Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC vs. Charlotte Independence

Two teams from Tennessee will be vying for victories this weekend in Charlotte.

Now, no one is sure how the Tennessee Vols will look under new head coach Jeremy Pruitt just yet, but those in the Volunteer State already have a good idea of what Nashville SC is as a team and is capable of after almost an entire season under their belt.

The Boys in Gold are still looking to make a strong push for the playoffs, and will now look to pick up more points at Charlotte Independence Saturday.

It’s been a rough go for the Jacks lately, who haven’t won a game since their 1-0 victory against Nashville mere months ago. Injuries have plagued the side, and now they sit way out of the playoff picture in 12th place, and will look to play spoiler to those still in the mix for the postseason.

Nashville, meanwhile, is coming off its best offensive performance of the season with a 4-0 shellacking of Richmond Tuesday. The Boys in Gold currently sit in seventh place in the USL Eastern Conference with nine games to go.

Team: Charlotte Independence

  • Affiliation: Colorado Rapids
  • Stadium: Sportsplex at Matthews (2,300)
    • Charlotte’s stadium is the anchor of a 12-field soccer complex southeast of downtown
    • The team made its debut there in 2017
  • Coach: Mike Jeffries (5th season)
    • Jeffries coached the MLS’s Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) from 2001 to 2003
    • He won the Hermann trophy in 1983, which is given to the nation’s top male college soccer player
    • Jeffries made three appearances for the U.S. national team in the mid-1980s
  • First Season: 2014
  • 2017 Finish: 13-10-9 (Lost in Conference Quarterfinals to Rochester, 2-1)
  • Best-ever Finish: 2016 (14-8-8, Conference Quarterfinals)
  • Supporters’ Groups: Jack’s Militia, QC Royals, Slogic Army
  • Three Fun Facts:
    1. The team is named after the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a document that some claim was the first such declaration in the American colonies (although some historians dispute this)
    2. Charlotte was one of the best teams in possession in 2017, ranking third in passes and passing accuracy
    3. The Independence had six players sent off in 2017 — second-most in the league

Here’s what Nashville SC coach Gary Smith had to say about tomorrow’s match.

 

Fearless Forecasts

Andy Simmons, Golden Goal

1-0 Nashville

Goal: Tucker Hume

MOTM: Matt Pickens

Forecast: Matt Pickens has a USL Save of the Week candidate.

 

Wes Boling, Golden Goal

1-1

Goal: Lebo Moloto

MOTM: Moloto

Forecast: Charlotte will score in the first half, and Nashville will equalize late.

 

John Sloop, Speedway Soccer Pod

2-2.

Goals: Tucker Hume, Alan Winn

MOTM: Hume

Forecast: One of Nashville’s goals is a penalty.

 

 

Jonathan Slape, Speedway Soccer Pod

1-1

Goal: Lebo Moloto

MOTM: Bolu Akinyode

Fearless Forecast: Kris Tyrpak gets the assist.

 

Ben Wright, Speedway Soccer Pod

2-1 Nashville

Goals: Tucker Hume, Matt LaGrassa

MOTM: Matt LaGrassa

Forecast: Charlotte outshoots Nashville, but settles for shots outside the box.

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Player Ratings: Nashville SC vs. Richmond Kickers

The guys at Speedway Soccer Pod are back with their player ratings, this time they evaluate the 4-0 victory against Richmond. image1 (1)

Matt Pickens – 8.0: Made 5 saves, although none of them were too difficult. Was a calming presence and his distribution was on point.

