Nashville boss Gary Smith may blood Shaq Moore for an MLS debut when his side plays host to a buoyant Vancouver Whitecaps side fresh off a Canadian Championship victory.
The USMNT international has spent his professional career to date in Europe, including the last three years with Tenerife, but on the back of Gold Cup success with the national team, will finally bow in MLS competition following a switch to Tennessee.
Moore has impressed Smith already and with Alex Muyl serving a one-game suspension, he could be thrown straight into the deep end for Saturday’s visit from the Canadian heavyweights.
“He’s a great lad, very astute individual, very intense and he’s had a really good week,” Smith stated. “There’s was always going to be more competition on that right-hand side. The fact that Alex is suspended means that there are choices to be made. Shaq’s put himself in a much better position, certainly than he was last weekend, but there are still some questions to be answered about what, where and how we make that debut.
“In terms of stats, we’ve always got to look at the way the schedule has unfolded. We come into a run of games that are going to be pretty pivotal not only in the way we play, but also in some confidence we can build in our attacking play coming back home.”
Opposite number Vanni Sartini, meanwhile, copped the ire of Toronto boss Bob Bradley for his enthusiastic celebrations after the Whitecaps beat their rivals to win the Canadian Championship in midweek – against a side featuring three of his fellow Italian countrymen, including a pair of Euro 2020 victors.
He is now refocused on ensuring his side manages to make it all the way to the postseason following a tough start to the 2022 campaign.
“The season did not start well, but we are recovering,” Sartini stated. “Now we are three points from our goal with 12 games to go. We need 20 points, I’m sure we will make it.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nashville – Shaq Moore
If the USMNT star does bow here, he’ll bring a wealth of experience with him as he looks to make an impact at Nashville. With a World Cup on the horizon and spots up for grabs on the plane to Qatar, Moore will want to force his way into having a shot at the Gulf State, particularly after a superb Gold Cup.
Vancouver – Lucas Cavallini
Helping to lead the line to Vancouver’s Canadian Championship success, Cavallini is also enjoying one of the stronger personal campaigns within the Whitecaps’ setup this term. He’s netted seven goals so far – their top scorer in MLS this year.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first MLS meeting between Nashville SC and Vancouver. Nashville has lost only one of nine all-time meetings with Canadian teams (W5 D3, incl. playoffs).
– Nashville SC lost its last home match, 2-1, to Los Angeles FC on July 17. The defeat was Nashville’s fourth MLS home loss, but second in its last four games. Nashville has never lost consecutive home MLS games.
– The Whitecaps are unbeaten in three straight road games (W1 D2) and have lost one of their last five on the road (W2 D2) following a run of seven straight road defeats dating back to the end of last season.
– Teal Bunbury scored his first goal of 2022 in Nashville’s draw with Cincinnati on Saturday, his 12th different MLS season with a goal. Bunbury has scored six goals against the Whitecaps in his career, tied for his most against any opponent (Chicago, D.C. United).
– The Whitecaps conceded in the 76th and 90th minutes in their 3-1 loss to the Fire on Saturday. Vancouver has allowed 11 goals after the 75th minute this season, tied with D.C. United and New England for most in the league in 2022.