Gary Smith has left Nashville SC, with the team confirming they have parted company with their long-serving head coach.

Nashville beat Toronto FC on Wednesday, moving up to 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Yet on Thursday, the team confirmed they had decided to part ways with Smith, who had been in charge for seven seasons.

Smith won 52 MLS games during his spell in charge, while also leading Nashville to the Leagues Cup final in 2023.

Nashville face Atlanta United on Saturday, with ex-player and now player development coach Rumba Munthali stepping in as interim head coach.

No reason was provided for Smith's departure. He has been joined in leaving the club by assistant coach Steve Guppy.

A Nashville statement read: "Nashville SC extends its gratitude to Smith and Guppy for their dedication and contributions to our team and wishes them and their families all the best in their future endeavours.

"Under Smith's leadership, Nashville SC emerged as a very organised and hard-to-beat team in both leagues.

"In the USL Championship, Smith guided the team to a 32-win record over two seasons, including two playoff appearances and a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2019.

"His transition to MLS with the club was seamless, leading Nashville to four consecutive MLS Cup playoff appearances, a feat only achieved by two other teams in the league's history."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nashville SC - Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar has scored five goals in nine career regular-season matches against Atlanta. Only Luciano Acosta (nine goals in 17 games) has scored more times against the Five Stripes.

Atlanta United - Thiago Almada

Almada has scored in all three of his career MLS matches against Nashville. No player has ever scored in four consecutive regular-season meetings versus Nashville, though Daryl Dike did score in four straight for Orlando City, including playoff games.

MATCH PREDICTION: NASHVILLE WIN

Despite Smith's departure, Opta's model still predicts a positive outcome for Nashville.

Atlanta are winless in 11 straight MLS away matches (D5 L6 incl. playoffs) dating back to last September. It is the longest active road winless run in MLS.

Nashville have won two straight home matches, their first regular-season home winning streak since a run of six straight last April-July. They managed just two wins in 12 home league games between the two streaks (D6 L4).

Atlanta's 4-0 home win over Nashville last August ended a seven-match winless run for them in the series (D3 L4). Atlanta won their first visit to Nashville, 2-1, in the latter's inaugural match in March 2020, but the Five Stripes are winless in five visits in all competitions since (D2 L3).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Nashville SC - 46.2%

Atlanta United - 25.5%

Draw - 28.3%

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%

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith knows his struggling side must make the most of their home games as they look to snap a five-match winless run against CF Montreal on Saturday.

Nashville sit a lowly 14th in the Eastern Conference standings with just eight points from nine matches, their only league victory of 2024 coming against Charlotte FC in mid-March.

They were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes last time out as the pressure on Smith intensified further, and he knows they are running out of time to turn things around.

"We're all very appreciative and understanding of the fact the home games represent the very best opportunity to earn points," Smith said. 

"But I wouldn't say that I feel any more pressure than I have done for any other home game or any other fixture."

Montreal, meanwhile, have seen their preparations overshadowed by reports that star midfielder Mathieu Choiniere has requested a transfer after entering the last year of his contract.

While boss Laurent Courtois is none the wiser as to Choiniere's intentions, he is keen to see the homegrown talent stay put. 

"Everyone loves Mathieu, everyone wants him to be valued, everyone wants him to stay here," Courtois said. 

"Everyone wants him here to lift the club as high as possible, for as long as possible.

"There will be discussions between players and the club to improve their contractual situations everywhere, and it doesn't always need to be in the public eye.

"I don't know the accuracy of the rumour that came out. The club hasn't told me anything."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Nashville SC – Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar scored with one of his six shots against San Jose last time out. 

He has taken a total of 388 shots since joining MLS in 2020, 100 more than any other player in the league in that time.

CF Montreal – Bryce Duke

Montreal managed just eight shots in their scoreless draw with the Columbus Crew last time out. Only Austin FC (7.8) have averaged fewer shots per match than Montreal (9.6) in MLS this season.

Duke has created nine chances for team-mates this campaign, a tally only matched by Choiniere among Montreal players. If they are to improve their attacking output, he will have a key role to play.

MATCH PREDICTION – NASHVILLE SC 

Nashville have only managed three wins in 21 MLS matches since the end of the Leagues Cup last August (10 draws, eight losses, including playoffs). 

They are also winless in their last five, drawing two and losing three, but the visit of a Montreal team who do not travel well could be a boost for Smith's men.

Montreal have gone four away games without a victory, failing to score in any of their last three and conceding 10 goals throughout that run. This game may just come at a good time for the hosts. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY 

Nashville SC – 49.4%

CF Montreal – 23%

Draw – 27.6%

Though faced with uphill tasks to overturn 0-2 and 0-3 deficits, Caribbean clubs Cavalier of Jamaica and Dominican Republic’s Moca FC, will be intent on leaving everything on the pitch when they challenge FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC in Round one return leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup on Wednesday.

Cavalier will be away to FC Cincinnati at the TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio t 7:00pm, while Moca FC are also away to Nashville SC at Geodis Park in Tennessee for the 9:15pm encounter.

Last week’s first leg was the first ever Champions Cup match for both Cavalier and FC Cincinnati, with the Major League Soccer (MLS) side proving too good for their Jamaica Premier League (JPL) counterpart, despite a gritty effort by the latter.