Kosuke Kimura – 8.0: Had plenty of space in which to operate on the right flank and used it to good effect. Put in a great ball to LaGrassa for Nashville’s third goal.
Bradley Bourgeois – 8.5: Finally got his first goal for the Boys in Gold (wearing navy on the day) with a really well taken header from a corner. Otherwise defended solidly and completed a team-high 96.4 percent of his passes. Looked like he picked up a slight knock and came off for Woodberry after 68 minutes.
Liam Doyle – 8.0: Wasn’t tested much at all, but his passing out of the back was key to Nashville’s dominance.
Justin Davis – 7.5: Passed out of the back well, but didn’t always track back quickly enough, letting Richmond attackers in behind a couple of times. Doyle covered well for the most part, but Davis was forced to pick up a yellow card after bringing down an attacker.
Alan Winn – 7.5: Worked hard all night and got into good positions. He connected well, especially with Moloto and Kimura, but he didn’t go at defenders as aggressively as he should have done, and his end product didn’t quite come off.
Matt LaGrassa – 9.0: Started out as a #8 and played the second half as a second forward underneath Hume. His passing was on point (94.3 percent) and he opened up all kinds of space for his teammates. Took his goal really well and is in a really good run of form.
Michael Reed – 9.5: His best performance of the season. At the heart of every attack Nashville had, setting up seven of their 15 shots and getting three assists. His delivery from crosses and set pieces was on point, and Akinyode’s halftime introduction freed him up even more. He’s now tied with Moloto with a team-leading 5 assists, and his performance was one of the highlights of the season so far.
Kris Tyrpak – 7.0: Really involved, but his end product wasn’t there. Never really looked up to the tempo of the game, and was taken off at the half for “being winded”. He’s still making the transition from NPSL to USL, and may be best off the bench at this point.
Lebo Moloto – 7.5: Always composed on the ball and found some good spaces, but drifted in and out of the match, resorting to shots from distance. Not a bad performance by any means, but also not one of his best.
Tucker Hume – 9.0: Dominant in the air. Took his two headed goals really well, occupied both center backs all night, and linked play really well. His presence up top gives the team a target to play off of and adds a completely different dimension. On merit he absolutely deserves to be in the starting XI until someone can take his spot from him.
SUBS
Bolu Akinyode – 8.5: Replaced Tyrpak at the break and was an immediate improvement. Freed up Reed and LaGrassa to get forward and broke up multiple Richmond attacks. It’s simple – this team is exponentially better when he’s on the pitch.
London Woodberry – 7.5: Came on for Bourgeois after 68 minutes. Didn’t have a busy night defensively, but was strong in possession.
Brandon Allen – 7.0: Replaced LaGrassa after 79 minutes and didn’t get super involved, but linked up well when he did get on the ball.
MANAGER
Gary Smith – 8.0: Set the team up well and made the right subs. Should expect to win at home against this quality of opposition, but deserves credit for a much-improved offensive performance than we’ve seen recently.

Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC vs. Bethlethem Steel

Nashville SC has launched a social media campaign over the last couple of days, where it has encouraged fans to share their soccer experiences in life and with the club using the hashtag #MySoccerStory.

The soccer story movement has been a fantastic way to get fans involved and let the club know they are supported in anticipation of Monday night’s pivotal Metro Council meeting that will determine the future of MLS in Nashville.

On the field, Nashville’s soccer story is still that it’s fighting for a playoff position. Although the Boys in Gold are unbeaten in their last three matches, including ties against top-four sides FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC, they still find themselves on the outside of the USL Eastern Conference playoff picture.

With a couple of games in hand, however, the next two home fixtures provide Nashville a massive opportunity to leap as high as fifth in the standings, pending the results of the other matches this weekend as well.

Nashville’s opponent Saturday, Bethlethem Steel, will not be a pushover given their current run of form. The Philadelphia Union affiliate has won five of its last six matches, propelling it all the way up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference and tied for points with Indy Eleven at 39.

Team: Bethlehem Steel FC

  • Affiliation: Philadelphia Union
  • Stadium: Goodman Stadium (16,000)
    • Goodman Stadium is home to Lehigh University’s football team
    • The stadium also hosted Philadelphia Eagles training camp from 1996-2012
  • Coach: Brendan Burke (3rd season)
    • Burke began his coaching career as manager of Reading United in the U.S. PDL, where he went a remarkable 71-18-19
    • He played as a center back for teams in the U.S. and Ireland
  • First Season: 2016
  • 2017 Finish: 12-12-8 (lost in Conference Quarterfinals (4-0, Louisville City FC)
  • Best-ever Finish: 2017 (Conference Quarterfinals)
  • Supporters’ Group: East End Army
  • Three Fun Facts:
    1. The team’s name and colors are a tribute to Bethlehem Steel F.C., which played from 1907-1930 and won five U.S. Open Cups — tied for the most in U.S. soccer history
    2. The colors of Bethlehem Steel FC are navy blue, gold and red, combining the primary colors of both the original Bethlehem Steel F.C. and the Philadelphia Union
    3. The Steel won only two of their final 10 matches in 2017 (2-3-5)

Here’s what Nashville SC coach Gary Smith had to say about the match.

Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at First Tennessee Park. You can watch the game on MyTV30, stream on ESPN+, or listen to 94.9 Game 2.

