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Sounders at Nashville SC: Four Questions

Seattle starts their road trip with a midweek match at Nashville (5:38 PM PT on FOX 13+/Prime Video/ESPN+)

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Remember when the season was hopeless? Seattle Sounders opened by losing at home to the newest Western Conference opponent, Nashville SC, and then lost at Salt Lake City. A lot has happened since then. Seattle won the CCL and Nashville stopped looking like a Western Conference contender.

Nashville is just 2-2-2 in their last six — a mediocrity, rather than the likely powerhouse league pundits thought they would be. The Sounders are 3-2-1 in their last six. Both sides are on short rest, which should add to the chances of a potentially boring game between two sides that are struggling.

But this is MLS, so expectations should be thrown out. There will be more than 25,000 fans at a midweek match in a midweek town in the midweek South. That rocks like Church Street and Broadway.

Watch at 5:38 PM PT on FOX 13+/Prime Video/ESPN+.

For Broadway Sports, Ben Wright answers four questions.

SaH: Short rest, midweek, how will Gary Smith’s lineup decisions cope with this stress in mid-summer?

BS: That’s a big question. They’ve used just 19 field players this season. Through 18 games last year they’d used 27. They don’t have a ton of reliable depth pieces, and so their options in rotation are limited. I wouldn’t expect them to rotate heavily; they’ll probably field a similarly strong team. With their struggles this past month, they really need to play well and take some points from their next three games: home matches against Seattle on the 13th, LAFC on the 17th and a trip to a suddenly good Cincinnati on the 23rd.

SaH: Which player, who is likely to play, has come into their own this season?

BS: Is it a copout to say Hany Mukhtar? He finished second in MVP voting last year and is even better in 2022. Luke Haakenson has become an even more important part of the squad, and has worked his way ahead of Ake Loba in the depth chart (coincidentally, that’s the biggest disappointment of the season). He can play a couple of positions and is a solid two way midfielder, a better attacker than he gets credit for. Brian Anunga is the other name that comes to mind. He looked like the odd man out in midfield after Sean Davis signed as a free agent, but he’s carved out a role for himself and has looked good this year, apart from a really poor first half against Charlotte last match.

SaH: When attacking Nashville, clubs likely avoid the center with strong DMs and Zimmerman. Is there a weaker flank?

BS: Nashville have struggled defending down the right at times. Alex Muyl has played in the right wing-back role vacated by Alistair Johnston’s trade, and while he’s been solid going forward, he struggles at times with defensive positioning. Jack Maher is a reliable and promising centerback, and he typically does well helping out on the right side, but it’s not as strong as the pairing of Dave Romney and Dan Lovitz on the left.

SaH: What’s going on with Handwalla Bwana?

BS: He played a handful of minutes to start the season and looked really good in his Open Cup appearances, but he’s been dealing with a thigh issue that has kept him out of the last six matches. He’s finally off the injury report heading into the Seattle match, but it may be too soon for him to get into the squad. He’s clearly a talented player, and he’s very unique in the Nashville roster. He’s a victim of their switch to a back three system, though, since there’s not a natural place for him in the starting lineup. I’m really interested to see how he does in the second half of the year.

Check out their match previews and reverse (I answered five questions).

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