The positive vibe around the Nashville soccer community is hard to blanket right now, with Nashville SC’s inaugural match against Atlanta United mere hours away.
Both Nashville coach Gary Smith and CEO Court Jeske were on hand at Friday’s practice to express their enthusiasm.
“Tomorrow is going to be a fantastic day,” said Jeske.
“Not only for sports fans and the Nashville community.”
Friday’s practice was a bit of a walkthrough of what Smith expects his team to do when they possess the ball and how to defend when Atlanta United will have possession. The Club also worked on set pieces from the flank, with Michael Reed taking the majority of those pieces.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Smith.
“There’s plenty of firsts. It’ll be a first for all the fans to see the players competing, in what should be an extremely competitive game against a top MLS side. In terms of an opening fixture, a showcase, and historical day, I’m not sure we could’ve picked a better opponent.”
There’s been plenty of speculation throughout the week and beyond about how either team will line up, and which goalkeeper will get the starting nod for Nashville. Both Matt Pickens and CJ Cochran looked sharp in practice, as did new goalkeeper signing Micah Bledsoe. Fans can probably expect to see both Pickens and Cochran split some time in the net Saturday.
Make no mistake about it though. No matter how Nashville SC lines up, Smith is expecting his team to come away with a positive result.
“I don’t want to lose any game,” said Smith.
“I don’t think anybody should. The moment I say, ‘The result doesn’t count’, means that their attitude changes, and we have a completely different action towards the game. The result does matter. Will we see what we’re going to see in five or six weeks time when the season starts? Likely not, because there’s so much work to get through with a brand new group. What I can tell you is that the guys will be well-organized, prepared, and hungry to do well.”
The biggest emphasis that both Smith and Jeske mentioned was the fan involvement. Both are expecting the passionate crowds and support groups at First Tennessee Park to play a factor in the match.
“I would hope, that with a sellout crowd, the supporters can start to get a bit of passion and feel for what the stadium is going to be like,” said Smith.
“When it’s all said and done, they’re the ones who are going to have to try and give a brand new stadium for a soccer club its own character. And that’s going to take some time. We’ve got some terrific supporter groups. The way they come together, and how that gels on the terraces is important.”
Jeske echoed a similar statement on how the city of Nashville has gotten behind The Club to show its support.
“The city has gotten behind this movement in a fantastic way,” said Jeske.
“We’ve got over 5,000 season tickets sold, and continue to sell more every day. We subscribe to the ‘Our Town, Our Club’ motto, and let the community put their fingerprints on this club.”
Kickoff for Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC is slated for 3 p.m. at First Tennessee Park. Those who cannot make it to the stadium can watch the game locally on MyTV30, or stream it through The Club’s Facebook page or their website.