Blog

Nashville SC notebook: Looking at the positives in a loss

Nashville SC’s two-game winning streak, and three game streak of collecting points, was snapped Saturday against Indy Eleven, losing 2-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium. But despite the loss, there’s a lot of positives Nashville and its fans can take from this game.

“You’ve got to look at the positives. We built momentum when we were two goals down. To get a goal at the end of the first half, it was a positive thing going into the second half, we just didn’t put away the second chance or third chance,” said Nashville SC midfielder and captain Michael Reed.

A tale of two halves: Soony Saad had a brace for Indy in the first 34 minutes that ultimately helped Indy Eleven pull out the victory, but Nashville could have just as easily tied the game in the second half after Ropapa Mensah’s goal right before the break.

Nashville had more total shots, headed shots, and shots inside the box during the second half. Perhaps a lot of that had to do with Indy deciding to sit back and absorb pressure, but it’s still reassuring that Nashville will press the issue in an aggressive manner and get good opportunities when down.

“No doubt about it they were better than us in the first period. It’s sometimes difficult to
evaluate why,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“There were numerous occasions where the ball was lost to cheaply. I think the players found the surface more challenging to contend with than they expected and it took some time to adapt. And then you throw into that mix the very good strike for [Indy’s] second goal…We actually finished in great fashion. Scored, hit the woodwork, looked bright. We
probably didn’t want the half to end. We looked on the front foot, back in the game, and the whistle blows.”

Positive midfield possession: The Nashville midfield came out of this game looking fairly sharp as far as possession and passing accuracy goes. Both Michael Reed (90.5) and Bolu Akinyode (85) completed over 80 percent of their passes. A good sign for those who play around them that both are able to make the right connections and put teammates in the final third to make an impact on goal. Although Lebo Moloto played more as a forward than he did as a midfielder, it’s worth noting that he also completed 88 percent of his passes as well.

It’s starting to look like the Akinyode-Reed combination is the one that will take Nashville to the next level and keep them in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Both know how to distribute the ball to the forwards and control the middle of the park to disrupt opposition plays.

Quick Penn preview: Nashville now turns its attention to a trip to Harrisburg, Pa. to face Penn FC. Formerly the Harrisburg Islanders, the club was been rebranded during the offseason. They finished 11th in the Eastern Conference last season, with current Nashville SC goalscorer Ropapa Mensah leading the way in team goals scored with seven.

Penn FC currently sits in 14th place in the Eastern Conference through three games, losing the first game of the season with Charleston Battery 1-0. They tied their next two games against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (0-0) and Atlanta United 2 (1-1).

Roadies Walk Hard: With no game this weekend, The Nashville Roadies are hosting a Walk for Wishes Event Saturday at Bicentennial Mall State Park benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This family-friendly event will see the Roadies singing and marching with a bunch of Wish Kids from around the area. There will also be opportunities to donate to Make-A-Wish. More details can be found here.

Nashville SC notebook: Boys in Gold looking for third-straight win

Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith says he’s never heard of St. Elmo’s Steakhouse in Indianapolis.

But while his culinary knowledge of the Hoosier state is lacking (not that there’s much of culinary scene there though, so it’s understandable), he has done his extensive research on his side’s next opposition, Indy Eleven.

“I am keeping an open mind as to what we will walk in to,” said Smith regarding how he’s preparing for the match.

“We will train on their match field on Friday and our staff will be looking forward to seeing what the field is like. Indoors, turf, those things all effect the game. We are keeping an open mind. What I do know is that Indy is a team in a similar position to us with a group of new players, and a new coach. They have a good strong core to that team, with McInerney and Pasher being dangerous.”

Opponent overview: Like Nashville, Indy Eleven is in its first season of the USL. Founded in 2013, the club has spent its first couple of years in the NASL. The Club finished second in the league in 2016, while also finishing first in average attendance in three of the four years. The high attendance has followed the Club to the USL, as it drew 17,000 fans to Lucas Oil Stadium in its first home game.

