With three wins, three draws and one loss, Nashville SC’s first USL preseason is in the history books. It’s a solid showing for a group of players who’ve only been together for a little more than a month.
“I’ve got 23 new guys, some of whom I have worked with before, but none of whom have been in Nashville or been a part of this organization before,” Nashville head coach Gary Smith said on the team’s website after the first practice on Jan. 29. “We all need to try and find some common ground very quickly.”
Let’s look back on the past 43 days since the team’s first official practice before the team plays its first regular season match on Saturday against Louisville City FC, the reigning USL champions.
Nashville’s first preseason had moments of magic – none bigger than the combination of Liam Doyle’s long ball, Tucker Hume’s flick, Alan Winn’s cross and Ropapa Mensah’s finish to score the team’s first professional goal against Atlanta United. First Tennessee Park erupted in joy as Atlanta’s fans went quiet. Mensah celebrated the accomplishment by proudly pointing to the Nashville crest on his jersey.
Another important milestone was Nashville’s first win – a 3-1 victory over Orlando City SC. Nashville scored three unanswered goals after going one behind in the closed door scrimmage. Goalkeeper C.J. Cochran said the comeback was a “great response after going a goal down early to a very strong Orlando City team.”
Martim Galvao’s goal against Lipscomb makes our highlight reel for what it represents to the player and the club. Galvao was the only player from Nashville’s PDL squad to be signed at the USL level. He became a fan favorite after scoring seven goals and tallying seven assists in 2017, which also creates pressure. Smith said the 23-year-old midfielder is “slowly but surely fitting into the group very well.”
Last but not least was the electric environment for Nashville’s first home game. Despite the downpour, more than 9,000 soccer fans witnessed the start of something special in Music City. If Nashville’s fans can turn out this type of performance on a consistent basis it will provide an edge for the Boys in Gold and create a difficult atmosphere for opposing teams.
It’s always important to win games, but the preseason is about experimenting with formations, player rotations and different combinations. Smith’s preferred formation has been a defensive 5-3-2 transitioning into an attacking 3-5-2, but the team also played in a 4-4-2 formation in the second half against both Atlanta and Chicago.
It looks like Smith’s plan A is the 3-5-2 and his backup plan will be a 4-4-2.
Every player on Nashville’s roster saw game action this preseason, with the exception of Charlie Dennis, who had season-ending knee surgery on Feb. 6. Ryan James saw the most minutes on the field, starting at both fullback positions and played at centerback against Chattanooga FC. It’s likely he will start at left fullback against Louisville City FC on Saturday.
Alan Winn could serve as Nashville’s super sub after playing at forward, attacking midfielder and on both sides of the field. The 2018 MLS SuperDraft selection will have an opportunity to grow his game at Nashville.
Smith has kept player evaluations close to his vest, but we will learn a lot when the 18-player gameday roster is announced on Saturday.