Community ratings: Nashville SC 1-2 Bethlehem Steel

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Nashville took a key loss in Eastern Conference play last night, falling at home to Bethlehem Steel. How do you think the individual players performed? Have your say with a (quick, anonymous) vote in the player ratings!

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Nashville SC community ratings v. TFCII

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Certainly not expecting this one to be pretty. Have your voice heard by voting (anonymously, and in just a couple minutes) for player ratings from last night’s game against Toronto FC II:

Please feel free to share with friends so we can get an even broader picture of the feelings of the NSC fanbase.

Breakdown and player ratings: Nashville SC 0-0 FC Cincinnati

Nashville SC couldn’t find the back of the net against FC Cincinnati – but came close a number of times. Unsurprisingly, a few more defensively-oriented players top the breakdown and ratings.

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Michael Reed. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Quick note: my ratings are score-based after a film review, and on a scale that… there’s technically no range but anything over 15 is generally good and under 9 or so is bad for a full game worth of performance. Community ratings are on a traditional 1-10 scale.

Formation and tactics

There was a little going on here (for the first time in a while, this was actually an interesting chess match). Nashville came out in a fairly standard 4-4-2 with its standard 4-4-2 personnel… but mixed up some positions. Lebo Moloto played on the wing to start the game, while Matt LaGrassa was the withdrawn striker. This played out a bit like a 4-2-3-1 (the formation du jour throughout much of USL and MLS, and plenty of Euro leagues, as well), with Winn on the left and Moloto on the right as purer wingers.

This ultimately flipped to the more standard usage (Moloto as the second striker for a 4-4-1-1 look) around the 18th minute, but alternated between the two at times for the rest of the game. London Woodberry was a like-for-like swap with Bradley Bourgeois at RCB, Taylor Washington one for Winn at left wing, and then when Ish Jome replaced Matt LaGrassa, Washington flipped to the right, letting Jome play left wing.

Cincinnati’s gone with a 4-4-2 diamond a lot lately, but man, was it terrible for them in the first half. They had no width in the midfield, allowing Nashville to box them in defensively, while also giving NSC all sorts of room to roam on the flanks when they had the ball. The fullbacks need to get forward a little bit to provide any sort of width in that formation, and they didn’t – the back four for Cincy was almost completely flat.

Credit Koch for switching at halftime to a couple more conventional formations: dropping one of the strikers (mostly Ledesma) back for a five-man midfield with two attackers in a 4-3-2-1, and a “two blocks of four” 4-4-2… but he probably shouldn’t have waited that long.

When FCC switched, their midfielders were able to defend wider (which took away some of the space that the wingers had in the first half), and they possessed much more solidly in the midfield with a great variety of passing options. However, it’s worth noting that most of their dangerous moments still came on set pieces or pure counters: the formation switch was an improvement, not a panacea.

Gary Smith community rating: 8.71

Community comments:

  • “Big fatigue and team didn’t look like they should. Kinda flat overall.”
  • “The team just looks better with Reed and LaGrassa in the middle with Lebo out wide. The team completely dominated the first half, until the switch of LeGrassa and Lebo.”
  • “Unfortunate not to score, but one of our better attacking displays in the first half.”

Midfield

Ladies and gentlemen, your Man of the Match:

Michael Reed 17.70 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 7.50

Reed was extremely steady in the back (as usual), and continued his recent trend of being a bit more adventurous going forward, which was something that Cincinnati’s scheme in the first half certainly helped him do. I’d have to go back and check previous games, but I believe his first half was the only unblemished (no negative plays) for any player this year. He did have some poor ideas and a mediocre giveaway in the second half, but it certainly wasn’t enough to significantly harm his day.

Lebo Moloto 16.06 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 7.30

It’s hard to say how many of Moloto’s struggles in this one (and there were some) were a result of playing a position that he’s only cast in occasionally on the right wing. There seemed to be miscommunications more than there were physical execution mistakes, which sort of amplifies that feel. He got back to over-passing in the box in the second half, but in the first, he launched some pretty hopeful shots from distance… right to the FCC keeper. It really did seem like he was a little haunted by the first scoreless game in Nissan, and was too determined to have a different outcome this time. That led to a bit of inaccuracy and over-ambition.

Alan Winn 15.57 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 6.70

I’m surprised to see a community rating this low (though I imagine part of that is “offense specialist in game where offense was shut out”), because I thought Winn was pretty good. He showed off better vision than we’ve seen with consistency, and had an extremely nice play in the first half where he made a slide-tackle, quickly pushed the ball to Moloto, and managed to recover in order to be involved in the offense. You need to see more final product, but with limited opportunities in the game (at least on his side, especially with Moloto on the opposite wing), he did well.

