Fearless Forecast: Hanging on the edge edition

The other day, we put out a poll trying to answer a simple question.

The poll was this.

An overwhelming amount of you said you are indeed concerned for Nashville SC’s hopes of making the playoffs, and there’s plenty of evidence to support your worrisome manner.

We also asked you to explain your reasoning why you felt the way you did. Here’s what some of you had to say.

Anyone else notice a common theme behind these answers?

Yep, it’s the lethargic offense and inability to finish in front of goal, a problem that seems to be brought up again and again at an alarming rate. It’s something fans thought Nashville SC had left behind in the middle of the season. But alas, the results don’t lie.

Nashville is winless in the month of September, and have only collected 10 points in its last 10 games. And now with arguably their most creative player on offense in Lebo Moloto out due to an undisclosed knee injury for the forseeable future, the Boys in Gold will somehow have to find the magic touch in front of goal in this important road contest against Atlanta United 2.

Currently in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, Nashville can vault itself back into the playoff picture with three points Wednesday if they take advantage of the game in hand.

Fail, and the concerns of not making the postseason will certainly magnify.

Team: Atlanta United 2

  • Affiliation: Atlanta United (reserve side)
  • Stadium: Coolray Field (10,427)
  • Coach: Scott Donnelly (1st year)
    • Donnelly has spent more than 15 years as a coach, most recently as an assistant with the U.S. U-18 National Team.
    • He helped develop 15 professional players during his time as a college coach, five of whom were MLS SuperDraft picks
    • Donnelly served as an assistant for the U.S. U-17 World Cup team that reached the quarterfinals, thanks in part to three Atlanta United prospects
  • First Season: 2018
  • 2017 Finish: N/A
  • Best-ever Finish: N/A
  • Three Fun Facts:
    1. The team will play at the same stadium as the Atlanta Braves’ AAA baseball affiliate
    2. Three members of the Atlanta United academy played in the FIFA U-17 World Cup
    3. Atlanta United previously had a close relationship with the Charleston Battery, to whom they have loaned multiple players

Here’s what Nashville SC Gary Smith had to say about the match. in which we could see a strong Atlanta United 2 side filled with talent from their MLS counterparts.

“We hold the key to the post season at this point. Wednesday night will be an instrumental evening. I would fully expect, and I know that their group can be interchangeable at any point, but we will go there expecting their strongest team will be out [on the field]. They did it here, so why would they not do it there. I will prepare for that. They have some extremely talented individual players and some very good team players that may well be in their side. It won’t be easy, but we have not seen one yet that was. It has been a tough season.”

You can stream the match on ESPN+, but it will not be available to watch locally. You can also listen to the game on ESPN 94.9 Game 2.

Fearless Forecasts

Andy Simmons, Golden Goal

1-1

Goal: Tucker Hume

MOTM: Michael Reed

Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC picks up a red.

 

Ben Wright, Speedway Soccer

2-1 Nashville

Goals: Ropapa Mensah, Matt LaGrassa

MOTM: Matt LaGrassa

Fearless Forecast: Nashville attempts 20+ crosses

 

Johnathan Slape, Speedway Soccer

1-1

Goal: Ropapa Mensah

MOTM: Bolu Akinyode

Fearless Forecast: Nashville actually picks up a point after giving up the first goal

Player ratings: Nashville SC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies

The guys at Speedway Soccer Pod are back, this time they’ve got player ratings from Tuesday tough 2-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Make sure you go check out their latest episode here.

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Matt Pickens – 6.5: Put in a really tough position when Hristov was played through, but dove in for the ball when Hristov was going away from goal. Could do absolutely nothing to prevent Woodberry’s own goal, and didn’t have much else to do.

Kosuke Kimura – 8.0: Despite the scoreline, had one of his better games of the year. Put in a gorgeous ball to Moloto at the back post and had more great service throughout the night.

Bradley Bourgeois – 7.0: Got caught high up the pitch when Reed went to clear a ball that Bourgeois was calling for and left a ton of space behind him. Other than that was solid until he was forced off by injury in the 53rd minute. The result may have been different had he been able to finish the game.

Liam Doyle – 6.5: Had a quieter night for the most part, but made a really poor decision to try and close down Poku, letting Hristov get in free on goal to set up the penalty kick. Other than that his biggest impact was blasting a free kick straight into the wall.

Justin Davis – 7.0: Pushed high all night and supported Winn really well. Not his most involved performance, but a mostly positive performance.

Lebo Moloto – 7.0: Took his goal brilliantly on a volley with his weak foot. Drifted in and out of the game, though, and never quite found a rhythm. Missed a header from point blank range from a fantastic Hume cross, and missed an empty net from close range in stoppage time after the keeper spilled the ball. Feels strange to give him a low mark after scoring a great goal, but if he’d taken his chances better Nashville would’ve walked away with a point.