Indy’s defense has been the story of their season so far. Also like Nashville, it’s been tough for opposing teams to put any goals past them, allowing only one goal in three contests.

“We do see this match as more than likely being a tight one,” said Nashville SC goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

“Much of that has to do with being early in the season and also mirroring each other in that we are a new club playing together for only a couple of months and them having a new head coach with an overwhelming majority of new players. In that regard, I don’t envision the game being that stretched with the scoreline.”

Indy Eleven has beaten North Carolina FC and the Richmond Kickers this year, both by a score of 1-0. Its loss came against FC Cincinnati, also by the score of 1-0.

Other notes:

-Some Nashville SC players made some waves in the USL for their performances this week. Alan Winn was named to the USL team of the week. His goal against Charlotte was also named goal of the week. Pickens was nominated for USL save of the week.

-The Club is 300 season tickets away from breaking the inaugural season ticket record.

-For those streaming, the game will be on the ESPN+ streaming service as a part of the new USL streaming contract. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. Central, and the game can be watched locally on MyTV30.

Prediction: 1-0 Nashville Last week, I was wrong on my prediction and overestimated Charlotte. I think Nashville is starting to figure things out in the final third. Indy’s defense will be their toughest test thus far in the season, so I could also see this game ending as a 0-0 draw.

Nashville SC is starting to look like a threat

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.”

 

Nashville SC Notebook: Reinforcements arrive as Nashville prepares to face top Eastern Conference team

Yes, last Saturday’s Nashville SC victory against Bethlehem Steel FC was historic, but there’s not much time to celebrate. Nashville now welcomes a Charlotte Independence team that has gotten off to a hot start (7 points in their first three games to lead the Eastern Conference).

“They are confident and have had a good start, seven points in three matches and top of the league,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith

“They show a lot of the same qualities they have shown in previous seasons. I see a typical Mike Jeffries coached team. They are based around intelligent and talented play and have a nice balance of youth and experience. They will want to utilize a few of their key players up top with the others supporting those players.”

This will be Charlotte’s first away game of the season, and it’s quite the daunting trip to make considering the atmosphere Nashville SC fans have created. But Charlotte brings with it some highly-credentialed players. The most notable are Jungsoo Lee, a player with experience for South Korea’s international team (five goals in 54 appearances), and Jorge Herrera, who has already scored four goals on six shots.

Nashville’s new signing:

Nashville SC made a splash earlier this week by signing Canadian international David Edgar. Edgar has spent some time in the Premier League, with stints at Newcastle United and Swansea City. In addition, he also has 42 appearances to his name as a member of the Canadian National team.

Edgar has been sidelined for a while now thanks to an injury. With London Woodberry sidelined for the forseeable future, it makes sense for the club to bring in an experienced defender that can already help bolster a unit that has gone 204 match minutes without conceding a goal.

“I don’t think you can ever bypass an individual like David, and his experience with his caliber at such a high level,” said Smith.

“His name came up as a free agent, and it was a matter of whether or not we can get a deal done.”

We’ll see how soon Edgar is slotted into the starting 11. Right now, the regular back line has been incredibly effective against opposition. It’s going to be hard to keep such an experienced player off the field for too long, though.

Other misc. items:

-Nashville SC has announced that the Club is less than 400 season tickets sold from breaking a USL inaugural season record. Tickets can be purchased on the Club’s website.

-The game will be back on MyTV30, with kickoff time slated for 7:30. John Freeman and Braden Gall will call the game. The game can also be streamed at nashvillesc.com

-The USL will cease streaming its games on YouTube as a result of its new broadcasting partnership with ESPN+. This partnership will start next weekend. Full replays of matches can be found on the USL’s YouTube channel and Match Center seven days after they’re completed. More information can be found here.

Prediction: 2-1 Charlotte. Last week, I was wrong. I said Nashville SC would lose, but they were able to come away with a victory thanks in part to the early penalty. I also thought that this was the game where Nashville would pick up its first three points. The results might be reversed. Charlotte are brimming with confidence and playing really well through its first three games. The home crowd at First Tennessee will be beneficial, but I think Independence keeps on rolling after their hot start to the season.