Bolu Akinyode 11.09 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 6.90

I actually think my grading system was a little more down on Akinyode than was the eyeball test. It was partially a matter of Cincinnati’s strategy (which meant not many counter-attacks – or much offense at all until the second half formation change – and gave him more space to work forward with Reed), but the one or three times per game that he’s half-heartedly jogging after his man – after that man has acquired the ball – were not present. He was a little more daring in his passing going forward, and while a few of those were incomplete, I’d rather he mix it up just a bit, even if it primarily makes his typical short-lateral-backward stuff a little more open. He still needs to get the head up quicker to survey passing options when he’s in space though, instead of an assumption that a man is bearing down, and moving it to the easiest target, rather than finding the right target.

Taylor Washington 2.15 (23 minutes) – Community rating: 7.00

Washington’s time came after FCC had shifted formations away from one that he would have eaten for lunch, which was unfortunate. He could have made Cincy pay even more than a Winn/Moloto combo did with his speed if he’d gotten some time against that midfield diamond. As it was, he still had some space to get in a couple crosses, and tried to spring himself on a give-and-go with Allen (he didn’t get the return service), and put in a nice, if short, shift.

Community comment: “Taylor was all over the pressing FCC squad.”

Ish Jome -0.40 (14 minutes) – Community rating: 6.30

As usual, don’t read too much into a negative score out of a really short stint on the field, just because each action is amplified score-wise when there’s no time to do other stuff and cancel it out. His only negative play was a failed trap on a sideline (a clearance up the sideline, in fact), and the rest of the way he was pretty much neutral.

Community comment: “Ish had no real touches.”

Goalkeeper

Matt Pickens 14.21 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 8.60

I considered making an executive decision to name Pickens MOTM despite the lower score (it’s not his fault FCC didn’t have more opportunities – he did everything asked of him), but thought Reed’s performance was good enough to give it to the man who had more play-to-play involvement… and was a big part of keeping Pickens mostly untested. He did get chipped in the first half – the ball went wide enough that it actually stayed inbounds and curved away from the goal – but came up with the two huge saves late. A very good day feels basically old hat at this point, and that’s probably a good thing.

Community comment: “MOTM should have been Pickens, saved the team a point with a couple astonishing saves in the final 15.”

Defenders

Kosuke Kimura 14.79 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 7.00

I thought Kimura had another fantastic performance (that’s several in a row now, if I recall correctly). Of course, part of that is the style of play the opponent brought – he had tons of space up the flank, and really wasn’t challenged heading back in his own direction. Still, making the plays that are available to you is the name of the game, and he did just that. He had a couple crosses that didn’t come off just right – you may recall that was one of the problems when he struggled early in the year – and the weird half-pass half-shot header that dribbled harmlessly out of bounds on a good Nashville chance.

Justin Davis 12.51 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 8.00

Like Kimura, Davis is going to thrive against a team that wants to give him acres of space down the sideline. He plays a little more fast-and-loose when he’s comfortable, so that resulted in a little bit of scrambling to recover, but he mostly gets the job done in that phase of the game – with some exciting slide tackles mixed in. FCC had little success attacking wide, so it is what it is in terms of defensive consistency.

Liam Doyle 9.23 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 5.40

Doyle was far from flawless, but after watching the game live, I wouldn’t have expected the type of negative responses he received in the community ratings, and I remain surprised after a film review. He has a tendency to step up and stab at the ball (a trait ironically shared with fan favorite Bolu Akinyode), but is more consistent recovering to make up for when he’s beaten doing so. Both times a player got in behind late in the game were certainly not his fault, either. The one huge goof he had (a clearance that actually went backwards and led to the attempt to chip Pickens) was obvious and humorous, so my guess would be that single play is sticking in folks’ heads.

Community comment: “Doyle had another nightmare. Despite his passing ability, he makes some really sloppy mistakes and was lucky not to be punished. If Woodberry and Bourgeois are healthy, he should be dropped.”

I rarely opine on the community comments, but that is a strange comment to make when Woodberry was bar-none the worst player on the pitch (which isn’t the usual state of affairs, just for this game he had a rough one), and if NSC had lost the game it would have been exclusively on him.

