Nashville SC hands Louisville its second-straight loss

Nashville SC sent a message to the USL on Mother’s Day that nothing comes easy at First Tennessee Park.

The Boys in Gold improved their home record to 2-0-1 with an impressive 2- 0 win against Louisville City FC. It’s Louisville second-straight loss after going unbeaten in its first six games.

It was Lebo Moloto who got Nashville SC on the board first in the 39th minute. Ropapa Mensah collected a long ball and beat a defender on the edge of the left side of the 18. He passed a low ball on the ground that both Matt LaGrassa and Moloto had their eye on, but it was Moloto who got the first-time shot off that beat the Louisville keeper. It’s LaGrassa’s first goal this season.

The second half started very chippy for both sides. Bradley Bourgeois made a run into the box that resulted in a collision with Greg Ranjitsingh as he was leaping up to collect a cross. Ranjitsingh’s back smacked up against the post from the collision, resulting in Bourgeois to receive a yellow card.

Bourgeois was one of three Nashville SC players to receive a booking this match. Liam Doyle and Taylor Washington were also marked down in the referee’s handbook.

As the match progressed, Nashville decided to lay back and absorb pressure, continuing to attack at times when needed.

Lebo Moloto turned in a brace and put the game on ice when he headed in Michael Reed’s cross from the left side of the box in the 84th minute. It’s the first time this season that a Nashville SC player has scored twice in a single game.

Quotes:

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith:

“For the first today, I think you’ve seen, against one of the top sides and under very difficult conditions, some character in this group. We saw this as a bit of a benchmark.  We’ve endured one or two difficulties. We have certainly not been at our best, but I do believe we’ll continue to improve. But, we might have just created a serious rivalry. They’re a top-side, and I’m absolutely delighted that we beat them.”

Lebo Moloto:

“I feel like I think we’ve come a long way. Had a couple of conversation with Michael Reed this week and one of the things that he said was ‘hey, we’re not a new team anymore.’ So, I think everyone’s realized that we’re not a new team. We’re a team that’s here to challenge for the number one spot, you know? I think we’ve come a long way from that first game to where we are today.”

Other notes:

-Matt Pickens finishes the game with his fifth shutout of the season, tying him with two other players in the USL for the most so far this season.

-The official attendance was announced as 8,610.

-Nashville’s defense was able to bottle up Louisville well in the first half, holding them to only one shot on target in the first half, and four the entire game.

-The win puts Nashville in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, with 12 points on the year.

Nashville SC now turns it’s attention to the local Nashville derby, where it’ll face Inter Nashville in the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday at Vanderbilt Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Reddit reacts to Nashville SC’s draw with New York Red Bulls II

Yesterday, I was out and about kayaking. So as you can imagine, I wasn’t able watch Nashville SC’s 1-1 draw against New York Red Bulls II.

Luckily, we live in 2018, where information regarding an event is easily digested and can be reacted to within a second for millions to consume. So, like many of the things in my life, I decided to turn to Reddit and the official thread for this match to get some clarity on how this thing panned out.

Here are my findings.

Clearly, this comment is in response to Ropapa Mensah’s goal scored mere minutes into the match when the Red Bulls back line fell asleep with the ball. It’s nice to see Mensah becoming a threat to opposing defenses and being able to finish in front of goal when an opportunity like this presents itself.

Ok, what’s next?

So after perusing through social media after my expedition, it seems like this game wasn’t a top priority for those in the Harrison, New Jersey area. The attendance number says there were 652 at the stadium, but those can sometimes be grossly inflated.

I honestly can’t fault them, though. I’m not sure there was burning desire for Red Bulls fans to come out and watch their USL team when New York City is about 30 minutes away when there’s a million other things to do on a Sunday afternoon in the city. Not saying it’s not important to them, but I just don’t think it ranks fairly high in the hierarchy of things to do in that area.

Next.

So Nashville could have easily won this game with multiple chances in the final minutes, and for most of the second half as well. The best chance came with two minutes to go in regulation on this brilliant through ball that led to a shot that hit the post.

Hair-pulling, indeed.

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A fair point. With nine total shots and eight inside the box, Nashville looks like it really put the Red Bulls on their heels. Hopefully, we’ll soon stop regurgitating the notion of “the goals will come,” and the three points will begin to add up for this club still searching for consistent offensive footing.

“We’re still trying to find our identity and certainly trying to build on the experiences that we have,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“The first half I thought New York were terrific. They played at a great pace and asked a lot of questions of us. What I was most pleased about was our reaction at halftime. We looked resilient and showed aptitude and created multiple opportunities to win the game. Unfortunately, our biggest problem is hitting the back of the net. We did a marvelous job of holding a dangerous team to just one goal, but we leave with mixed emotions.”

Nashville can now turn its attention to a Mother’s Day date with Louisville City FC at First Tennessee Park, as the boys in gold look to avenge the 2-0 loss at the beginning of the season.

 

 

 

 

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 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 ends preseason with a bang, but now the real journey begins

Well that was fun, wasn’t it?

Nashville SC took a quick trip down I-24 and were able to handle business against Chattanooga FC, winning 3-1 and putting a bow on its preseason.

Here are the highlights from the Nashville goals.

It’s the perfect result for The Boys in Gold to cap off their inaugural preseason, even if the result means little to nothing.

“It’s always nice to get a win going into the regular season,” said midfielder Matt LaGrassa, who scored the first of Nashville SC’s three goals on the evening.

“You know, obviously we will be facing opponents coming up, that on paper will be better than Chattanooga. Hopefully, we can take the win and carry the momentum forward.”

There’s no denying that since the rainy afternoon at First Tennessee Park against Atlanta United, Nashville SC has improved drastically. The chemistry is starting to form, and Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith is figuring out who plays best in what position in his formation.

This latest match saw a mix of different players who have been deemed “first” and “second” teamers in the starting 11, with Tucker Hume and Ropapa Mensah as the two forwards. The combination seemed to pay dividends, as both are strong-bodied players that can outmuscle most defenders and win long balls in the air.

We also saw preseason wonderkid Alan Winn make the move to attacking center midfield, after seeing lots of time up top. That move might be a foreshadowing of who Smith really trusts in orchestrating the offense when the ball makes its way towards that part of the pitch.

But now its time to find out what we’ve all been waiting for. How will this team do in its first regular season campaign? There will be no better way to figuring out that question than with an opener against defending USL champions Louisville City FC.

Of course, one match at the beginning of the year won’t determine everything, as Smith points out. The term, “baptism by fire,” certainly does come into play for the upcoming match.

“If we are going to have a test, a bit of a benchmark, then there is none better than Louisville,” said Smith.

“The season can’t be won or lost next weekend. We have fared well in the games leading up to next weekend. I see no reason why the group I have in that locker room will not turn up and perform. Everybody will be frothing at the mouth waiting for it, and it’s been a long time coming.”

 

 

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 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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