Nashville SC looking for first win in trip to Bethlehem

It’s somewhat fitting that Nashville SC is traveling to a town called Bethlehem on Easter Weekend. However, don’t look too far into this coincidence, as the only Easter Egg that Nashville is hunting for this Saturday is the one that contains three points.

These won’t be an easy three points to gather, however. Their opponent, Bethlehem Steel FC, is an affiliate with MLS side Philadelphia Union. What makes this occasion a tricky fixture is that the Union can move players up and down from their main roster to the Steel, meaning its tough to prepare for any individual player and system.

The Steel are 1-1-0 so far this season, winning their opener 4-1 against the Richmond Kickers before falling 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies last week.

“I think we’re into the season now, as it were, and as you have rightly said, there’s no real way of knowing who will be a part of the Bethlehem group, but what I would suspect is that in a system that has developed some very decent players, their mindset is also different from the two teams we have played against, that stand alone,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“You’ve got what will be classed as a development group, there’s some very good players,  and those young players are trying to adapt to a system and style of play that can take them to the next level to the MLS group. For that sake alone, we probably likely to see whoever plays in that group, a style of play that will reflect the first team and will give those young players a chance to step from one group to the next. There’s a common theme and a common aim in the group, although of course we have some players that have dropped down from the first team, you can expect maybe a bit more pace, bit more strength and in some cases a bit more experience. But in terms of preparing for Bethlehem, there’s going to be some trends in the group that stay the
same.”

Nashville SC are still looking for that elusive first goal of the regular season, and it hasn’t been an easy one to come by considering the stout defenses it has faced since the start of the campaign. So far, The Boys in Gold have only attempted 10 total shots, including four on target. Lebo Moloto has accounted for eight total shots, tied in the USL for the most.

Nashville has shown promise in the buildup, with an average possession of 51 percent in two games. It’s just that the play in the final third hasn’t delivered just yet, as it’s only completing 57 percent of its passes in the opponents half of the field.

“I think the chemistry and the fluidity going forward, through the midfield as well, is still coming along,” said Nashville SC midfielder Matt LaGrassa.

“I think that’s one of those things that takes time, getting people on the same pages, knowing people’s strengths and utilizing those strengths. That’s what we are working towards. Having been on an expansion club, I know that takes time. I believe it will come. I know it will.”

Prediction: 2-1 I do believe that this is the game Nashville SC breaks through and scores its first USL goal of the regular season. However, this won’t be the game Nashville SC breaks through and gets its first three points of the season.

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is slated for 1 p.m. CT. You can stream the game below.

 

Nashville SC notebook: MLS coming in 2019? Not Quite

Yesterday seemed like it was going to be a normal start to the week.

Until this tweet from SportsBusiness Journal’s Ian Thomas got sent out.

9wgmd

Thomas’ tweet came as a result of the joint North American 2026 World Cup bid packet, where it stated on page 97, that “(Nashville) was recently awarded the 24th expansion team in Major League Soccer (MLS), Nashville SC, which will start playing in the league in 2019.”

This raised the eyebrows of fans and those who cover the team alike. Nashville SC told 615 Formation it had nothing to announce regarding this.

However, the wording in the packet turned out to be a mistake. The United Bid Committee reached out to multiple outlets, including our friends at Music City Soccer and The Nashville Business Journal, stating, “The United Bid Committee’s section on Nashville in the World Cup bid submission inaccurately states the first season for the new Nashville MLS expansion club. MLS has confirmed the new Nashville expansion team will not begin playing in the league in 2019 and a start date has not been finalized.”

Now, the last couple of words of this statement do leave open the possibility of Nashville SC playing in MLS in 2019, as “a start date has not been finalized” leaves the door open in case both Nashville SC and the MLS believe the club is ready to make the leap.

