Nashville SC play host to Philadelphia Union at Nissan Stadium on Saturday evening (8pm ET). This will be the first time that the pair have met in MLS. Can either regain the winning thread having both drawn last time out? Hopefully we have the answers within this preview with our predictions.
When they came on the MLS scene last season, Nashville impressed by being a solid side, a side that didn’t always dazzle, but a side that was hard to beat, ground out results and fought their way into the play-offs. It’s early days this season still but all the signs suggest that Gary Smith’s men are still the same battle-hardened team that is up for the fight.
We are now ten matches into the campaign and Nashville have tasted defeat just once. No team in the Eastern Conference has suffered less defeats than Music City. Saturday’s hosts are also yet to lose on their own patch this season, winning three and drawing four at Nissan Stadium.
Visitors tough too
Nashville aren’t the only ones who make life tough for their opponents. Philadelphia come into this fixture sitting third in the Eastern Conference, four points above Saturday’s home team. We’re seeing much of the same from Jim Curtin’s men, who topped the conference at the end of the previous campaign.
Philly have been in fine form for some time, avoiding defeat in each of their last nine fixtures, five of which they have won. They have also kept a pleasing five clean sheets during that time. What is particularly interesting is that the Union are yet to be beaten on the road, winning two and drawing three of their five travelling matches this season.
In their own backyard, Nashville really have impressed this season. Not only are they unbeaten and not only have they secured some pleasing results, but their underlying numbers really are exceptional. Only one team has scored more home goals than Nashville in the east and it is easy to see why when they’re averaging 2.11 expected goals for per 90 minutes at home.
Not only has their attacking output been excellent in terms of xG, but they have restricted their opponents massively, allowing an average of just 0.91 expected goals, giving them an average expected goal difference of +1.20. Unsurprisingly, in terms of expected goal difference per 90, Nashville’s the number one team in the east.
Philadelphia also offers some very respectable expected goals numbers. Not only are Jim Curtin’s men unbeaten on the road, but they’re averaging a decent 1.42 expected goals for per travelling match. This is of course less impressive than Nashville’s average at home, but it is still the fourth best expected goals for average (on the road) in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, Philly have done well defensively when it comes to expected goals, surrendering an average of 1.16 per 90 away from the comforts of home. Only three teams in the east have done better than that.
Penchant for clean sheets
Both Nashville and Philadelphia have shown a liking for clean sheets this season. Between them, in 21 matches, the pair have recorded no less than ten shut outs. What’s more, three of Nashville’s four clean sheets have come at Nissan Stadium, while Philly have kept a clean sheet in three of their five travelling matches. On this basis, it’s not difficult to envisage the backlines being on top on Saturday evening.
What is the best bet?
Everything about this pair points towards a tight, low-scoring game unfolding. Nashville have offered plenty in terms of creativity at Nissan Stadium, but they are now going up against one of the best rear-guards in all of MLS. Their finishing hasn’t always matched their levels of creativity, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to banging in the goals against a visiting team that has conceded few travelling goals this season.
At the current odds, under 2.5 goals is slightly less favored than over 2.5 goals, which is hard to agree with given the defensive nous of both teams. Betting on a lack of goals appears to offer a slice of value that should be snapped up by those looking to invest a few dollars on this fixture. After all, this preview is talking about a couple of teams that have shown clear favoritism for keeping things tight and shutting the opposition out. We are also talking about a home team that is the best in the division at keeping teams at bay in terms of expected goals.
Is there a player prop?
If you’re interested in a player prop, then with the lines the way they are right now, you could do worse than Hany Mukhtar to score at any time at odds of +200 (2/1). Nashville’s No.10 has enjoyed a fine start to the new campaign, and while he hasn’t scored since bagging a brace against Atlanta just over a month ago, the signs have been there. The German has got himself into plenty of goal scoring positions this term, while he’s currently averaging an eye-catching 3.25 shots per 90 minutes, as well as 0.46 expected goals per 90, which is not to be ignored.
This is likely to be a tight game, but Nashville have created plenty at home and nobody is more likely to make the difference for the hosts in a tight game than the mercurial Mukhtar. So these are the betting predictions for this MLS game preview: