Match Preview: Union hopes to end road trip on positive note at Nashville SC

After going 9 games unbeaten, and winning 8 of their last 12, a 3-game road trip consisting of 5,000+ miles of travel against Atlanta United, LA Galaxy, and Nashville SC, without Andre Blake and Damion Lowe in the span of  10 days was always going to be a difficult stretch for Union, maybe one of the toughest of the entire season. 

2/3rds of the way through this road trip, and things have been rocky so far.  2 Losses in a row, where Union has been outscored by a total of 5-1 across two games, sending fans into a bit of a panic about the true quality of this team’s depth.  But things aren’t getting any easier for Union, with the 3rd and final stop of the road trip approaching Wednesday night as the Philadelphia Union takes on Nashville SC. 

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union VS Nashville SC preview

Though Union and Nashville SC have a really brief history between them, the matches between these two clubs have been nothing but tight and hard-fought games.  Across 4 total meetings, both teams have a record of 1 win, 2 draws, and 1 loss, technically speaking, though Union eventually ended up winning one of those draws on PKs in MLS Cup playoffs. Both teams have scored a total of 3 goals across all 4 meetings. 

Nashville took the first-ever match between the two sides in July of 2021, with former Union player CJ Sapong scoring the lone goal in the 2nd minute of the match to earn NSC their first-ever win over Philadelphia Union.  But Union had the last laugh of the 2021 season, beating NSC in October by a score of 1-0 at Subaru Park on the back of a goal from Kacper Przybylko, and eventually beating NSC on penalties In the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the MLS Cup Playoffs. 

Just in case you forgot, Nashville failed to convert any of their PKs, and the rumor is they’re still searching for the ball that Walker Zimmerman sailed over the bar on the shores of the Delaware River. The last meeting between Union and Nashville SC was the opening of Nashville’s new stadium, Geodis Park.  Mikael Uhre would end up scoring the first goal ever scored at Geodis Park, but the party for the visiting team was dampened by an 85th-minute PK from Randal Leal to level the game. 

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

MLS Season So Far

Nashville is putting together another really solid season.  Jumping back and forth between Eastern and Western Conference hasn’t bothered NSC one bit, and 22 games into the season, Nashville has a record of 11 wins, 5 draws, and 6 losses, for a total of 36 points, which is good enough to have them in second place, behind only Supporters Shield leading FC Cincinnati.  If you know anything about this team, it’s that it all runs through Hany Mukhtar, and it really does.  Mukhtar leads the team in goals with 13, and Fafa Picault is the next-highest scorer on the team with 4. 

Mukhtar also leads the team in assists with 7, with Daniel Lovitz being the next most contributing with 3.  But Hany Mukhtar isn’t the only piece on this team that makes Nashville so difficult to play and earn points against.  In addition to the threat they impose going forward, Nashville also leads the league in the least amount of goals conceded with just 17 across 22 games.  That’s 0.77 goals allowed per game, just one of two teams in MLS allowing less than 1.0 goals per game on average. 

Some of that can be attributed to keeper Joe Willis, who has the 11th most saves in the league. One interesting thing about Nashville and their 29 goals scored this season, is that their xG(Expected Goals) total is at 29.3, which means Nashville is scoring a lot of goals they should be and don’t miss many good chances that they do get.  

Form-wise, I’d say Nashville is oddly in a similar situation as Union.  While Nashville is currently 9-4-4 in their last 17 games, they’ve lost 3 of their last 5 games.  It’s very similar To Union being 8-3-3 in their last 14, but also losing 3 of their last 5. Oddly enough, all 3 losses for both teams have been on the road, but unfortunately, only one team gets to be the away team tonight, and sadly it has to be Union this time around.  Oh yeah, Nashville’s form at home? 8 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss for a total of 24 points.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union


Listen, I could try and pick another player in Nashville’s starting XI that could have a huge impact on this game, but it all reverts back to Hany Mukhtar.  Whether he’s scoring the goal, assisting the goal, or just generally creating the chance in general, I’d put money on Hany Mukhtar being involved in any goals Nashville scores Wednesday night, especially while Union is still missing Andre Blake. 

And oh yeah, Nashville rested Hany over the weekend to prepare for this game.  Hany really does it all for Nashville, leading the team in:

Goals (13), Assists (7), xG (10.3), Non-Penalty Expected Goals (7.4), Progressive Carries (69), Progressive Passes Received (125), Total Shots (77), Shots On Target (31), Shots-per 90 Minutes (3.82), Shots on Target Per 90 (1.54), PAsses from Free Kick (41), Through Balls (9), Crosses (99), Corner Kicks (68), Shot Creating Actions (100), Shot Creating Actions Per 90 (4.97), Live Passes that lead to shot attempt (40), Dead Passes that lead to shot attempt (23), Successful Take Ons (11), Fouls drawn that lead to shot attempt (7), Goal Creating Actions (17), Touches in the attacking third (505), and Touches in the attacking penalty area (91).  

For Union, I’m looking at Kai Wagner as the -Factor in Union’s lineup.  As I said before, Union have given up 5 goals in their previous 2 games, and 10 in their previous 5. While many of those games have been without Andre Blake, Damion Lowe, and Kai Wagner, it’s still an uncharacteristic stat line for Union.  But with Kai Wagner (hopefully) coming back to the lineup on Wednesday night, maybe we’ll see a bit more comfort and cohesiveness in the Union backline.  In addition to his defensive capabilities, it’s no secret what Wagner can offer going forward, and I think Union could use a little of that to help create some chances for their guys up top as well.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union


Man, this is going to be a tough one. It really is.  Whether Union lost these previous two games or not, this was always the game many were looking at as the most difficult in the 3 game road trip.  And now with the prospect of it becoming your third straight loss, the pressure to earn points has gotten a bit heavier for Union.

While it does seem that Kai Wagner is on his way back to the lineup, Union are still without Andre Blake and Damion Lowe, and looks like they’ll rotate in order to prepare for NYCFC at home on Saturday night should they not make the Gold Cup final. Philly will be looking to get a win at home before heading into Leagues Cup break.  So it’s a bit hard for me to guess what’s coming Wednesday night, but here’s my best guess. 

Jim Curtin said in his press conference, much to many fans’ dismay, that Joe Bendik still has the starting spot while Andre Blake is away with Jamaica.  In the backline, I think we’ll see Kai Wagner, Jakob Gleses, Jack Elliott, and Nate Harriel.  Possibly Mbaizo, but not sure with everything going on with him requesting a trade after his family’s visas were denied once again. 

Jose Martinez is one yellow card away from being suspended, so I wonder if we see him get the night off on Wednesday night, as he’d surely pick up a yellow card trying to contain Hany Mukhtar.  So I’m thinking we see Jesus Bueno in for Jose Martinez, Jack McGlynn, Ale Bedoya, and Daniel Gazdag to fill out the midfield, and Julian Carranza and Chris Donovan up top.

I think this is a game where Union would be happy earning a 0-0 draw, heading back to Philadelphia with a point, and getting ready for NYCFC at home on the weekend, hoping to go into the break on good terms.  So yeah, I expect this one to be ugly. 

I don’t expect Union to go out and create all these chances and control the game.  I think they’ll hunker down, counter when they can, but ultimately try to keep this game as close and low scoring as possible, which I understand probably won’t be super enjoyable to watch.  But remember the old saying. Good teams find success by winning at home and drawing on the road.  Make sure to tune into the action on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV on Wednesday night at 8:30 pm EST.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union