Like many, I’m of the belief that Nashville SC should wait until 2020 to begin play. By then, the team will have two seasons of professional soccer under its belt, the new stadium at the fairgrounds will have been built, and a steady fan base will have been established to help draw interest.

But enough of that, let’s get into some more fun stuff.

What to make of the 0-0 draw: There’s a lot to digest from Nashville’s draw with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The most notable is that the attacking third is still lacking some edge, despite the strong possession play throughout most of the match. Nashville SC coach Gary Smith does think the goals will start to fall soon as this team begins to build a rapport.

“Scoring a goal in general is the toughest part,” said Smith.

“We have extremely talented players who play in that final third, but to get them on the same page, and feel and feed off of each other in vital moments is going to take a little bit of time. What you’re seeing is a group that has come together very quickly. They’ve got a good concept of how we want to play. As a group, however, we’ve got a point on the board, and a clean sheet. We take a step forward in that respect, and we have plenty of work in that front line.”

We’ll see if Smith decides to make another shift in the forward line in the next game in order to create some spark.

Some of the most notable performances include:

Matt Pickens: Pickens once again put in a stellar performance, finishing the game with a pair of saves and recording the club’s first clean sheet in the USL. His best save came on a shot right outside the 18 that was going to Picken’s right post. The goalie was able to stretch out and prevent the Riverhounds from putting a goal on the board.

Lebo Moloto: Moloto was easily the most efficient player on the offensive side for Nashville. Although his passing accuracy was down from the last match, he still recorded three shots, including this acrobatic one which might have been an early contender for goal of the season.

The fans: Yes, the fans. In case you haven’t heard, Nashville’s home opener drew a crowd of 18,922 at Nissan Stadium. While that mark might have not broken the USL inaugural home opener record, it  was recognized as the highest attended soccer match on U.S. soul over the weekend. While Nashville SC as a team continues to develop, this is a great sign that the interest in professional soccer here is growing fast.

Roadies announce event for a great cause: The Roadies, Nashville SC’s oldest support group, have announced their Blue Out: Roadie Rally event. The event will take place at Pastime April 7 before Nashville SC’s home match against Charlotte Independence. The group will be teaming up with Autism Tennessee and selling blue T-shirts in order to raise autism awareness.

All shirt purchases and 3% of all food and drink sales at Pastime that afternoon will be donated to Autism Tennessee. Those interested can purchase shirts here.

What’s next?: Nashville SC will travel to Bethlehem, Pa. this weekend to take on Bethlehem Steel. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT.

Nashville SC hosts inaugural home opener, draws with Pittsburgh

Nashville SC made its first home stand in the United Soccer League one to remember Saturday at Nissan Stadium with a 0-0 draw against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The Club came up just short of breaking the inaugural season home opener attendance record set by Sacramento Republic in 2014 with a crowd of 20,231. Nashville SC vs. Pittsburgh drew a crowd of 18,922.

The announcement was made in the 60th minute of the game. Fans were eager to share their experience of this historical event on social media.

 

Nashville elected to make two changes to the starting lineup from last week. Tucker Hume replaced Michael Cox, and Bradley Bourgeois took the place of London Woodberry, who was out with an injury.

The Boys in Gold dominated nearly every analytical statistic in the first half, but were unable to really get anything going on goal as far as shots with only recorded on target. Their best chance came from Lebo Moloto in the 40th minute, but it went right at the keeper.

Pittsburgh came out the aggressor in the second half, however, with four shots and two on target. Matt Pickens was up to the task, recording two saves and his first clean sheet of the regular season. He was awarded man of the match.

There were a couple of bookings in the second half. Lebo Moloto received a yellow for a tough foul that was played as an advantage for Pittsburgh, while Ropapa Mensah was booked for accidentally running into the goalie.

Moloto almost had an early contender for goal of the season in the 78th minute.

Althought Nashville SC had a couple of late chances to test the Pittsburgh defense, nothing came of them.

Nashville SC will travel to Bethlehem, Pa. March 31 to play against Bethlehem Steel. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT.