Nashville defender Ryan James controls the ball against against Atlanta United FC at First Tennessee Park in Nashville. / Nashville SC
Ropapa Mensah may have scored the first goal in Nashville’s history against Atlanta United, but Ryan James was the “unsung hero” of the game.
Nashville head coach Gary Smith gave the Canadian fullback this accolade after delivering an impressive athletic performance against one of the MLS’ best teams last season.
A strong midfield leads to success
Lobo Moloto fires a shot on goal for the Swope Park Rangers. / USL
Midfielders have one of the toughest roles on the pitch and usually cover the most ground every match. They have to play both ways setting up the attack and creating pressure on defense.
The best midfielders control the game both offensively and defensively through ball possession, accurate passing, and on-field positioning. A player’s positioning can easily be overlooked because it doesn’t end up on the scoresheet, but it is crucial for midfielders to find open spaces on offense and fill gaps on defense.