CONCACAF announces plans for Gold Cup return to Nissan Stadium

Nissan Stadium will once again be a part of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, as it was announced Thursday afternoon the venue will host a game in the 2019 competition.

The home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans is one of 15 venues in the United States, Central America, and the Carribean that will host games for the tournament next year. Nashville joins Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Minnesota, Dallas, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Denver as host cities for the Gold Cup.

It’s been apparent over the past couple of years that Nissan Stadium has been worthy of hosting notable soccer matches. The venue drew 47,622 fans during the United States Men’s National Team 1-1 draw against Panama in a 2017 Gold Cup group stage match. There was also a fairly sizeable crowds for newly-crowned Premier League Champions Manchester City’s friendly against Tottenham Hotspur last year, which brought in over 56,000 fans. Those two matches set records for highest-attended soccer matches in the state of Tennessee.

“We’re thrilled to welcome the Gold Cup back to Nashville next year,” Nashville Mayor David Briley said.

“Soccer is growing and thriving here, and CONCACAF and its teams and fans will get the same warm welcome all our visitors receive – plus a lot of loud cheers and chants ringing through Nissan Stadium. The Gold Cup will be another great showcase for ‘the beautiful game’ in our beautiful city.”

Nashville SC teased that the Gold Cup could be making a return to Music City when it tweeted out this yesterday.

Nashville SC drew 18,922 fans to its match against Pittsburgh Riverhounds March 23 at Nissan Stadium, which was the highest-attended match in the United States that particular weekend.

Which day and what round Nissan Stadium will host have not yet been determined.

 

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.

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.

 

History awaits at Nissan Stadium, so what does Nashville SC need to do to pick up points?

At long last, Nashville SC is mere hours away from hosting its inaugural USL season opener. The event was in such high demand, it had to be moved to a bigger venue. Now, Nissan Stadium prepares to host a match between the home town Boys in Gold and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The opponent: The Riverhounds are led by new coach Bob Lilley. Lilley previously coached at the Rochester Rhinos in two previous stints (2009-2011, 2014-2017) before making his way down to West Pennsylvania. Prior to his arrival, the Riverhounds went 8-12-12 last season. However, the Riverhounds have somewhat reshaped with the arrival of Lilley and are an opponent that should not be underestimated.

“I honestly don’t think you can look at records from last year. Pittsburgh didn’t have the best of seasons and there’s a lot of changes there,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“New coach, six or seven players brought over from Rochester with him that will understand his style and appreciate what the coach wants out of the team.” “They’re a side that’s starting their season. This is their first game, bye-weekend last weekend, and any team that come in a brand new season has aspirations of doing well. In the first game, if you’re not going to get a group of players that are going to give everything, they’re going to chase, shut down, they’re going to fight for every ball and they’re going to want to stay in the game. They’re going to, as much as possible, walk away from it with something.”

So what does Nashville SC need to do in order to pick up its first points of the season? Here are a couple of things.

1.  Know the terrain:

Nissan Stadium is easily going to be one of the best fields both teams will play on all season. Having practiced on the field already, Nashville SC will have an advantage in that department in knowing how fast the ball will travel on the pitch. The pitch is also very wide, which also benefits the style of play Nashville SC wants to execute in getting the wing players involved in the offense.

“The pitch is massive. I think that suits our style well,” said defender/winger Taylor Washington.

Speaking of wing play…..

2. Keep Kosuke Kimura involved: 

Kimura was Nashville’s most effective player on offense during last week’s game against Louisville. He was able to execute 10 long passes, second behind goalkeeper Matt Pickens, with most of those long passes being crosses. He also kept Louisville defenders on edge with his footwork and quickness. With such a wide pitch to work with in this home opener, it would be wise to get Kimura as many touches as possible so he can help create opportunities with his crosses.

3. Great wall of Pickens: 

Despite giving up two goals in his Nashville SC regular season debut, Matt Pickens had a strong game. He commanded the backfield well, was strong at reading the crosses, and knew exactly when to stand his ground. He’ll once again need to be a wall between the posts, and a general in the backfield.

4. Forwards need heavy pressure:

The forward conundrum for Nashville SC seems to have carried over from the preseason to last week’s game against Louisville. Smith revealed that he could do some tinkering with the forward line for this game, but did not go into details. Whoever lines up at the top will need to pressure Pittsburgh’s backline and force them to make bad passes out of the backfield, thus leading to Nashville possessions and possible shots on goal.

5. Feed off the crowd: 

There’s no doubt that the atmosphere at Nissan Stadium will be electric come Saturday, and Nashville SC must feed off that. Depending on what happens in MLS this weekend, there’s a chance this game being the biggest soccer crowd in the United States over the weekend. The possibility of breaking Sacramento Republic’s attendance mark of 20,231 for the USL unaugural home opener record is still in play, with over 18,000 tickets sold so far according to the club.

“The atmosphere will play a huge part with us on the field. We have over 17,000 people coming, and I’m excited for the boys to put on a good show for (the fans),” said Washington.

“It’s not everyday you get to play at Nissan Stadium in front of 17,000 fans. Even playing in front of 10,000 at First Tennessee is a great opportunity, but there is something special when your cleats hit that metal here.”

Prediction: 1-1. The home field advantage and atmosphere will have a lot to do with how well Nashville plays and controls the tempo of the game. However, I still think this team is trying to figure out what works best as far as the combination of forwards go, thus hindering them from picking up all three points.

Nashville SC notebook: Putting the Louisville City loss behind, with a chance at history this weekend

Nashville SC’s opening weekend in the United Soccer League could have been better, but it also could have been worse.