Michael Reed – 6.0: Challenged for a ball that Bourgeois was calling for and gave it right to Poku, setting up their counter attack and penalty. Clearly misplayed a couple of easy passes and overall had a pretty quiet night.

Bolu Akinyode – 7.0: A pretty average performance by his standards. Moved the ball quickly and cleaned up messes, allowing Nashville to push high, especially in the first half when they were dominant.

Alan Winn – 7.5: Had a fantastic first half, consistently beating Gorskie and Taku on the left wing. Worked the ball really well around the 18 yard box and was key to several of Nashville’s best attacks. Faded in the second half and made way for Washington with 17 minutes to go.

Matt LaGrassa – 8.0: Played underneath Hume and looked much more comfortable centrally than he did on the wing vs North Carolina. At the heart of Nashville’s attack, worked the ball around well, and created several chances. One of the few positives in a disappointing result.

Tucker Hume – 6.0: Highly involved, not very efficient. Had several chances on goal. Two in particular he should have done better with, one a shot he put too close to the keeper from the top of the box, and another from inside the 6-yard-box where he tried to chip the keeper. If he’d kept it low and to either side of the keeper it was a certain goal. Got great service all night, and Nashville really needed better finishing to get a result. Replaced by Allen after 73 minutes.

SUBS

London Woodberry – 4.5: Replaced the injured Bourgeois after 53 minutes. Never really found the game with Nashville dominating possession in the other end, but handed Tampa three points with an awful own goal. Inexplicably tried to guide the ball wide of the post, and instead headed it straight into his own net. He looked devastated after the match, with good reason.

Taylor Washington – 6.5: Replaced Winn in the 73rd minute, and brought his customary high levels of energy, but never really got involved.

Brandon Allen – 6.0: Came on for Hume after 73 minutes, and only touched the ball 4 times in his 24 minutes on the pitch. Had a chance from close range deep into stoppage time, and put it straight at the keeper.

MANAGER

Gary Smith – 4.5: It may seem harsh to blame him when the team didn’t finish their chances, but his team has struggled to finish chances all year and haven’t shown any consistent signs of improvement. This game was absolutely a must-win for Nashville, and they couldn’t find a way to break through. A loss on Saturday will put Nashville’s playoff hopes in jeopardy, and should put Smith under significant pressure as well. He has to figure out a way to make this lifeless attack semi-functional if Nashville wants to get into the playoffs.

Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC vs. Charleston Battery

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:
    1. Charleston was the last second-division side to make the finals of the U.S. Open Cup, losing to D.C. United, 2-1
    2. In addition to its USL title in 2012, Charleston won the USL A-League in 1996 and 2003
    3. 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.

Fearless Forecasts

Andy Simmons, Golden Goal

1-0 Charleston

MOTM: Justin Davis

Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC outshoots Charleston, but has less shots on target.

 

Jonathan Slape, Speedway Soccer

1-1 Draw

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

1-0 Charleston

MOTM:Kosuke Kimura

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

 

 

Nashville SC’s playoff hopes take a hit with Tampa Bay loss

Nashville SC’s playoff hopes in its inaugural season took a serious hit with a 2-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Rowdies Tuesday night at First Tennessee Park.

An own goal in the 69th minute sealed Nashville’s fate. Tampa substitute Junior Flemmings put in a low cross that hit off the head of London Woodberry on the far side and into his own net.

“Very disappointing opening five minutes, of course, to concede. Looking back at halftime, and we had the ability to look at how the goal was scored, there were, as we could see from a defensive angle, a couple of errors. Certainly, we didn’t recover quick enough, a bit of overcompensating in certain areas of the back line. Not a bright enough start, not a good start at all, of course.  I thought the response was good, the goal was a very decent one. We exploited the wider areas to a pretty decent degree. Did we get what I would have liked constantly from it? The answer to that would have to be no,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

Tampa Bay got an early penalty six minutes into the match when Matt Pickens, honored pregame for his 300th appearance as a professional player,  attempted to make a save on a breakaway. Georgi Hristov buried it from the spot.

“So obviously (Kwadwo) Poku breaks out, and he’s coming up, and obviously Georgi (Hristov) makes his run I think off Liam (Doyle)’s shoulder, and I know there’s a big gap between Liam and Bradley (Bourgeois), so I know Bradley was going to be recovering for it,” Pickens said when recalling the goal.

“I knew exactly what Georgi was going to do for the most part, but obviously I’ve still got to be prepared if he’s going to shoot the ball, and my angle to come out was to block the goal first. Georgi had no intention of shooting the ball, so he takes a touch, it goes that way out of bounds and the slightest of touches and the ref’s going to call it. Georgi knows what he’s doing. I mean Georgi knows exactly what he’s doing, but that’s the play.”

