MLS

Charlotte FC v Nashville: Smith looking to grow 'belief' following Montreal triumph

By Sports Desk May 09, 2024

Gary Smith believes his Nashville side's thumping of CF Montreal last weekend is a step in the right direction as they look to build their "belief".

The 4-1 victory over Montreal, which saw striker Sam Surridge net a hat-trick, ended a run of five games without a win and moved Nashville up to 12th in the Eastern Conference.

As Nashville look to push further up the table when they travel to Charlotte FC this weekend, Smith is looking for his players to build on the Montreal performance.

"[The Montreal victory was] the first step in a long journey for us to get back to some rhythm, some success, put ourselves back in a position where there’s some belief here again that we can get results," Smith told reporters.

"We've seen we can score goals. I think that belief that we can win games again, this is the first step on that road.”

Charlotte also tasted victory last time out, beating the Portland Timbers 2-0 at home to leave them sixth in the East.

Midfielder Ashley Westwood hopes he and his team-mates can carry on the momentum from that triumph, saying: "It was a complete performance.

"During the game it felt comfortable. We felt like were in control with the ball and without the ball. We need to push on from that now."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Nikola Petkovic

Petkovic scored his first goal of the season against Portland, becoming one of 10 different players to score a goal for Charlotte this term, the most of any MLS team. Having netted his first of the campaign, he will be hungry for more this weekend.

Nashville – Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar has scored four goals in four career regular season matches against Charlotte FC, one of five opponents he's scored at least four times against in his MLS career. Though Surridge got the plaudits last time out, Mukhtar may be the main goal threat against a side he seems to have success against.

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

Charlotte have lost only two of their last 24 home matches in all competitions since March last season (13 wins, nine draws). Every MLS team besides Charlotte and the Columbus Crew (one loss) have at least four home losses in that time.

Nashville's 4-1 win over Montreal was just the club’s second win since the beginning of March in all competitions. Nashville's only other win in that time was a victory over Charlotte on March 16.

Charlotte won their first meeting with Nashville, a 4-1 home victory in July 2022. However, Nashville are unbeaten in the three meetings since, and though they are on the road, they may have enough to earn a point this weekend.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Charlotte: 38.1%

Nashville: 32.2%

Draw: 29.7%

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    The Orange and Blue produced arguably their worst performance of their season during Sunday's 3-1 home defeat against Charlotte FC.

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    Home head coach Noonan acknowledged his side must perform better.

    "Our first 35 minutes were probably the worst of the year," Noonan said of the Charlotte showing. "We weren't ready, and that starts with me.

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    The Fire, in stark contrast to Cincinnati at the summit, are just one spot from the bottom of the East table.

    Chicago did manage a goalless draw with New York City FC, however, in their last match and keeping them ahead of bottom side Philadelphia Union.

    Frank Klopas' side have accumulated 10 points from their last seven outings, though their away form is the worst in the Eastern Conference – with just seven points from 33 available on the road.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

    Luciano Acosta has been the leading light for Cincinnati's attack this year, sitting top of the club's scoring charts with 11 goals from 23 MLS appearances.

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    Chicago Fire – Hugo Cuypers

    It remains to be seen whether Xherdan Shaqiri will return from Euro 2024 in time for this one, having announced his international retirement for Switzerland on Monday.

    Hugo Cuypers will be expected to step up in his absence again, with the striker scoring nine goals for Chicago in MLS this season – at least four more than any other team-mate.

    MATCH PREDICTION – FC CINCINNATI WIN

    The home side are the dominant favourites for this clash, with the Opta supercomputer backing their victory chances at a hefty 66.1% from their data-led pre-match simulations.

    Cincinnati have triumphed in 12 of their last 15 MLS matches, although three defeats have come in their past eight such outings.

    That trio of losses have all come on their home ground, too, yet Cincinnati will be confident of getting over the line in this one.

    Klopas' visitors have failed to score in their last two outings, and that will only boost the hosts' hopes heading into this midweek clash.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    FC Cincinnati win – 66.1%

    Draw – 18.4%

    Chicago Fire win – 15.5%

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