The game’s importance wasn’t lost on Nashville head coach Gary Smith as the expansion club chases a debut spot in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, especially with four chapters of this six-game stretch at home.
“Our home form’s been really good, so that said, we all hope we can continue along that pathway and that road,” Smith said. “I’ve said a couple of times that there’s a 26-point target. Will it be 26? I hope so. It might be 27, but what we know is we’re working our way towards that sort of latter 20-point target and with four games at home to try and finish those off, I would hope the fellas are pretty confident about what they can achieve.”
Nashville, through 17 games, are on 21 points and occupy the East’s ninth spot. The conference’s top 10 teams advance to the postseason, but they can start to create some distance on other contenders.
Watch: FC Dallas 0, Nashville SC 1 (Aug. 12)
Don’t expect FC Dallas to make it easy, however, as head coach Luchi Gonzalez noted in his own pregame remarks. They currently occupy the West’s No. 6 seed with 24 points through 16 games, and a win would vault them into fourth place and create further distance between the eighth and final playoff spot.
“Nashville, even though they’re not in our conference, it doesn’t matter,” Gonzalez said. “We’re treating these games as finals. Points per game might be what it comes down to for playoffs, so this is a final for us.”
This home-heavy stretch run should benefit Nashville, given how drastically the COVID-19 pandemic has altered this season’s schedule. They’re 3W-1L-3D at Nissan Stadium so far.
“The other side of it, given the way that the schedule’s been – the travel on the day, the late arrivals back in town and the back-to-back games – being at home and being in a more natural surrounding, it can add a more simplified day and something that’s more natural to the players,” Smith said. “It can only be helpful when you’re getting towards the more difficult games in a season, the more pressurized games. All of those details will play certainly into the points you can enter [on] the board.”
Given the playoff implications for both sides, FC Dallas have other plans in mind. And as well as securing crucial points in the race for the playoffs, Dallas are eager to make amends for the two sides' two meetings in August at Toyota Stadium when Nashville emerged with a win and a draw.
“We’ve got some chip on our shoulders,” Gonzalez said. “They walked out of our stadium with points and not us, so we need to do something about that over there now."