Three keys to a Nashville SC victory over FC Dallas tonight

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville SC has had the luxury of a week off here in this grueling playoff push and will host four of the next five matches at Nissan Stadium. Sitting pretty in eighth in the Eastern Conference, Nashville will face FC Dallas for the third time this season tonight and will look to replicate what they did in Frisco way back in August.

Nashville SC won its first MLS match against Dallas and managed a draw in their second meeting with The Toros. Can Gary Smith's side earn three results in three meetings?

Coming off of their most complete victory of the inaugural season, here are my three keys to a Nashville SC victory tonight.

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Feed Hany and start Jhonder

It was thrilling to see NSC's first designated player - Hany Mukhtar - score a first half brace and tear apart the Houston Dynamo defense last week.

With Dominque Badji and Daniel Rios both missing for the last several weeks, the manager has had the difficult task of adequately finding players who can provide that finishing touch on the offensive end.

Until the match against Houston, Smith had not used a 3-4-3 formation with two wing backs on the flank. It worked wonders as Nashville took a three goal lead inside of a half hour. The key was the combination play between Mukhtar and Abu Danladi who served as the "striker."

I would not mind seeing Smith utilize wing backs again in this match, although it will most likely be Dan Lovitz on the left and Alistair Johnston on the right who makes his return after being suspended.

I also whole-heartedly believe that now is the time to give Jhonder Cadiz his first start. He came on in the final 20 minutes or so in Houston and showed flashed of what he can do. He is a great outlet for Joe Willis off of goal kicks and has the surprising speed to get in behind the defense.

Start fast and keep the momentum

Nashville was emphatic moving forward with the ball in the first half and were incredibly creative. Two goals from open play and a stunning free-kick from Hany Mukhtar all but sealed the game early on, but The Boys in Gold looked complacent in the second 45 and were quite content to defend.

In this case, it was totally fine seeing as they held a three goal lead, but the best defense is often offense and in NSC's case, possession in the midfield. Dax McCarty and Anibal Godoy should return tonight to anchor the midfield, and it is there responsibility to control the play through the middle of the park and dictate the tempo.

If Smith elects to use a 3-4-3 once again, McCarty and Godoy will also be tasked with limiting the counter attack from Dallas and they certainly have the pace to do just that.

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Discipline on defense will get a result

To put it bluntly, FC Dallas has been poor in front of goal recently. Having played one fewer game than Nashville, Dallas has scored 22 goals this season, but have found the back of the net just three times in their last four matches.

Walker Zimmerman, Dave Romney, and Jalil Anibaba will likely make up the defensive line tonight and if Nashville is to keep Dallas off the board, it will be the play of the center backs and the stamina of the wing backs that make the difference in the end.

Franco Jara has led the way up front for Dallas with five goals in 13 appearances, so, if anyone is to break down the NSC backline, it will be him. The backline must communicate and stay aware of their assignments.