim coach Christian Lattanzio. The team is 2-2-1 in those outings.

“They’ll be full of confidence, but so will we,” Smith said. “We’ve had some good away results and there’s no reason to believe we can’t get another one.”

Nashville SC (7-5-6, 27 points) are 1-0-1 in their last two MLS matches and are aiming to reach the playoffs.

“We’re in a very strong position,” Smith said. “We’re in a very competitive position to be competing for the postseason.”

Nashville SC continue to receive production from midfielder Hany Mukhtar, who scored a goal and led the team with six shots in a 2-2 draw against the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

Goalkeeper Elliot Panicco of Nashville SC made his first start in Sunday’s game.

“We have two very good goalkeepers, who at this moment in time have made one or two mistakes,” Smith said.

Panicco took the place of Joe Willis, who had a couple of blips that forced a lineup change. Apparently, the message has been sent and received by Willis.

“Joe has set an exceptional standard,” Smith said. “These situations will only serve him well.”

Nashville SC midfielder Anibal Godoy will miss another game with a minor muscle strain, though Smith said he could be making strides toward returning next week.

–Field Level Media

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