Old problems emerge for Nashville SC in Penn FC draw, but there’s time to fix

Although last night was the first time Nashville SC has ever faced off against Penn FC (formerly Harrisburg Islanders), the Boys in Gold still ran into a familiar foe: themselves.

A 0-0 draw Tuesday night in Pennsylvania does reward a point to both sides, and put Nashville in seventh place in the USL Eastern Conference, but the other two dropped points could have just as easily been Nashville’s to take home.

The most notable chances came from forward Robin Shroot, who started his first match since March 24 against Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Shroot put in a strong effort to get himself in front of goal. The execution was just a little off.

So now Nashville has only scored two goals in four away matches. A somewhat troubling statistic considering the club is still in the middle of a tough stretch of road games in this early season (three of the next four contests are away from First Tennessee Park).

The shots were there, with eight in total. However, only three of those were on target to test Penn FC goalkeeper Sean Lewis.

“The first half was competitive, but there were numerous mistakes from both teams. We had two or three chances that we didn’t convert,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“The second period we kept the ball and developed pressure better than we did in the first half. The amount of clear sights of goal we had as an away team. We were by far the better group. You don’t score, you can’t win. In front of goal, we fell short.”

There were some positives to pick up from this contest. Matt Pickens recorded his fourth shutout in six games, which leads all goalkeepers in the USL. Pickens finished the game with a pair of saves to preserve the goose egg.

So what needs to be done to fix the on-and-off offensive woes?

One easy fix is getting Alan Winn back into the starting lineup, who didn’t see any action during the match. Perhaps it was just because the club wanted to give Winn a chance to rest after three consecutive starts, but the long layoff upcoming for the club would have been a good opportunity for Winn to recharge his batteries, if they needed to be recharged at all. Nashville has scored at least one goal each time Winn has made an appearance in the starting lineup this season.

But the only real solution is getting plenty of reps in training in the coming days. Although it’s tough to replicate game-like scenarios in practice, getting down some shots on goal and working on the buildup to put goal scorers in the opportune position can only be beneficial.

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“We keep working in training,” said Smith.

“I can just keep trying to work our team into good areas and get good chances. I can give them new ideas, but they need to finish our chances. I am frustrated we haven’t scored. We can be encouraged by the chances, but I am disappointed to come away with just one point.”

Nashville SC will get an extended break beore its next match, as it travels up north to face New York Red Bulls II May 6.

Nashville SC Notebook: The Preseason Train Rolls On

The #DriveToNissan movement for Nashville SC continues to pick up steam as we inch closer and closer to the inaugural Nashville SC USL season opener at Nissan Stadium against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The drive saw pit stops in the Sunshine State, with a couple of preseason games in Bradenton and Orlando. Nashville grabbed two draws at the IMG Academy, with a 0-0 result against MLS side Chicago Fire and a 1-1 final against fellow USL side Ottawa Fury. Nashville also played against MLS side Orlando City SC behind closed doors.

So what can we gather from the trip to Florida? The most noteworthy is the forward combination the team is looking for.

It looks like Nashville SC is still trying to find the right combination up top in Gary Smith’s 3-5-2 (or 5-3-2, depeding on how you want to categorize the outside wingers who have roles both on offense and defense). Michael Cox and Robin Shroot got the starting nod against Chicago, with Ropapa Mensah and Tucker Hume coming in for relief in the second half. Hume lined up with fellow UNC alum Alan Winn to start against Ottawa, with Cox and Mensah getting second half action.

Each forward brings their own strength to the table. Winn is quick, Shroot presses the defenses well, Cox can hold the ball up well in traffic, Mensah is a solid finisher and a bit of a fox in the box, while Hume is a large target for long balls and crosses. Mensah, Cox, and Winn have all bagged goals this preseason so far, and the others have certainly caused the defenses they’ve faced some problems.

So what’s the best combination? It’s hard to say. The sample size for all five has been enough through practice and preseason games, but we won’t really know what works until we get to the games that actually count, where there’s added pressure to perform and put goals in the back of the net in order to collect points.

Other than that, it seems like the 3-5-2 formation will cause some trouble against fellow USL sides. The personel know how to effectively pass from the back and around the middle of the park in order to keep the defense off balance.

Kickoff times for all of Nashville SC games have also been released.

Nashville SC has also been pegged as a 75/1 favorite to win the USL championship, according to the William Hill US sports book.

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The Boys in Gold will play a scrimmage at Lipscomb University Thursday at 4 p.m. against the Bison. Those interested can purchase tickets here. The club will then travel up to Ohio to face FC Cincinnati.

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.”