NSHPreview

After a narrow loss to the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night, Austin FC doesn’t have to wait long for a chance to bounce back. A quick turnaround will see the Verde & Black hit the road to face Nashville SC on Saturday, the first meeting between the two clubs this season.

Austin FC Outlook

Austin remains on the cusp of clinching a berth in the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. While there are a number of scenarios that would get ATXFC over the line this weekend, a win over Nashville on its own would see the Verde & Black secure their spot in the postseason.

The play of MLS MVP frontrunner Sebastián Driussi continues to drive the team in 2022. On Wednesday, Driussi became the first player in the league to reach 20 goals this season, and his streak of 11 consecutive matches with at least one goal contribution ties the third-longest such run in MLS history.

Driussi’s fellow Argentine and former teammate Emiliano Rigoni made his Club debut vs. Portland, playing 27 minutes as a substitute. Right back Hector Jimenez also returned to action for the first time since he sustained a groin injury on July 12.

The Club’s attack continues to impress, with its record of scoring in 26 of 28 matches the best of its kind league-wide this season. That increase in goal-scoring output has led to a 20-point improvement over the team’s total from the end of last season, already the second-best season-to-season points improvement for an expansion team in MLS history.

Nashville SC Outlook

After a six-match winless run, Nashville has found its form in some style, winning each of its last three matches by a three-goal margin. The team boasts one of the league’s most potent attacking threats in Hany Mukhtar, who is second to Driussi in the MLS Golden Boot race with 19 goals to his name, and Nashville hasn’t been shut out since June 11.

With U.S. internationals Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore anchoring the defense, Nashville is adept at keeping the opposition out as well. The team currently sits fifth in the Western Conference, four points above the playoff line and in need of results to solidify their spot in the postseason.

Scoring early just might be the key to success against Nashville. In its last 11 matches, Nashville has conceded a goal in the opening 30 minutes five times. It went winless in those matches with four losses and one draw.

In the other six matches in which it didn’t concede during the opening half hour, Nashville went unbeaten with four wins and two draws, including three clean sheets.

Probable Nashville SC Lineup

(4-4-2, R-L) - GK: Joe Willis; Shaq Moore, Walker Zimmerman, Dave Romney, Daniel Lovitz; Alex Muyl, Sean Davis, Dax McCarty, Jacob Shaffelburg; Hany Mukhtar, CJ Sapong