Not many are likely picking Nashville SC to advance past Toronto FC in their Round One matchup in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday (TV & streaming info), but Charlie Davies is among the brave few who are predicting the upset.
The Extratime host explained his rationale as the crew debated the fine points of the upcoming Eastern Conference clash, saying that Nashville's defensive, grind-it-out style lends itself well to a game like this, even if it might not gain them a lot of style points.
"My point is this: We all know how Nashville play. There's no secret. They defend. They look to counter, they look for transition game, and set pieces," Davies said. "That is it. It's not pretty. No one enjoys watching the way Nashville play. And on top of that, who gets the most touches for Nashville? It's Daniel Lovitz. That's your left back. Your left back gets the most touches. [Dave] Romney has the most passes and the most successful passes for your team. Those are two defensive players. That's who makes the game for you in build-up. So, there is no lazy narrative. There is nothing new when you watch Nashville.
"It's defend, defend, defend and hopefully you make a turnover and we can transition and have [Randall] Leal shoot from 25 yards out and find the upper 90 or we have Dax McCarty dribble from midfield with his pace, his electrifying pace -- he's Alphonso Davies -- and dribble all the way to the 18 so Miami's center backs can drop to the six-yard box and he bends it into the far corner. That's what Nashville is. Everyone knows how they play. And they're tough to play against because they can park the bus and still win games."
"So when they play against TFC, which, I have them beating TFC because they frustrate teams, they make teams be a little bit ultra-aggressive because they can't break through Nashville," he continued. "And as soon as you make that one misstep, you make that one poor pass, you force a turnover, Nashville finds a way in your half on a counterattack and they score. Or you foul them and that set piece, Walker Zimmerman bangs it home and they can prevent you from scoring a goal. So that's why I think Nashville are effective, they play defensively."
It might sound like Davies is giving the expansion side back-handed compliments, but he says that isn't the case. On the contrary, Davies said, Nashville deserve credit for knowing and committing to their style, and employing it to great effect.
"Just be happy with it," he said. "If you're a Nashville fan, be happy. Not every team can play like Barcelona or Liverpool or Manchester City. Some teams have to play like Stoke City. Some teams have to play that aggressive long ball, but they still win."