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 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.”

What’s next for Nashville SC in the coming weeks?

Now that Nashville SC has basically completed the process of contrusting its roster for the foreseeable future, it’s time to look at what lies ahead for the club in the coming weeks before the exibition game against Atlanta United Feb 10 and the USL season opener March 17 at Louisville City FC.

The roster count currently stands at 23, with two goalies, eight defenders, nine midfielders, and four forwards. The maximum number of players a team can have on a roster in the USL is 30, but it seems like the club will stay around 23.

Nashville SC now has two weeks to prepare for it’s first game against against Atlanta United. The club announced this morning that it has partnered with Ensworth High School and will use the school’s facilities for training.

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with the Nashville Soccer Club to host its new training facility at Ensworth,” said Ensworth Head of School David Braemer in a press release.

“Having a professional soccer team in Nashville is a tremendous asset to our city, and we are excited to play a role in supporting the team.”

The training grounds at Ensworth will certainly allow Nashville SC to put in some quality practices as the team looks to build chemistry with one another.

It’s still unclear about what Nashville SC’s starting lineup will look like come Feb 10, but a few of the more experienced players, such as Matt Pickens, Justin Davis, and Michael Reed, will probably get the nod in whatever formation is rolled out that day.

“I needed a core of (experienced) players, and most coaches feel a similar way,” said Smith

“If you’ve worked with individuals before, and you believe in those individuals that are capable of fulfilling what you’re asking of them in a system, then they fit the mold.”

Smith also expressed at Saturday’s open tryouts when he spoke to the media the challenge he faces when building the right system that will fit his squad. He does think, however, that if the team can get through the tough opening road stretch of the USL season, then they’ll be set up for possible success moving forward.

“For the group now,  starting off well and having a three or four game opening  where we can put some points on the board, and add to what I believe will be a productive opening and coming together of players. They have to build a repore, a system that suits them. That’s not easy to do with a brand new group,” said Smith.