Sergio Santos and Malik Pinto did the damage for FC Cincinnati inside Jamaica’s National Stadium. But perhaps more impressive was the effort from FC Cincinnati’s defence to shutout the highest scoring team from the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup, which comprises Golden Boot winner Shaniel Thomas.

With a two-goal cushion and a pair of away goals, FC Cincinnati, playing their first ever Champions Cup match at home, are in the driver’s seat to progress to the Round of 16, and only need a repeat of last week’s performance to confirm that much.

While MLS clubs hold a seven-win advantage in meetings with Jamaican clubs, that statistic will mean very little to Rudolph Speid and his Cavalier side, who will be hoping to summon their best all-round performance to not only shutout the menacing Luciano Acosta and company, but more importantly, score some goals of their own.

Cavalier twice scored five goals during last year’s Caribbean Cup, doing so in the group stage against Golden Lion of Martinique in a 5-2 win, followed by a 5-0 win at fellow Jamaican club Harbour View in the semifinals.

Cavalier will require that kind of output if they are to turn this series around in their favour. In addition to Thomas, Jalmaro Calvin and Orlando Russell, will need to fire on all cylinders.

Meanwhile, Nashville SC, who got their first-leg goals from Hany Mukhtar, Sam Surridge and Tyler Boyd, will be aiming to maintain their dominance to also confirm their spot in the Round of 16.

However, with Mukhtar and Surridge both carrying injuries, their absence could dampen Nashville’s attacking prowess and possibly present a window of opportunity on which Moca FC will be aiming to capitalise on.

A win on United States soil would see Moca FC being the first Dominican Republic team to do so. Though highly unlikely, it is by no means impossible and Gustavo Ascona, who was one of the stars of the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup with four goals, along with Juan Angeles, will be integral to their chances.

 

Jamaica's Cavalier and Dominican Republic's Moca FC will both have to play catch up in order to progress to the next round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, after they suffered 0-2 and 0-3 defeats to Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC in their respective Round One first-leg fixtures on Thursday.

Despite a gutsy performance, Cavalier were undone by goals from Sergio Santos (45+5) and substitute Malik Pinto (87th), much to the delight of a small FC Cincinnati fan base, which outcheered their local counterparts inside Jamaica's National Stadium.

FC Cincinnati started more purposeful and controlled the tempo of the game for the most parts, as their high attacking line forced Cavalier into a defensive posture from where they tried to catch their opponents on the counter.

By virtue of their consistent press, the visitors, which boasts the likes of out-of-favour Reggae Boy Alvas Powell, were always more threatening in opening play, and it took some good glovework from Cavalier's custodian Jeadine White, as well as the crossbar, to keep them at bay.

Santos's header from close range, was kept out by a well-positioned White in the 22nd minute.

Cavalier responded immediately after, on the counter, through Orlando Russell, whose effort was parried by FC Cincinnati's goalkeeper Roman Celetano.

FC Cincinnati again went close on two occasions in quick succession, first in the 33rd where the menacing Luciano Acosta's effort from a distance was parried by White, who got down well to his right, and the second a minute later through Santos, who caught White off his line, but his right-footer came back off the crossbar.

It took some desperate defending from Richard King and Jeovanni Laing, putting their bodies on the line to deny Acosta, who got through on twice in the 38th and 45th minutes. However, just when it seemed as if Cavalier had survived the storm, Santos broke their hearts when he poked home from a Bret Halsey on the stroke of the break to put FC Cincinnati 1-0 up.

Cavalier were more assertive on the resumption as they went on the probe for the equaliser, which they should have had in the 64th minute, but Shaniel Thomas failed to finish off a tidy team build up and was later dispossessed.

With the introduction of fresh legs, FC Cincinnati again went on the attack and almost doubled the lead in the 82nd, when Pavel Bucha met Acosta's weighted corner kick on the volley, but the effort grazed the crossbar on its way out.

Pinto, who entered the field in the 84th minute, eventually found the second for FC Cincinnati in the 87th when he drove home a right-footer from an Arquimides Ordonez backheel pass, to give his team a tidy cushion heading into their home leg on Wednesday.

MOCA FC vs NASHVILLE SC

Over in Dominican Republic, Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge each had a goal and an assist to lead Nashville SC to a 3-0 over Moca FC at the Estadio Cibao in Santiago de los Caballeros.

Mukhtar (12th), Surridge (25th) and Tyler Boyd (75th), got the job done for Nashville, who will be aiming to wrap things up on their home turf on Wednesday.

Nashville SC could not have asked for a better start, as they broke the deadlock in the 12th minute, when star attacking midfielder Mukhtar polished off a one-two combination with Surridge by finishing past goalkeeper Pascual Ramirez.

The dynamic duo of Mukhtar and Surridge hooked up again to produce Nashville’s second in the 25th. This time it was Mukhtar, who filtered a pass for Surridge to fire past Ramirez.

Moca started to threaten toward the end of the half and forced the Nashville defence into some nervy moments, especially when a Juan Angeles shot required a reaction save from Joe Willis, in goal for Nashville.

But Nashville later regained their momentum in the second half and after several looks at goal, they inevitably added a third through Tyler Boyd, who fired home in the 75th minute.

From there, it was just a matter of seeing things out for Nashville, who ensured Moca went scoreless, and maintain a very healthy advantage going into the return leg.

 

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