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

 

 

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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

Fearless Forecast: Nashville SC vs. NCFC

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Yes, Jim Mora, despite Nashville SC’s recent 1-0 loss to Charlotte Independence, the Boys in Gold are still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the USL Eastern Conference. With eight games to go in the regular season, however, Nashville has little to no room to make any mistakes and cannot afford to drop points.

Nashville will once again head to the Tar Heel state to take North Carolina FC Saturday.  If you’ll recall, this occurred the last time these two sides clash.

Ropapa Mensah’s late winner is arguably one of the top moments this season. However, the stoppage-time goal seems very distant. After that match, Nashville has gone 4-3-6 and have slid down to ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Currently sitting outside the playoff bubble with 38 points and tied with Ottawa Fury for that last spot, a win would go a long way in helping Nashville reach its playoff potential.

North Carolina FC is 4-1-3 in its last eight contests, including a victory against top-4 side Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Here’s what Nashville SC coach Gary Smith had to say about the upcoming match, and what his side needs to do to convert on chances:

“I think if we can get ourselves out in front and convert those moments, I think the full focus and mindset of the weekend will be without a shadow of a doubt to try and get ourselves on the front foot and to get ourselves in a positive position. We proved that in Charlotte, we took the game to them, and we will continue to do that this weekend. We will be bright and positive and a team out there that can win the game, but what we also know is that they are a side fighting for a playoff berth exactly the same as us, and we have to make sure that we play with a level of professionalism that I think deserted us one or two times on the weekend. What I mean is the corner that was scored against us was a poor decision from one of the lads who missed his mark and someone end up free and they score. Even little things on the other end where we do have ideas on what we want to achieve, and we squandered a big opportunity which really should have been a penalty, but those professional moments can make a big difference. We certainly have to be mindful of a good home side who I don’t think are much different from other teams in this league, ourselves included. At home they are a very different prospect than playing away.”

Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m., and the game can be watched locally on MyTV30 and streamed on ESPN+.

Fearless Forecast

Andy Simmons, Golden Goal

0-0 draw

MOTM: Liam Doyle

Fearless Forecast: Nashville outshoots NCFC and out possesses them

 

Wes Boling, Golden Goal

2-0 NCFC

MOTM: Bolu Akinyode

Fearless Forecast: Nashville will have 60% possession, but will attempt fewer shots on target than NCFC

 

Ben Wright, Speedway Soccer Pod

2-1 NCFC

Goal: Tucker Hume

MOTM: Michael Reed

Fearless Forecast: Nashville gives up an early goal and take a lot of shots, but doesn’t create and clear chances.

 

 

Jonathan Slape, Speedway Soccer Pod

1-0 NCFC

MOTM: Michael Reed

Fearless Forecast: NSC takes 70% of shots outside the box

 

Player Ratings: Nashville SC vs. Charlotte Independence

The guys at Speedway Soccer Pod are back with their player ratings, this time they look back at the 1-0 road defeat against Charlotte Independence.

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CJ Cochran – 6.0: Didn’t see Watson’s shot until late, but still could have done better. Other than that didn’t have much to do.

Kosuke Kimura – 6.5: Pretty solid defensively, but wasn’t very effective in the attack.
Bradley Bourgeois – 7.0: Really good defensively, and continued to build on his recent showings in the passing game, completing 88 percent. Missed a header from close range in the 90th minute.
London Woodberry – 7.0: Like Bourgeois, strong defensively, limiting Charlotte to no real chances and only one shot in the second half. Completed 91 percent of his passes and composed throughout.
Ryan James – 6.5: Like Kimura, he wasn’t super involved going forward, although he did link well with Washington a couple of times.
Alan Winn – 6.5: Worked really hard all night and had some dangerous moments, although he wasn’t as clinical as he should have been and held onto the ball too long a couple of times. Put a beautiful cross right on Hume’s head but he couldn’t convert.
Matt LaGrassa – 6.5: Energetic and hard working. Linked well with Akinyode and Moloto, and looked really dangerous to start the second half, but picked up a knock a few minutes after the break and came off in the 53rd minute.
Bolu Akinyode – 7.0: Typically strong defensively and moved the ball well, completing 95 percent of his passes. Hard to fault him for missing chances when that’s clearly not his role in this team, but he should’ve done better with two headers from close range.
Taylor Washington – 7.0: High energy and strong delivery from wide positions, as usual. Moved back to left back after James went off and overlapped well. A strong showing, although he’ll be frustrated with some poor finishing from his forwards.
Lebo Moloto – 6.0: Started out brightly but faded as the game went on. Had a great chance from 10 yards out that was tipped onto the post.
Tucker Hume – 6.0: Got into good positions and occupied the center backs well. Had a fantastic chance after Winn crossed a beautiful ball that found him unmarked in the 6-yard-box. Put his header over when he absolutely should be expected to score there. Saw a strong shot saved late in the game. Played well, but as a forward it’s his job to score from those positions, and if Nashville had taken a 1-0 lead, things may have turned out very differently.
SUBS:
Michael Reed – 8.0: Replaced the injured LaGrassa after 53 minutes and picked right back up where he left off against Richmond. Completed every pass he attempted and had some fantastic delivery from set pieces. Like others, he’ll be frustrated with the poor finishing from Nashville’s forwards.
Kris Tyrpak – 5.5: Replaced James after 60 minutes and went off injured 20 minutes later. Never really got involved.
Brandon Allen – N/R: Replaced the injured Tyrpak in the 80th minute and didn’t make an impact.
Manager:
Gary Smith – 5.0: It feels a little harsh to give such a low rating, but it’s the cumulative result of consistently poor results on the road. His team defended well and should’ve scored a couple, despite not creating a high number of chances. His substitutions were forced by injury, but the results still aren’t there. His team has been outscored 12 to 7 on the road. They’ve only earned one point after conceding first, and are 2-6-6 on the road. With an away playoff game looking increasingly inevitable, he needs to figure out these attacking issues quickly.

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.

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.