Nashville SC: Three things to watch for in the return to play against FC Dallas

The 157 day wait is over! After a worldwide pandemic and having too many positive COVID-19 cases to play in the 'MLS is Back' tournament in Orlando, Nashville SC will play a competitive match tonight against FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas!

There has been a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding this brand new club in the Music City, and it feels good to say that it is finally a matchday.

Let's jump right in.

Control the excitement, go out and have fun

It's been five months and this will be the third match in club history. The players will have to control the nerves and focus on the task at hand. They will face The Toros twice this week in MLS regular season play.

NSC must get off to a strong start. It will be interesting to see what 5,000 fans in a stadium will look like and neither side having played a match in over 150 days. Whoever is able to settle into the match first and get possession will likely win the match.

In the two matches at the end of February and early March, Nashville failed to create enough chances in the open play.

Manager Gary Smith should set the side up in a 4-2-3-1 in order to hold possession in the midfield and find speed down the wings on the counter attack.

These guys should be happy to just be back on the pitch tonight and enjoy the experience. The quality will come with time.

Fitness levels and stamina

As coach Smith said in a recent interview, he has been impressed with the team's fitness levels while training in the July heat.

The problem, however, is that the players have now basically had three 'restarts' and three preseason training camps now. The original preparation in February, the run-up to the tournament in Orlando, and the three weeks or so since returning to Nashville.

Even though kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. central time, the temperature is expected to be 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The five substitute rule will be crucial in the second half depending on the scoreline.

Nashville has talent on the bench and could look to change the outcome of the match with fresh legs after the hour mark. Remember, cooling breaks will take place once in the first half and once in the second to make sure the players stay hydrated.

Both teams are used to training in the heat in their respective cities, but you simply can't replicate live action in those practices.

The starting XI

Nashville will play tonight's match and Sunday's match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco and the team is required by MLS to travel to the city where the match is being held the day of and return to the airport immediately after the match concludes to ensure player safety.

The assumption is that Gary Smith will start his strongest XI tonight and rotate the squad somewhat for the second meeting over the weekend.

With Dominique Badji unlikely to feature tonight due to a quad injury suffered in the last week of training, Daniel Rios is expected by many to be the starting no. nine tonight.

Can the Mexican international provide a spark for the Nashville offense?

He will have the help of Hany Muhktar, Randall Leal, and David Accam when pushing forward. Check out my predicted starting XI here.

I might be more excited for this match than I was the opener against Atlanta United! The wait is nearly over!