 

Fearless Forecasts

Since Wes Boling of Golden Goal is calling the match for 94.9, he has elected to not make a prediction.

 

Andy Simmons, Golden Goal

1-0 Nashville

Goal: Ropapa Mensah

MOTM: Matt Pickens

Forecast: Mensah comes on and scores a late-winner.

 

Jonathan Slape, Speedway Soccer

2-0 Nashville

Goals: Lebo Moloto and Brando Allen

MOTM: Lebo Moloto

Forecast: Chris Tyrpak gets his first minutes for NSC

 

Ben Wright, Speedway Soccer

1-0 Nashville

Goal: Ropapa Mensah

MOTM: Mensah

Forecast: Tucker Hume creates the most chances of any NSC player

 

 

 

Nashville SC player ratings vs. Ottawa Fury FC

The guys at Speedway Soccer Pod are back with their Nashville SC player evaluations and ratings, this time recapping the positives from the 2-0 victory against Ottawa Fury FC Friday night.

Screenshot_2018-08-14 Lineup Builder

Matt Pickens – 8.0: Didn’t have an incredibly busy night, but was aggressive off his line when called on and made three saves.

London Woodberry – 8.5: Started on the right side of a back three. Solid defensively and really good in possession. Came close to scoring on a floated header that nearly caught Crépeau  off his line. Moved to right back once Bourgeois was introduced.
 
Liam Doyle – 8.5: Had a really strong outing. Aggressive with his forward passing and picked out pockets of space well. Made 11 clearances and popped up in good areas defensively, including a goal-saving clearance in the 81st minute. One of his better performances of the season. 
 
Justin Davis – 8.0: A veteran defensive performance. At times wasn’t patient enough in possession, opting for a ball over the top instead of finding an open teammate, but overall a good night.
 
Ish Jome – 8.0: Worked tirelessly from the right wingback spot. Consistently found himself in good 1v1 spots and consistently burned his defender to get to the endline. His service into the box didn’t always find a forward, but dangerous all night. Came off for Bourgeois after 65 minutes.
 
Matt LaGrassa – 8.5: Continued his good run of form with his first USL goal for Nashville. Got in good spots all night and sees space really well. Another strong showing. Voted Man of the Match by the fans.
 
Michael Reed – 8.0: Played as the lone holder in a 3-1-4-2, and covered a ton of ground. Kept the ball moving well and made a few key tackles. Good night.
 
Lebo Moloto – 9.0: Nashville’s most dangerous player on the night. Played in a deeper role than usual, and was inventive all game. Linked up well with Washington and LaGrassa, and got the assist for LaGrassa’s opener. Came off for Akinyode after 80 minutes.
 
Taylor Washington – 8.5: Used his pace really well and consistently put in good service to the box. Created the most chances of any Nashville player (three) and looks really comfortable at that left wingback spot.
 
Brandon Allen – 8.0: Had three shots on target, one of which was the penalty, and the other two coming within a couple seconds of each other. Worked really hard, even though he wasn’t as involved as he’d like to be. Scored Nashville’s second with a well-taken penalty.
 
Tucker Hume – 8.5: Other than Moloto, Nashville’s best player. Got into plenty of dangerous spots, troubled the defense with his size, and held up the ball well. Did well to earn a penalty in the second half. Replaced by Mensah after 70 minutes after putting in another strong shift. This team has a different dynamic when he starts, and it’s worked well the past two matches.
 
SUBS
 
Bradley Bourgeois – 8.0: Came back earlier than expected after a month out through injury, and looked like he hadn’t missed a minute. Made a couple key interventions defensively. It will be really important to this team’s playoff push to have him healthy.
 
Ropapa Mensah – 7.5: Replaced Hume after 70 minutes and caused problems. Had a good shot go just wide and stretched the field as always. Good showing.
 
Bolu Akinyode 8.0: Came on with 10 minutes left to play in place of Moloto, and helped Nashville close the game out. Completed a cool 92 percent of his passes and did well to maintain possession late in the game.
Manager
 
Gary Smith – 8.5: His switch to a back 3 has really revitalized this team, and they put in another strong performance against a playoff-caliber team. For the second straight game they’ve looked creative in the final third, and his incorporation of Tucker Hume into the starting XI has paid off. Hopefully this is the start of a strong playoff push.

Making the case for, and against, Nashville SC hosting a playoff game

With 12 games to go in its inaugural USL season, Nashville SC has an opportunity to make the playoffs. Not only that, but there is still an opportunity for the Boys in Gold to also host a playoff contest.

