Nashville SC welcomes one of the most dynamic attacks in American soccer to First Tennessee Park Saturday. But it has one ambition of its own against Atlanta United: to give the fans a show.
“What I can tell you is this: The guys will be well-organized, prepared and really hungry to do well,” said Boys in Gold coach Gary Smith after Friday’s training session. “The guys who go out on the field will give everything they have and they’ll make life incredibly difficult for a good Atlanta side.”
“It’s the first game and I don’t know how much we can read into a result, but of course we want to give them something to make them come back,” said forward Robin Shroot, “particularly if we can relate to them in the stands and actually excite them.”
Atlanta figures to bring its stars to Music City, which will provide a stiff test for a squad that has been together for less than two weeks. But Smith says he won’t just be content with a solid effort: He’s after a positive outcome.
“I don’t want to lose any game. I don’t think anybody should,” said Smith. “The moment that I say to the guys, ‘the result doesn’t count,’ their attitude and focus changes and we have a completely different action toward the game. The result does matter.”
“We want to be exciting, we want to bring energy and we want to bring a winning environment at home,” said defender Bradley Bourgeois. “You always want to win at home and give the fans the best showing you can.”
In order to provide that showing, the Boys in Gold will have to come together quickly following a very short lead time, since training only started January 29. Is that enough time to build a cohesive team?
“Yeah, I think so,” said Smith. “In terms of being competitively ready, absolutely. In terms of seeing the full scope of what these groups are capable of, then of course not.”
Smith likes the early chemistry he has seen from his group, and his players agree.
“The players have shown that they’ve built a quick rapport,” said Smith. “Will it be complete? No. But definitely enough for us to go out there and not just compete well, but give a good showing.”
“Yeah, you just strap the boots on, make sure the kit numbers are right and try to get the ball from A to B, as simple as that,” Shroot joked. “Of course, it’s modern-day football and the demand is like that. People want to see a game, especially against MLS opposition, so we have to be ready.”
For the majority of the media portion of training, the team walked through 11-on-11 situations. While it may not be fully indicative of tomorrow’s team sheet, here’s how the purported first team lined up:
Defense [right to left]: Kimura, Bourgeois, Woodberry, Davis, James
Midfield [right to left]: LaGrassa, Moloto, Reed
Forward: Cox, Shroot
Team officials emphasized not to read too much into the personnel or alignment, so we’ll make that qualifier once more. But since that group played together for the vast majority of the session, we figured we would pass that along.
Sketchy Weather, But a Sunny Outlook
The forecast calls for rain tomorrow, which threatens to literally dampen the festivities at Nashville SC’s sold-out inaugural match. But it won’t temper the excitement the coaches and players feel to take the pitch against someone wearing a different color.
“I’m not sure it’s conditions any of the Nashville public are not used to,” said Smith. “I think for everyone at the club, we all want to make sure this is a wonderful occasion. It’s almost a cutting of the ribbon, a grand opening if you like. We want to make sure on the field we give the fans a good viewing of some of the things we’re capable of.”
“I think it’s very exciting for everyone,” Shroot said. “For all the players and staff, but I think most importantly the community of Nashville, who have been without soccer for so long. I think that’s the biggest driving force here — that we can be all do it and be part of something together.”
Thoughts on New Additions
On the eve of the friendly, Nashville pulled a surprise — the announcement of three new signings, all of them young players with the potential to help the squad. You can read full details about them here. Smith had plenty to say about each newcomer.
Forward Alan Winn: “I’m very pleased to say that we’ve added Alan Winn, an extremely talented individual, as an attacker wide on either side, as a full striker or a secondary striker alongside somebody probably a little bit more physically capable. I think we’re gonna see some very nice things from Alan. He looks very bright running with the ball and trying to commit defenders.”
Keeper Micah Bledsoe: “Micah comes in as our least experienced goalkeeper at the moment, but a very talented one. He has a background with Louisville, he knows exactly what a very competitive and professional environment is about. I’m delighted to add him as, what would be at the moment, strength to that goalkeeping group.”
Midfielder Ian McGrath: “We’ve added Ian as some cover in that defensive area. He’s a very big, strong lad and aerially dominant. He’s played a lot of his soccer in that six role for his college group and I certainly wouldn’t be unhappy to see him in there at certain times. But more so as cover in a defensive role.”
An Assist from ABC?
A reporter asked Shroot why he chose to play for Nashville when given the chance. His initial [facetious] response? The TV show “Nashville.”
“My girlfriend is really big on seeing the replica of Nashville on TV,” said Shroot. “I didn’t really have a say in the matter. That was the reason, I guess.”
Shroot emphasized that he was completely joking. His real reason? The confluence of soccer opportunity and the city’s growth.
“To be part of a new soccer movement in a thriving city doesn’t come around for people very often,” Shroot said. “Seeing the Manchester City-Tottenham game on TV and there’s like 60,000 people in the stadium here, you have to read something into that. If they’re willing to come and watch that, then hopefully even if we can nearly match that, that’s like 50,000 people at home and that’s powerful.”
Live Stream Details
The team announced Friday that it will show the match live on its website and on the team’s Facebook page. So Atlanta fans and displaced Nashville fans, have no fear — you’ll be able to see the match anywhere. Local viewers can watch the match on MyTV30.