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Nashville SC Notebook: The Trip to Florida, TV Deal, and Preseason Rankings

That feeling when Nashville SC plays after a week off.

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The Boys in Gold are finally back in action this week with a full slate of preseason action in the sunshine state. The trip begins at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. with games against the Chicago Fire (Feb. 21) and Ottowa Fury (Feb. 23) before concluding the trip at Orlando City (Feb. 25) in Orlando.

So what should fans be looking for this weekend?

Lineup shuffle:

This week is the best time for Gary Smith to move around the pieces of his team and see who works best in what position. We already highlighted some of the standout performances in last week’s notebook. It’s also reasonable to believe that Smith will roll with the same lineup he played with against Atlanta United. I don’t anticipate much of the defensive back line to change, as they were rock solid against Atlanta in their 45 minutes of play. However, the midfield and forward combinations could see some mixing up, most notably with Ropapa Mensah getting a crack at starter minutes.

More strong competition:

Nashville SC will once again get a crack at some MLS sides after the 3-1 loss to Atlanta United. Win, lose, or draw, the opportunity to play against Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolić, and Dom Dwyer can only help in the growth and developement of the club. Chicago Fire made the MLS playoffs last year, and Orlando City SC is a potential rivalry that could blossom once Nashville arrives in MLS.

Don’t think I’m not discarding the Ottowa Fury match as well. That match is just as important as the other two, mostly for the fact that it’s a good way to see how Nashville SC measures up against a club that’s in the same league as them.

Here is some other news regarding Nashville SC:

New television deal: 

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The club announced last Friday that it has struck a partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group to broadcast 27 of their matches, including all 17 home games, on WUXP MyTV30, providing content across all plaforms.

“Professional soccer has exploded and has a tremendous fan base as it thrives around the country,” said Sinclair general manager Noreen Parker in a press release.

“There is no denying the excitement that has surrounded Nashville Soccer Club since its arrival. Viewers of our Sinclair Broadcast Group television stations in Nashville (MyTV 30, Fox 17, and CW 58) want more live, local sports. That is why MyTV30 is a perfect fit for the Nashville Soccer Club Live soccer games. We are proud to be the Official Broadcast Partner of Nashville SC and the broadcaster of seventeen home games and ten away for the 2018 season and beyond. Soccer is a part of our town and our station.”

This is a win-win for the club and the city. It gives the club a chance to be highlighted for a large local audience and will allow businesses who show sporting events to thrive with patrons.

USL rankings reaction:

Beautiful Game Network has released its preseason rankings, and they’ve ranked Nashville SC as one of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference at number three, and the seventh best team overall in the league.

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Preseason rankings in ever sport are just talking points. It’s interesting, however, to see that Nashville SC is getting a lot of respect despite only playing one game so far and having no prior history to go off of in the USL. We’ll know more about where Nashville SC stands in a couple of months once the season gets rolling.

Kickoff for Nashville SC’s game against Chicago Fire Wednesday is slated for 3 p.m. central time. Keep an eye on Nashville SC’s social media feeds to see if the game will be streamed or not.

Nashville SC Notebook: Postmatch Reactions, Venue Changes, and What’s Next?

It’s been two days since Nashville SC’s inaugural match against Atlanta United, and there’s a lot to digest from the soccer schmorgesborg from those who decided to indulge by either experiencing the match first hand or by watching it.

In case you missed the match, here’s a quick recap of how things went down.

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Just kidding. Here’s a bit of a more accurate glimpse courtesy of Nashville SC”s Twitter page.

Nashville lost to Atlanta United 3-1, but the losing effort saw lots of positives from the Boys in Gold, most notably Ropapa Mensah’s goal in the second half for Nashville SC’s first goal in club history.

Mensah did not start the match, but came on as a sub in the second half. I expect his role to increase as he becomes more acclimated with the club. His clinical finishing ability and skill on the ball is easily noticable in practice.

Who else stood really stood out in the match for Nashville? There were a couple:

Matt Pickens: Pickens only recorded one save in the game, but it was a big one he took off the chest in the late stages of the first half, and it helped preserve a clean sheet in the first half. His verbal ability to keep the back line organized was also key, and he handled most crosses in traffic reasonably well.

Lebo Moloto: The South African native was a catalyst in the middle of the park. He never backed down from any of the challenges Atlanta United posed, and connected on a bevy of passes to help set up his teammates on the offensive end of the pitch.

Alan Winn: The former Tarheel delivered the assist to Mensah on a low cross after collecting Tucker Hume’s flick on. Winn could be a vital piece to this roster moving forward. He has speed for days, and is no stranger to playing under the big lights after playing all four years at the University of North Carolina where he racked up plenty of accolades.

CHANGE IN VENUE?

During Nashville SC’s match broadcast, a brief promo flashed across the screen. It appeared to indicate that Nashville SC will host its first USL match March 24 against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds inside Nissan Stadium.

