So Nashville SC just took down USL Eastern Conference leading Charlotte Independence 2-0 Saturday night, and did so in pretty convincing fashion. Let’s talk about it.
Does it say more about how much we overestimated Charlotte? Despite their seven points in three games, all of them came from the comfort of their stadium. Plus, they had to come back against Atlanta United 2.
But does it also say that Nashville is actually pretty good as a team? Likely. This was by far their best outing as a club. The win gives them seven points on the year, and moves them up to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Alan Winn, who had a preseason to remember, started his second game in a row. He was able to get on the scorer’s sheet in the 24th minute. Kosuke Kimura played a perfect long ball down the right side of the park. A Charlotte defender slipped, and Winn was able to collect the pass. He took a clever touch onto his left, and then buried the shot far post.
But Winn’s goal from this game was just the icing on the cake. Nashville thoroughly dominated this game from the opening whistle. The possession slightly favored the Boys in Gold (50.2-49.8), but that has become a common occurrence so far for this team where they can dictate the flow of the game.
What’s more impressive is how their offensive numbers have risen with each passing game. Somewhat gone are the questions about how this team struggled to put shots on target and the ability to pressure the opposing keeper. Against Charlotte, they had 12 shots, with four of them on target.
“The team was very bright. We pressed the Charlotte group very well,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.
I thought we won the ball in some nice areas and certainly created some opportunities. The goal was a terrific effort from Alan Winn. The second period, I felt Charlotte slightly changed their dynamic of their group. They took a couple more chances. They had some joy once or twice playing out of the back and that started to affect how we defended. I certainly felt Charlotte edged the possession and maybe some of the more adventurous play in the second period, but, overall, I’m absolutely delighted with the way the players have attacked the game.”
And of course, this game wouldn’t be complete without Matt Pickens being Matt Pickens.
Pickens and his defensive front have now gone 296 minutes without conceding a goal. A feat that certainly highlights how tricky this unit is to unlock. They bullied what was at the time one of the USL’s top offenses. Charlotte’s biggest threat, Jorge Herrera, was limited to only a pair of shots. He also had the least amount of touches (38) and total passes (27) amongst Independence’s offensive players. It was clear Nashville wanted to isolate him away from the action, and that task was easily accomplished.
Ropapa Mensah put the game to rest in stoppage time. Matt Pickens delivered a ball deep down field that Mensah was able to corral. He cleverly put a touch on the ball that floated past the out-of-position keeper.
So can Nashville continue this run of play? We’ll see. Five of their next six matches are on the road. But if tonight was a good indication of what direction things are heading, I’m sure there will be plenty for Nashville supporters to bang their drums about.
“The next six games are pretty tough,” said Smith.
“Indy have started off very well. They’ve just won 1-0 today .There is no doubt about it,
the five away opponents, any away game in this league is very difficult. It presents so many dynamics and challenges. There isn’t an away game in the league that you’ve not got to prepare fully for and be majorly aware of what the home team is going to bring.”