A 2-0 loss to defending champions Louisville City FC on less than ideal pitch conditions is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s not the end of the world.

Luke Spencer scored in 56th minute on a header, and Niall McCabe doubled the tally in the 66th minute off a deflected save from Matt Pickens trying to stop a low cross. The team will be looking over the tape of the game later, and assess what needs to be done.

“The conclusion is a really simplistic one,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith, who breifly spoke with the media Monday morning.

“I though we competed for large portions of the game very well. The big difference we can imagine, is that Louisville are a very good side. They’ve managed that field, and have won a championship, and are very comfortable in the way they play there. I think, at vital moments, they were able to make it count.”

A couple of takeaways from Saturday’s game:

-Matt Picken was awesome. The experienced goalie knew exactly when to come out for crosses and when to hold his ground when those dangerous balls were played into the area. To the surprise of no one, he’s going to be  a big reason why Nashville SC are competitive in games.

-The forward play from Nashville SC has to be able to test the opposing keeper. Now, a lot of this might have to do with the tight dimensions of Louisville’s pitch, but there weren’t a lot of really creative chances from the front line. For my money, Kosuke Kimura was the best player on offense for Nashville. He made the Louisville defenders on the flank fairly uncomfortable at times with his quickness and ability to play lurking crosses. Other than him, Nashville was fairly limited on offense, only recording two shots on target.

-With such a good preseason under his belt, It really surprised me when Alan Winn was not chosen to come off the bench in order to try and get something going on the offensive side. His speed and energy off the bench might have caused panic in Louisville’s defense in a game where Nashville was already lacking any explosive play.

Looking forward to Pittsburgh: The Riverhounds will now come to town to face Nashville SC in Music City’s home opener at Nissan Stadium. Despite only two seasons with an above .500 record in the past decade in various USL leagues, Pittsburgh is not a team Nashville SC cannot overlook.

“(There’s been) a lot of changes on the staff, as they have began to piece together their roster for this year,” said Smith.

Pittsburgh’s current coach, Bob Lilley, is beginning his first season with the Riverhounds after spending the past couple of years with the Rochester Rhinos in two different stints (2009-2011, 2014-2017). The Riverhounds did not play in a USL match during the opening weekend, but scrimmaged Villanova instead. They lost that scrimmage 1-0.

Nashville inching close to possible record USL crowd: Of course, the big news leading up to this week is if Nashville SC will break the USL’s inaugural home opener attendance record at 20,231. According to the club, around 16,000 tickets have already been sold for the match, which will take place at Nissan Stadium.

“There’s already a wonderful basis and foundational level for tickets sold. I’m sure this week, leading into the game, it’s going to switch a lot of the local fan base and supporters within the city towards the event,” said Smith.

“There’s a fabulous chance that we’re not only going to have a great crowd, but we’re going to be close to that number. Nevertheless, even if it doesn’t, I’m sure we’ll have tremendous support. For a side that’s going to be playing their first game at home, we’re going to need that.”

You can purchase tickets to Nashville SC’s home opener here.

Gary Smith sends message to NSC fans before USL opener

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith admits he has no idea how tomorrow’s USL season opener against reigning league champions Louisville City FC will go. He’s not even sure how the entire campaign will pan out.

One thing he is sure of though, is that the supporters and fans of Nashville SC can be proud of the team that will go out there each and every week to give it their all.

“Where we’ll be, what position, how many games we win or lose, I don’t know the answers to that. There will be a lot of factors that determine that, in every team.  There’s all of sorts of factors that are out of my control. What I can tell the fans is that this is a team they can be proud of, be excited to watch, and they can look forward to every home game,” said Smith.

There’s been a certain buzz in the air around practice this week. The players and coaches can feel it, as they approach uncharted territory the weekend where points can either be picked up or dropped.

“It’s one of those things where, the weeks have gone quick. You want them to go quick when you have three points on the line,” said defender Liam Doyle.

“This Saturday, it starts for real. I think we’ve been ready for that for awhile.”

Smith, of course, is no stranger to opening season weekends.

Even with a brand new team, his philosophies and how he approaches a new season remain true.

“The fact that we are a brand new group has brought up one or two little issues I haven’t encountered. The reality is, during the preseason, you’re building a good, physical foundation, and preparing the lads for a long season,” said Smith.

“You’re also trying to get them into some sort of form and confidence about their play. With regards to the three qualities I’ve just mentioned, we’re in a good place. The challenge for every team is, can you get into a rythmn quickly? But, every team that’s kicking off this weekend will feel the exact same way. We’ve prepared well, and done as much as we can.”

Match preview: As mentioned, Louisville City are the defending USL champions from last season with 62 points in the regular season, and look to be one of the favorites again this year. The club returns 10 of last year’s 11 starters, including captain Paolo DelPiccolo, keeper Greg Ranjitsingh, defender Kyle Smith and striker George Davis IV.

“They are a very tough nut to crack. They have some good qualities in that group, and it will be a really tough challenge. If you’re going to do well, in any league, you’ve got to play the best teams at some point. We have one of the stiffest teams in our opening game. We’re ready for that,” said Smith.

615 Prediction: 2-0 Louisville City FC.

This game is a great opening test for the Boys in Gold, but the caliber of opponent who has the silverware in their corner, is hungry for a repeat and looking to get off to a fast start might be too much to handle for them.

Kickoff for the match is slated for 2 p.m. CT. Fans not traveling to Louisville can tune in to MyTV30 to watch the match.