Nashville prepares for first MLS season

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As Nashville SC embarks on its first Major League Soccer season, defender Walker Zimmerman has been surprised by how quickly the team has coalesced.

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He knows a bit about expansion teams having been on Los Angeles FC’s original roster.

“The thing that we stressed back at LAFC was, ‘Don’t look at it as we’re coming in as an expansion team and let that change your expectations. You’re in MLS now.’ So that’s the message here: Sure, we are technically an expansion team, but we’re in MLS just like any of the other teams,” Zimmerman said. “So don’t let that change our mindset. Don’t let that change our mentality. We’re going to come out and compete, not as a team trying to prove ourselves, but as a team that’s wanting to establish ourselves in the right way.”

Zimmerman, who joined the league in 2013, is among a number of veterans assembled for the team’s first season, including midfielder Dax McCarty and defender Anibal Godoy.

Additionally there are 14 players on the roster who are new to MLS, including attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar, the team’s lone designated player, from Denmark’s top division, and Randall Leal, a young winger who played for Saprissa in his native Costa Rica.

“It’s a great group, really hard-working group. And I was really surprised at the camaraderie that was already established in the first month of preseason,” Zimmerman said. “So hats off to everyone for really getting along, buying into this process. It’s not easy, but I think everyone’s really excited for this weekend.”

McCarty, embarking on his 14th MLS season, agreed.

“I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve been around long enough to know that our group, what we have is just real. We have a real sense of camaraderie. Guys have really bonded off the field. We have a sense of discipline and organization and how we’re gonna play. But also, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of our attacking players and guys that I didn’t know much about,” he said. “So I think that there’s a real sense of urgency with this group that we want to start off our first season on the right foot.”

There’s buzz surrounding the team’s nationally televised season opener against Atlanta United on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium. Nashville reported Friday that more than 50,000 tickets had been sold, putting the game in reach of the stadium’s record of 50,232 for a soccer match, set back in 2017 when the stadium hosted Tottenham and Manchester City.

Players were excited at the chance to play Atlanta, which won the MLS Cup in 2018 and last season won the U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup. Star striker Josef Martinez won league MVP honors in 2018 and had 27 goals last season.

Known for its successful launch and rabid supporters, Atlanta provides something of a blueprint for what Nashville hopes to be. Atlanta averaged 52,510 fans a game last season, most in the league.

The match could also be the first in what is hoped will become a rivalry: The two teams are separated by just 250 miles.

“They’ll want to try and stamp their authority on the rivalry. And we’ll certainly want to get off to a very good start if we possibly can. And a lot of that comes down to our preparations. I feel as though we’ve put ourselves in a decent place,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said.

Smith, coach of the Colorado Rapids team that won the MLS Cup championship in 2010, led Nashville to a 20-7-7 record last season in the USL Championship.

Overall, Nashville SC is still very much a work in progress. The team’s proposed deal for a soccer-specific stadium hit a snag last fall when scheduled demolition at the Fairgrounds Nashville site didn’t start. It turned out that new Mayor John Cooper was re-examining the city’s agreement for the stadium.

The Metro Nashville Council originally approved a $275 million project in November 2017, and the next month the city was awarded the franchise by MLS.

Under the terms of the renegotiated agreement, the team will pay $54 million more in additional costs, including potential debt payments and $19 million for infrastructure around the stadium.

The new stadium is set to open in 2022. Until then, the team while share Nissan Stadium with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Such issues are to be expected with a startup, but Smith is anxious to finally get Nashville SC off the ground.

“What I can say is I’m very pleased at where the group’s at, both aerobically and in terms of their fitness. Their appreciation of some of the foundational pieces of our group with or without the ball, are good,” Smith said. “Can we improve? Yeah, of course. But we’re in a good spot.”

Saudi Arabia vs Mexico: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Mexico needs a win to have hope of reaching the World Cup knockout rounds, while Saudi Arabia’s hopes of the final 16 may require the same at Stadium 974 in Doha on Wednesday.

The Saudis stunned Argentina 2-1 In Lusail to open the tournament but could not repeat the feat against Poland at Education City in Al Rayyan on Saturday to leave themselves with three points through two matches.

STREAM LIVE SAUDI ARABIA vs MEXICO

Mexico remains without a win after their scoreless draw versus Poland led to a Lionel Messi-inspired loss to Argentina In Lusail.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Saudi Arabia vs Mexico.


How to watch Saudi Arabia vs Mexico live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Wednesday Nov. 30
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Saudis have arguably been the most fun team at the tournament amongst non-powers, always running and getting exceptional goalkeeping. Salem Al-Dawsari was very good in both games but his missed penalty before halftime against Poland looms large of a match that could’ve been 1-1 going to the break and instead ended 2-0.