Like most professional leagues, a USL playoff home game is reserved for the top teams in their respective conferences. In this case, it goes to the top four. Earlier this year, Nashville was well in the mix for one of those spots until the month of July, where Nashville only won once in five contests.

Despite that month, Nashville looks to be back on track after collecting four points from East leaders FC Cincinnati and playoff hopefuls Ottawa Fury and are currently in sixth place with 34 points. Both contests saw Nashville control the run of play and seem to be a positive step in the right direction.

The objective of this side should be focused on earning enough points moving forward to catapult into the top four and force an opponent to travel to First Tennessee Park, where Nashville SC has been a nightmare for opposing teams (7-1-2 at home so far). Below are a few reasons why Nashville has a chance to host a playoff match, but also reasons why it’ll fall short.

Why they will

  • The move to switch to a 3-5-2 continues to pay off: Since Nashville SC coach Gary Smith elected to go with a 3-5-2 formation on the field, as opposed to the different variations of the 4-4-2 he was running, the team has scored three goals in two matches. Considering that’s two more goals than the Boys in Gold scored in the month of July, it seems like a tactical move that is paying off so far. Smith might have to continue rolling out this formation if it gets them the goals they’ve been looking for.
  • The injuries are minimal: Nashville looks to have possibly put its injury woes behind them. Both Michael Reed and Matt Pickens were scratched from the injury report before the Ottawa match, and Bradley Bourgeois was upgraded to questionable. Bourgeios was actually subbed on in the second half of that match, which could be a sign that he’s back to near full health from his hamstring injury. Missing these three throughout a good portion of July was a tough pill to swallow, and their experience will be pivotal as Nashville makes its playoff push.
  • The defense continues to hold firm: Nashville is only allowing 0.7 goals per game and have only conceded 16. That’s the second fewest conceded goals in the Eastern Conference behind the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who currently sit in second place in the East. Nashville has also blanked its opponents 11 times, with Pickens contributing 10 of those 11 clean sheets. So while the goals haven’t necessarily fallen for Nashville all the time, it’s their defensive unit that still keeps them alive in many of the contests. We’ll see if they can continue that success with the aforementioned tactical changes.

Why they won’t

  • The poor finishing: Even though Nashville has scored three times in two matches so far this month, it’s still been a struggle for the Boys in Gold to put their chances away. Per Ben Wright of Speedway Soccer Pod, Nashville SC has the second-worst conversion rate in the USL, and is ten goals below it’s expected goal tally.

So if the push for the home playoff match is going to happen, Nashville must start putting away their chances.

  • Potential dropped points at home: As mentioned above, Nashville is a tough nut to crack at home, and seven of their next 12 contests are at home. However, four of those contests are against opponents currently in the playoff picture. It’s a chance for Nashville to make leaps up the Eastern Conference ladder, but dropping points at home against those sides could prove costly.
  • Road woes: Nashville’s outstanding home record sometimes overshadows its dreadful  2-5-5 record away from Tennessee. The good news is that only one of these road trips (at Louisville this weekend) features a team in playoff contention. As we’ve seen though, no victory is guaranteed no matter where in the table the opposition stands.

Nashville renews the I-65 North rivalry this weekend with a trip Louisville City FC. If the Boys in Gold can have a competitive outing in an environment they’ve struggled at (0-0-2 in two trips to Louisville in all competitions), it will go a long way in determining if this side can indeed host a playoff game.

Nashville SC completes Tyrpak, Levine signings

Nashville SC announced Wednesday that it has completed the signings of Blake Levine and former MLS winger/forward Kris Tyrpak. Both players will bring more attacking options for Nashville to call upon. Both moves are pending league and federation approval.

Here’s a small sample of what Tyrpak will bring to Nashville.

Tyrpak recently completed his season with National Premier League Soccer side Miami FC, with the South Beach club lifted the NPSL championship. However, Nipun Chopra recently reported that several Miami FC players, including Tyrpak, were planning on leaving the club at the conclusion of their season.

“If you look at Kris’ background, he provides a couple of things that coming into the last stages of the season can help us push for a playoff spot,” said Nashville SC Gary Smith.

“He has good experience at this level, and as a predominately wide midfielder, his goal-scoring record is pretty decent. It’s the goals and the ability to be part of a creative moment that we may well need going into the final stretch. He has a fabulous left foot. My hope is he can get in the side and be a threat in front of goal and he can improve the offense that has been under the microscope lately.”