The club officially released a statement confirming this news Monday afternoon. It makes sense, considering that 104.5 The Zone will be holding its annual Sportsfest inside First Tennessee Park, the same day as The Club’s first game. The radio station already clarified that it had nothing to do with Nashville SC making the move to Nissan Stadium, but it does bring up an interesting topic of discussion.

There could be nights in the coming schedule where both the Sounds and Nashville SC have a home game. This could mean that it won’t be the only time this year that Nissan Stadium is the home venue for Nashville SC. Some have griped that spreading out the fans in a large venue like Nissan Stadium will hinder the experience, but this is unfortunately one of the cons of having to share a stadium with a team who plays at the same of year. Tickets for the match will be available Feb. 20, with kickoff time slated for 5 p.m.

What’s next for Nashville SC?

The club now has a week of training to work on a couple of tactical changes before traveling down to Bradenton, Fla., to the IMG Academy to play two more preseason games, Chicago Fire Feb. 21 and Ottowa Fury FC Feb. 23, before wrapping up the trip to the Sunshine State with a Feb. 25 match against Orlando City SC.

Here’s how Nashville SC lined up against Atlanta United. There could be a personnel change or two in the next match, but it could remain put.

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Nashville SC lost to Atlanta United, and that’s OK

Saturday’s historic soccer extravaganza at First Tennessee Park in the Music City went somewhat as expected. The weather could have been a little better, but the result was about right. The game finished 3-1 in favor of Atlanta in front of 9,059 fans.

But, you know what? That’s ok.

Nashville SC is a brand new team who have only practiced together for a couple of weeks. Atlanta United has had a full season of Major League Soccer under their belt. Not to mention, they made the playoffs in their inaugural season. They are supposed to be the heavy favorites against an upstart team.

Atlanta had the better amount of chances in the first half. Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, and Darlington Nagbe all looked dangerous in the attacking portion, while Nashville was limited to barely any chances on goal. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens was busy though. He finished the game with one save before being subbed off in the second half.

Martinez scored for Atlanta in the 57th minute with a cool finish from just inside the 18-yard box that bested CJ Cochran to find the net after collecting an errant back pass.

Nashville SC’s first goal in their inaugural history came from Ropapa Mensah in the 65th minute. Tucker Hume flicked on a long ball to Alan Winn on the left side. Winn took a touch and whipped in a cross that Mensah was able to finish with a chip in the middle of the penalty box.

Brandon Vazquez put Atlanta United ahead for good after taking Nagbe’s layoff and slotting it past Cochran in the 74th minute. Romario Williams added one more goal in the 78th minute.

“I thought my group, they conducted themselves and gave a good account of themselves, especially in the first period.” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“There were moments, especially since we’ve been together for two weeks, where we can look back on and be pleased defensively. I thought we were difficult to break down. There were some nice challenges in the field of play. I would’ve like to have been a bigger threat on their goal, but when it’s all said and done, I think when you look at the makeup of (Atlanta United), we’ve given ourselves a pretty decent account of ourselves.”

The Boys in Gold will figure things out. Their organization was strong, and their possession looked sharped. They were strong on the break as well, which is where the goal came from. Once they have more time to gel on the pitch with each other in gamelike situations, this team can only go up.

One thing that cannot be denied, however, is the unwavering amount of support in the stands.

Nashville loves its sports teams. That was apparent today. Not many fan bases would go sit out in the pouring rain for hours to watch a brand new team play in a stadium that’s not even designated for that particular sport.

But Nashville fans did. In fact, kudos need to be given to both sets of fans. The Atlanta support groups showed up by the droves, but that was to be expected. For the Nashville crowd, the sellout (twice!) was a good sign, but it was unclear whether the pouring rain and dreary conditions would force them to retreat to dry conditions.

But they didn’t. They were loud, they were proud, and it showed.

“Credit to the city of Nashville coming out and supporting us,” said Pickens.

“Hopefully they got a good show. We got to see what they’re about, so we’re going to go out there and fight all year for these guys. First game, they came out blazing, so hopefully we can return that favor to them.”

Nashville SC will now turn its attention to another MLS side, as it faces off against Chicago Fire at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Optimism sky-high as Nashville SC makes final preparations

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.

7 Things you need to know for Nashville SC vs. Atlanta United

The countdown is almost over. Nashville SC’s path to the USL and the MLS begins this Saturday when The Boys in Gold host Atlanta United at First Tennessee Park.

It’s been a long road since the announcement was made November 28 last year. A road filled with various signings and transitions for the club, but now the preseason exhibition is finally here. What can we expect from this clash of southern soccer upstarts? Here are seven things you should know heading into the game.

1. How to watch the game. 

Nashville SC announced Tuesday that the game is a sellout, showing the local excitement in Middle Tennessee and the dedication of traveling Atlanta fans. Those in the area can watch the game on MyTV30, with kickoff slated for 3 p.m.