Mexico has not scored at the tournament so far, and Raul Jimenez has only been used as a super sub. Hirving Lozano and Alexis Vega combined for just three shot attempts before being subbed out of the Poland loss, while Lozano and Henry Martin combined for two versus Poland (Vega attempted five). They need better up top to keep up their streak of making Round of 16 appearances at the World Cup.


Saudi Arabia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 51
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group B)
Coach: Herve Renard
Key players: Salem Al-Dawsari, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammed Al-Owais

Mexico quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 13
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (2nd place)
Coach: Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino
Key players: Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez

Poland vs Argentina: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Poland and Argentina surely didn’t plan to reach the marquee match of World Cup Group C with their knockout round status in doubt, but it’s been that kind of tournament in Qatar.

Poland remains unbeaten in Qatar after beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 in Al Rayyan, adding to the point it earned from a scoreless draw with Mexico In Doha to give it top billing in the group heading into Wednesday’s match.

STREAM LIVE POLAND vs ARGENTINA

Argentina, meanwhile, rebounded from a 2-1 tournament-opening loss to Saudi Arabia In Lusail to bear Mexico 2-0 behind a goal and an assist from Lionel Messi.

Saudi Arabia’s three points means it can still advance with a win over Mexico, who itself can add to its one point. So everyone’s alive in Group C.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Poland vs Argentina.


How to watch Poland vs Argentina live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Wednesday, Nov. 30
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The storyline for every Argentina game this tournament from this point forward — and really since the lead-up to the Mexico match — is that any loss means the end of Lionel Messi’s World Cup career (at least according to the living legend). The Albiceleste would be thrilled to get something more out of Lautaro Martinez, while Paulo Dybala’s yet to make his tournament debut.

Robert Lewandowski finally has a World Cup goal on his resume, while Piotr Zielinski has been very good for Poland. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sensational in the win over Saudi Arabia.


Poland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 26
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs, Path B
Coach: Czeslaw Michniewicz
Key players: Robert Lewandowski, Wojciech Szczesny, Piotr Zielinski

Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez

Portugal vs Uruguay: How to watch, live stream link, team news

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Portugal looks to seal its fate in the World Cup Round of 16 by piling pressure on Uruguay when two titans of the sport meet in Lusail on Monday.

Portugal outlasted Ghana 3-2 in Doha to open its tournament with a big win that featured a controversial penalty for Cristiano Ronaldo, while Uruguay staged a scoreless draw with South Korea.

STREAM LIVE PORTUGAL vs URUGUAY

It’s a group that never looked easy and is looking more and more like a “Group of Death” as the World Cup rolls through Qatar in its typically tense fashion this month and next.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Portugal vs Uruguay.


How to watch Portugal vs Uruguay live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Monday Nov. 28
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Everyone’s going to keep looking at Cristiano Ronaldo — it’s difficult not to turn your head with all the “Look at me” nonsense — but Bruno Fernandes is the real string-puller here. He’s playing well with Ruben Neves, while Ruben Dias and the back line will look to tighten things up after letting Ghana stay in the game.

Uruguay hero Luis Suarez has been here before, but his supporting cast is as good as ever. Rodrigo Betancur and Jose Maria Gimenez give La Celeste a chance at clean sheet every time they take the pitch.


Portugal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancelo

Uruguay quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 14
World Cup titles: 2 (1930, 1950)
World Cup appearances: 14
How they qualified: Qualified from CONMEBOL
Coach: Diego Alonso
Key players: Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde, Darwin Nunez, Rodrigo Betancur

Brazil vs Switzerland: How to watch, live stream link, team news

Brazil vs Switzerland live
Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)
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Opening match winners Brazil and Switzerland meet Monday at Stadium 974 in Doha.

FIFA world No. 1 Brazil broke through pesky Serbia for a 2-0 win In Lusail to start the tournament as Richarlison scored two goals — one a ridiculous bit of technique — to get the Brazilians off on the right (and left) foot.

STREAM LIVE BRAZIL vs SWITZERLAND

Switzerland meanwhile used a 1-0 defeat of Cameroon to claim three points and set up Monday’s win-and-in match.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Can Neymar-less Brazil take the next step toward a sixth World Cup? Here is everything you need for Brazil vs Switzerland.


How to watch Brazil vs Switzerland live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 11am ET, Monday Nov. 28
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Brazil will not have Neymar for this one and likely the rest of the group stage as the oft-fouled magician felt the sting of Serbian tackles in the opener. The Brazilians have had to play without their captain before and have a wealth of attacking options, but who will join Richarlison in providing the goals in a Ney-less attack.

The Swiss have all the tools to hang with Brazil, but how physical will they want to make it for the favorites? Granit Xhaka will be one to watch as the underdogs try to balance a desire to get forward with the danger of doing so against a potent Brazil.


Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Switzerland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 15
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Murat Yakin
Key players: Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Yann Sommer, Remo Freuler