The Boys in Gold would answer back in the 20th minute. Kosuke Kimura, who was also honored pregame for his 300th appearance, crossed in an absolute gem of a cross from the right side. The cross found Lebo Moloto making a back post run, who one-timed the service in with a half volley.

There were plenty of other dangerous chances from Nashville in the first half, including a chip shot from Tucker Hume that was cleared off the line.

Nashville came into Tuesday’s game in ninth place, two points shy of being in playoff position and three away from leap-frogging Ottawa Fury FC and New York Red Bulls II in the standings for seventh place. So needless to say, points were crucial in this fixture with it being a home match.

Now Nashville has dug itself in a hole with the loss. In its five previous matches, Nashville had only one win under its belt. You can make that six after tonight.

The good news for Nashville is that there are still plenty of points to be had in the coming weeks. Only two of its final six games are against teams in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

Nashville will now turn its attention to Saturday when it hosts Charleston Battery at First Tennessee Park.

Nashville SC Player Ratings: vs. NCFC

The guys at Speedway Soccer Pod are back with their player ratings, this time they recap the exciting come-from-behind 3-3 draw against North Carolina FC.

 

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Matt Pickens – 4.5: Despite a deflection on the first goal, he could have done better. Slow to react on the free kick goal, even though the wall was set up to force Rios to shoot towards the far post. Should’ve done better. Wasn’t helped by poor defending on the third goal, but again was slow to react. On top of this he didn’t make a save all night. An uncharacteristically poor showing.

Kosuke Kimura – 8.0: The best of Nashville’s defense. Safe with the ball and got involved in the attack well.
Bradley Bourgeois – 6.5: Not directly at fault for any of North Carolina’s goals, but a poor attempted clearance put Doyle under a lot of pressure on the third. Not a bad performance, but not up to his usual standards. On a positive note, his effectiveness passing the ball has increased all season and he’s contributing a lot to the attack with solid distribution.
Liam Doyle – 5.0: Slow to close down Shipalane for the opener and got a touch that deflected it past Pickens. A really bad attempted clearance perfectly set up Steinberger to volley home North Carolina’s third. Earned a penalty kick after his free kick hit a defender in the hand, but that was about his only positive contribution.
Matt LaGrassa – 6.5: Started out with on the right but moved centrally after the break. Worked hard but had limited impact.
Michael Reed – 6.0: Completed nearly 97 percent of his passes, but failed to keep his shots on target. He was the closest Shipalane after the ball was turned over and tracked back, but never got into position to make a tackle and let him get the shot off. Hesitant to close down Steinberger for North Carolina’s third and again allowed him to get the shot off. Very industrious, but not much end product.
Bolu Akinyode – 6.5: His job in this team is to clean up messes, keep the ball moving, and give others the freedom to get forward. Did that well for the most part, but with his team in a two-goal deficit at the break, was withdrawn for more attacking fire power.
Taylor Washington – 8.0: As always, a high energy performance. Put in some dangerous crosses and took advantage of the space afforded to him. Moved to left back after Davis was withdrawn, and continued to bomb forward. He’s in a great run of form.
Lebo Moloto – 7.0: Gets credit for the equalizing goal, albeit a goal that needed a massive deflection to go in. Only managed a single shot and wasn’t able to create any meaningful chances. Was responsible for an amazingly sloppy giveaway to set up North Carolina’s opening goal.
Ropapa Mensah – 6.5: Ran hard but never really got involved. Came off at halftime for Brandon Allen.
SUBS
Alan Winn – 6.5: Replaced Bolu Akinyode at halftime in a very attack minded substitution, but didn’t really pay off. His crossing was poor, he couldn’t manage a shot, and never really clicked with his teammates.
Brandon Allen – 9.0: Didn’t get much service, but cooly dispatched two penalties. In a game like this one, you can only take the chances you get and he did that well.
Tucker Hume – 7.5: Replaced Justin Davis in the 68th minute and did really well to earn a penalty kick 11 minutes later. Brought down the ball really well before being dragged back. Given the form he’s in, one might wonder why he didn’t start.
MANAGER
Gary Smith – 6.0: Credit to him for making aggressive substitutions and fighting back to earn a point, but the team started sluggishly and continues to drop points they really need. Sure, his team scored three, but two were penalties and one took an incredibly fortuitous deflection, and they gave up three of the sloppiest goals of the season. The offense had no real ideas, and created no real chances (0.397 xG). Nashville will probably squeeze into the playoffs, but questions should be asked if these performances are good enough, and that starts with the manager