2. What to do before the game.

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There will be plenty of pregame festivites to indulge in before the match itself. Both major Nashville SC support groups, The Roadies and The Assembly, will be hosting pregame parties at their respective home bars. The Roadies will set up shop at Pastime, while The Assembly will be located at Von Elrod’s Beer Garden and Sausage House. There is also a meetup slated for February 9 at Tailgate Brewery on Music Row for fans of both teams.

3.  What’s the weather going to be like?

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Bring a rain jacket or umbrella, unless you don’t mind getting a little wet. The forecast is calling for rain all day Saturday.

4. Who will start in goal for Nashville SC?

There’s no real indication of who will start between Matt Pickens and CJ Cochran, as Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith has stated he could use both of them frequently throughout the season. For this game, however, Pickens might the one who starts due to his experience. Don’t be surprised though if we see a split in time, and Cochran comes on to play the entire second half.

5. How will Nashville SC line up?

It’s already been revealed by Smith that he wants to play with five defenders in the back, which has fans wondering how the midfield and forwards will be played. Robin Shroot could end up starting up top, either by himself or with a partner, such as the towering Tucker Hume. Michael Reed, Josh Hughes, and fan favorite Martim Galvao might also see some time in the midfield.

6. Will Barco make his debut for Atlanta United?

Ezequiel Barco became the most expensive transfer in MLS history at $15 million when he signed with Atlanta United last month from Independiente. So will the talented Argentine play against Nashville? There’s a possibility, but Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino might also want to preserve his new star player for when the MLS campaign begins.

7. Can Nashville SC win?

With only a couple of weeks of practice under their belt as a full team, fans should temper expectations for Nashville SC heading into the exhibition game against an MLS side that made the playoffs in its first season. However, soccer is a surprising sport. It only takes one stroke of genius to be the deciding factor.

Nashville SC nears end of first week of practice

The first week of pratice for Nashville SC has come and gone in the blink of an eye, and it’s apparent to anyone in attendance the team is making progress.

Most of the first couple practices focused on the physical conditioning aspect of the game. Nashville SC coach Gary Smith stated that he gave his team a program to work on during the offseason, and was impressed by how well they’ve responded to the conditioning aspects so far.

“I’ve been really pleased so far. I’ve been able to force the issue a little bit on the competitive work,” said Smith.

“As you saw this morning, we have some formations and structural work for the back five. We’ll have three center backs.”

As mentioned above, Smith’s formation will be focused on having five defenders. It makes sense, considering the experience and depth the club has in that area. What remains to be seen, however, is how the rest of the field will play out. Martim Galvao was lined up as a center midfielder up high during the final portion of practice that focused on gamelike situations, with Robin Shroot also near the attacking portion of the field, for what it’s worth.

Smith also mentioned how he’s enjoyed seeing the team gel together.

“The good thing is, having construced the team, I’ve worked with three or four of the guys before,” said Smith.

“Those lads have an appreciation about what I expect, and some of the philosophy and direction. I think that makes the process a little bit easier, rather than just having 23 guys that haven’t worked in my environment before. It certainly gives us a basis to work from. The rest of the guys have picked up on a lot of the possession we’ve worked on in the week.”

A couple of players got to express their own experiences during practice as well.

London Woodberry: “It’s pretty intense, but everybody is on the same page, and the direction we’re trying to push towards. The first few days were extremely vigorous, but that’s part of the job.”

Taylor Washington: “It’s extremely professional. From the way we enter the training facility, and the coaches mindset. From day one, we’ve been working on shape, structure. From a head start, it’s been phenomenal. I’m excited for the things to come.

Practice will ensue Friday and the following week, as the club continues to prepare for the preseason game against Atlanta United.

“What I can take, is that these are some intelligent lads,” said Smith.

“They don’t take long to understand what I’m asking. They’ve got the right physical and athletic qualities to get it done as well, which means we’ve recruited reasonably well.”

Nashville SC adds final fixture to preseason slate

Nashville SC has added one more game to its already busy preseason schedule. Luckily, it’s a game where the club will only have to travel a couple of hours down I-24 for.

The club announced Tuesday morning that it will face off against Chattanooga FC of the National Premier Soccer League March 10 at 7 p.m., one week before its first USL game against Louisville City FC.

“Nashville Soccer Club is excited that we have been invited to Chattanooga,” said Nashville SC CEO Court Jeske in a press release.

“There are diehard soccer fans throughout this state. Showcasing Nashville SC to fans outside of Middle Tennessee is something that is important to us. No doubt it will be a great atmosphere for our players and fans, a week before our inaugural season begins.”

There’s plenty of history between these two local clubs. Both played against each other numerous times from 2014-2016, when Nashville SC was a member of the NSPL. The two, along with Memphis City FC and Knoxville Force, competed for the Volunteer Shield. The Shield was awarded to the team who collected the most points from the four teams. Chattanooga FC took home the shield from 2014-2016, with Knoxville Force taking the shield this past season.

Tickets to the game are now available at Chattanooga FC’s website.