The former Chivas USA draft pick has had stops on a multitude of teams, including two stints at Austin Aztex, San Antonio Scorpions, Swope Park Rangers (including one appearance for parent club Sporting KC), and San Antonio FC, before landing in Miami. Between 2012-2018, He has 47 goals to his name on 130 total appearances.

Nashville SC has also announced the signing of former Inter Nashville player Blake Levine. Levine made four appearances for Inter, scoring twice.

“Blake’s an honest and genuine young player,” said Smith. “He has some lovely technical ability. It’s his first opportunity in a professional environment. If he can harness some of his abilities, he can carve out a future for himself at this club.”

Both new acquisitions will be available to play in Nashville SC’s home match Friday against Ottawa Fury FC.

 

Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC vs. FC Cincinnati

Like two ships passing in the night, Nashville SC and F.C. Cincinnati have been heading in opposite directions since their previous 0-0 draw July 7 at Nissan Stadium.

Now, the Boys in Gold head up to the home of Skyline Chili Saturday to take on the USL Eastern Conference’s top team with 44 points. Cincy is on a 10-match unbeaten run in the USL that stretches over a two-month span and have scored multiple goals in nine of those 10 matches. The only time FCC hasn’t scored multiple goals was the trip to Nashville.

Cincy also boosted its roster with three new players that expected to be part of its core once it makes the shift to MLS next season. The biggest of these signings is Fanendo Adi, who could make his debut with the club against Nashville. The talisman scored 50 goals in 120 appearances for Portland Timbers during his four-year stint there.

Meanwhile, Nashville is coming off an abysmal month of July, only winning once in five matches and dropping to seventh place in the standings. To make matters worse, the team has been riddled with injuries. Michael Reed (foot), Matt Pickens (back), and Bradley Bourgeois (hamstring) have missed the past handful of games. Reed and Pickens could return, but Bourgeois remains sidelined.

Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. and can be seen locally on MyTV30, streamed on ESPN+, or heard on 94.9.

Team: FC Cincinnati

  • Affiliation: None
  • Stadium: Nippert Stadium (33,800)
    • Nippert is home to the University of Cincinnati football team and is the largest venue in the USL.
    • It is the fifth-oldest stadium in college football.
  • Coach: Alan Koch (2nd season)
    • Koch came to Cincinnati from Vancouver, where he led the Whitecaps’ reserve squad for two seasons.
    • He took over in Cincy for John Harkes, a former U.S. national who abruptly left after one season due to a personality conflict with team management.
    • Koch is from South Africa and speaks English, German and Afrikaans.
  • First Season: 2016
  • 2017 Finish: 12-10-10 (Lost in Conference Quarterfinals to Tampa Bay, 3-0)
  • Best-ever Finish: 2016 (16-8-6, Conference Quarterfinals)
  • Supporters’ Groups: The team has several active supporters groups
  • Three Fun Facts:
    1. FC Cincinnati fans packed Nippert Stadium in 2017, leading the USL in attendance by double the second-place team.
    2. FCC advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, beating Columbus and Chicago and selling out Nippert Stadium for the semifinal match.
    3. Cincy and Louisville City compete in the Dirty River Derby for the River Cities Cup. Louisville won the 2017 trophy on goal differential after the sides went 1-1-1 in three matches. FCC is 3-2-2 all-time in the series.

 

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith:

“We’re going to go to an environment that will be electric – 25,000 people, a rivalry that is in its infancy, but already we’ve seen the first of what I hope are many games that I’m involved in against Cincinnati. They’re going to the next level, we’re going to the next level, but until we both get there, the rivalry is here at this level, and they’ve taken a point off of us at home in an extremely exciting and pulsating game. No reason why we can’t go there and do likewise or better.”

Forecasts:

Andy Simmons, Golden Goal: 2-1 FC Cincinnati

Wes Boling, Golden Goal: Wes has elected not to make a prediction due to him calling the game on 94.9, but he believes Nashville can get a favorable result if:

-It plays more aggressively than in recent road outings and avoids silly mistakes.

-It pursues a front-footed approach as it did in the first meeting with Cincy.

-It finds some kind of finishing ability, which has been sorely lacking.

Ben Wright, Speedway Soccer: 3-0 FC Cincinnati

John Sloop, Speedway Soccer: 3-1 FC Cincinnati

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