Smith: “I think you will see a different group” as team develops

As Nashville Soccer Club rebounds from its season-opening 2-0 loss at Louisville City FC, its coach is optimistic about the squad’s continued development.

“In four months’ time, I think you will see a different group, and that will be due to results — hopefully on a positive standpoint — that will bring us confidence,” Nashville SC Head Coach Gary Smith said after training Monday.*

*Thanks to Nashville SC for compiling Smith’s quotes, as the Golden Goal team wasn’t able to break away for Monday’s practice

The Boys in Gold were outshot by the defending champions but held their own in possession, splitting the stat with the Bourbon Boys. However, the team lacked the ability to finish in the final third, mustering only two shots on target and allowing two second-half goals to one of the most dangerous attacks in the USL.

“I can hope there is going to be a reaction from a group of players that have a tremendous amount of talent, individualism and creativity and a lot of pride,” Smith said. “They’re disappointed and frustrated from this past weekend and they’re going to want to make that right.”

What’s the key to fixing what ailed the team in the initial match? It’s simple, according to the coach. It’s about building chemistry through adversity.

“The players have not experienced much as a group,” said Smith. “They have to build that connection and get through adversity and experience defeat so they know what that’s like, and then we’ll start to find out what their reaction is going to be.”

“Only through the good and bad experiences can a group grow.”

For a look at how each player performed during Nashville SC’s season-opening loss, be sure to read Speedway Soccer Pod’s player ratings.

A stiff road test against the cup holders is one kind of challenge, but Saturday the Boys in Gold face a different opportunity: pleasing more than 16,000 home fans at Nissan Stadium in the home opener against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

“It’s going be in front of what we hope is a big crowd, opening home fixture, a wonderful venue and an opportunity to really get ourselves back on track,” Smith said. “For a team that is playing their first game at home, we are going to need [fan support]. We’re very much excited to have such a great base of supporters and it’s their opportunity to make this a great opening and historical game in Nashville.”

Other Observations from Saturday’s Loss

Nashville needs a talisman

Nashville possessed the ball for the same amount of time as Louisville. The Boys in Gold attempted more passes for higher accuracy than did the defending champs. They also had a higher completion percentage inside the opponents’ half. [Here are the stats we’re referencing, by the way, courtesy of the USL. The USL’s match center is a great source for advanced stats and the diagrams you’ll see below.]

The difference: Louisville made theirs count.

Lebo Moloto did his best to create positive action, but he missed on a couple chances and his teammates up top didn’t consistently threaten. Five of Nashville’s eight shots came from outside the box, whereas nine of Louisville’s 12 efforts were from inside the area.

Here’s a look at that shot map, courtesy of the USL. Nashville’s shots are in green on the left. Of note: Look at Moloto’s impact. He attempted half of NSC’s shots.

Shot Map_NSC_LOU

Cox, Shroot and reserves such as Hume and Mensah need to make things happen for this team; otherwise, the Boys in Gold are wasting an experienced, stable midfield. Cox won only 3 of 13 duels, and Shroot lost more (8) than he won (6). Nashville’s forwards need to win the ball in dangerous areas to give their team a chance for sustained success.

Slim Pickens

Matt Pickens deserves credit for keeping Nashville in the match. He kept the game scoreless with a tremendous point-blank save in the 10th minute, throwing himself in front of a deflected free kick to keep the ball out of the net.

Louisville’s forwards touched the ball in the box 10 times, while Nashville’s front line only managed four touches inside the area — take a look at the forwards’ touchmap below for more context [Nashville’s offense moves right to left]. Pickens and center back Liam Doyle capably held off the Citizens for 56 minutes before the team conceded.

Touchmap_NSC_LOU

Active wings

Want proof that Gary Smith plans to employ his wingbacks in dangerous positions? Take a look at the heat map for Ryan James, Kosuke Kimura and reserve Taylor Washington.

Heatmap_LOU_NSC

Again, keep in mind that Nashville is moving right to left in the diagram. Look how active James is along the left attacking flank. Kimura camps out shy of midfield a little more often, but both display impressive range. Of note: Kimura’s presence in the corner, which suggests he’s inverting past the forward to send in crosses. Don’t forget he and James nearly connected on one such cross in the 25th minute [James’s dot deep inside the area].

Hume-mongous Impact

Tucker Hume entered the game for Robin Shroot in the 59th minute and made as much impact in his third of the match as some players contributed for the entire 90. He won five aerial duels — more than any Nashville player — and arguably had Nashville’s best chance when he nearly headed a Justin Davis corner kick past the Louisville keeper in the 90th minute. Hume won more duels — seven — than any of his teammates except Ryan James (10).

If he keeps it up, he’ll use his 6-foot-4 frame to earn himself a starting gig.

Man of the Match

It’s Lebo Moloto, the only Nashville player who was incisive enough to regularly threaten Louisville. The attacking midfielder led the team in shots and was the most accurate passer, completing 91 percent of his passes.

Terrible turf

Any observation from this match needs to be tempered with a chat about the playing surface. Louisville Slugger Field was patchier than cell coverage inside an elevator — and it’s wasn’t much larger than an elevator, either.

Louisville is used to playing inside its phone booth. The Boys in Purple were 15-2-3 at home last year if you include playoff games, and they’re unbeaten in 10 straight home matches dating back to last August. They’ve scored multiple goals in six of those contests. That’s hard to counter, especially when you remember the team returned 10 of its 11 starters from last year’s title team.

The field will be solid against Pittsburgh. Now, Nashville supporters hope the overall team effort is on firmer footing, too.

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