With only a couple of weeks left in the USL regular season, the pressure for Nashville SC’s push for the playoffs is certainly on.
Their 11-game unbeaten streak earlier this season now seems like a distant memory and has been replaced with their recent run of form, with the Boys in Gold having only picked up two wins in their last eight matches. Now, they welcome a Charleston Battery team searching for the opportunity to host a playoff match in the first round.
The Battery are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference with 49 points, but can jump as high as second with a win Saturday against Nashville, and either draws or losses from Louisville City and Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Nashville SC knows it must be better on converting its chances, an area it has struggled with all season and seems to not be improving on despite some glimmer of hope earlier in the year in that department.
“There are too many moments that are squandered, and it’s really been a feature of our group all year,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith after the match Tuesday.
“We’ve made enough moments throughout games. We’ve limited teams to enough moments at the other end. But, the big difference tonight was that they were clinical when it mattered, or we made a mistake, and they didn’t.”
For those who need a refresher, here’s how the encounter between those clubs occurred earlier this year.
Team: Charleston Battery
- Affiliation: None
- Stadium: MUSC Health Stadium (5,100)
- MUSC Health Stadium is a soccer-specific facility 18 miles from downtown Charleston
- The stadium is modeled after lower-division English soccer stadiums and features an on-site pub, called “The Three Lions”
- Coach: Mike Anhaeuser (14th season)
- Anhaeuser is a member of the USL Hall of Fame and has guided Charleston to two league titles (2010 and 2012)
- Anhaeuser played five seasons for Charleston (1994-98), appearing in 115 matches and scoring two goals
- First Season: 1993 (USISL)
- 2017 Finish: 13-9-8 (lost in Conference Semis to Louisville, 1-0)
- Best-ever Finish: 2012 (USL Champions)
- Supporters’ Group: The Regiment
- Three Fun Facts:
- Charleston was the last second-division side to make the finals of the U.S. Open Cup, losing to D.C. United, 2-1
- In addition to its USL title in 2012, Charleston won the USL A-League in 1996 and 2003
- Despite ranking in the bottom half of the league in passing accuracy, Charleston had the third-most efficient attack in 2017
Keep in mind, Charleston leading goalscorer Atualla Guerra is out for Saturday’s contest, as he’s serving the final game of a three-game suspension. Joe Kusminsky will be a rigorous test for a Nashville offense that has struggled to convert its chances, as Kusminsky has 11 clean sheets, which is tied for third best in the league with Pittsburgh’s Daniel Lynd.
Here’s what Nashville SC coach Gary Smith had to say about the match.
“I think first of all, it is probably the most important game of the season, just purely in the fact that the games are getting scratched off. We still got four games of the final six at home, but we have to start taking advantage of it. I think the game will be conducted in a very similar fashion as the Tampa Bay game. They play with a back three, slightly different 4-3 in front of them, but I think a lot of their game is very similar to Tampa, they will be tough to break down. They’ll be competitive, and they have individuals on the counter attack who are very bright, and I’m sure they will be difficult to cope with on certain instances. I would say from Tuesday night’s game, though the result did not go our way, we’re still seeing some encouraging things, some terrific chances that we should really do better on. Without sounding like a broken record, it really is the patience at this point and taking advantage of those things at the moment. The guys appreciate the magnitude of those situations and what they are getting into on this final stretch. We will certainly see a group, as always, goes out there and gives it everything they’ve got. I think this Charleston, thing, while tough to play against, is certainly beatable for us.”
Saturday’s match can be watched locally on MyTV30 or streamed on ESPN+, with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. You can also listen to the match on ESPN 94.9 Game 2 and in Spanish on El Jefe 96.7 FM.
Andy Simmons, Golden Goal
MOTM: Justin Davis
Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC outshoots Charleston, but has less shots on target.
Jonathan Slape, Speedway Soccer
Goalscorer: Ropapa Mensah
MOTM: Michael Reed
Fearless Forecast: after a scoreless first half, Nashville scorers early in the second but gives up a goal for the draw. Nashville again fails to convert several big chances.
Ben Wright, Speedway Soccer
Fearless Forecast: Nashville has the majority of clear cut chances but can’t finish.
John Sloop, Speedway Soccer
2-1 Nashville SC
Goalscorers: Ropapa Mensah, Matt LaGrassa
MOTM: Ropapa Mensah
Fearless Forecast: The Roadies feel a new level of pride in the community they’ve built with the successful singing of their new song