Bradley Bourgeois 8.06 (54 minutes) – Community rating: 6.80

It’s a shame Bourgeois got injured, because he was having a fantastic game. He’s gotten so much more comfortable working the ball forward in possession (and has the recovery speed to track back when it doesn’t work out), and has honed in on when to bang the ball over the top in distribution.

Community comment: “Hated to see Bourgeois go after the half.”

London Woodberry 1.02 (40 minutes) – Community rating: 6.30

Woodberry was almost singularly responsible for both FCC chances in the late stages of the game. On the first, he let a player in behind, showed the speed to recover, and still got shrugged off like a gnat in embarrassingly easy fashion. On the second, he simply got walked by an opponent with the ball at his feet. He’s solid on a possession-to-possession basis, but if he’s going to make the huge mistake like that, it’s a bit of a liability, yeah?

Community comment: “Defense was stout until Woodberry came in, unfortunately. Hopefully Bourgeois will be OK.”

Forward

Brandon Allen 13.51 (94 minutes) – Community rating: 5.60

Even though he didn’t score, I thought Allen had a nice game (he’s going to come in for a lashing from the folks who think “if he didn’t score, he didn’t have a good game,” I guess, but that level of analysis is… that level of analysis). He absolutely, no questions asked deserved a penalty in the first half. You’ll see below my section on officiating has a bit more detail, but suffice to say that’s not an acceptable job performance by the official, and there is no excuse for it. He had a couple other opportunities where I thought he over-passed instead of just trying to bang one in – you’re a goal-getter, so get goals – but the mentality is understandable when your defense has limited FCC so resoundingly.

Community comment: “Allen put in a good shift despite the lack of scoring.”

Matt LaGrassa 12.30 (80 minutes) – Community rating: 6.50

He could just as easily fit in with the midfielders (and Moloto could fit in here), but since LaGrassa started the game here and a lot of the most interesting observations were at this position, here we are. I thought he had a very good game: something about not playing on the wing seems to agree with him – or at least get him comfortable, because this was his best wide midfield showing in a while, too – and while the chemistry and passing relationships clearly suffered for both he and Moloto being in a different spot than usual, you can see serious upside here.

Community comment: “Really impressed with LaGrassa and Winn, especially with how the connect with Moloto/Allen in and around the box.”

Lengthy aside on the officiating

Since part of my halftime column focused on the official, I guess I’d better follow up… on a re-watch, it was even worse than I thought. Emmanuel Ledesma for FCC made a questionably dirty play on Justin Davis that was rightfully called a foul, then made one that was transparently a yellow-card offense on Liam Doyle, all within the first eight minutes of the game. I actually don’t think there was intent on the Doyle play, but it was dangerous nonetheless, and a dangerous play by a guy you’ve already given a warning to. That, naturally, let the game spiral a little bit.

Lebo Moloto’s yellow card was pretty borderline – that was close to a red for me (from behind, no intent on the ball, despite commentary being semi-dumbfounded about a card at all?) – but he had the courage to do it because the leniency already shown. I don’t think there should have been more than a yellow in Dekel Keinan’s foul just a couple minutes later, but already you’ve gotten to a point where the game is going to be more physical than you’d like because you didn’t try to rein it in when the opportunity was there earlier.

I don’t think both of the fouls in the box committed on Brandon Allen in the 21st minute were penalty-worthy, necessarily, but if you don’t call the first, you sure as heck have to call the second. This was pretty clearly a ref who didn’t want to have his whistle decide the game… and ironically he did just that by not enforcing the rules as they should be. Things settled down a bit after the half, but it really seemed like we were going to see an extremely dangerous tackle leading to an injury at some point before the break.

I really think Bradley Bourgeois probably deserved a yellow card for getting in Danni Konig’s face when the two tussled out of bounds (though they were apparently having a civil conversation about fireworks), but the long conversation the official had with both players is actually where he seemed to finally get control of the game, so that’s where the serious complaints really started to tail off.

Hate to harp on the officiating (especially when the outcome probably would have been the same, albeit with another goal apiece instead of scorelessly, if it had been a well-officiated game) too much, but sometimes duty calls.

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Community ratings: Nashville SC 0-0 FC Cincinnati

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We are v. thrilled to be answering your dumb question. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Nashville SC earned a point – but just the one – against league-leading FC Cincinnati this evening. How did the players perform in the scoreless draw? Have your say by voting in the community ratings.

As always, thanks for participating, and feel free to share with friends to get a broad view of the Nashville SC fanbase.

Breakdown and player ratings: Nashville SC 3-0 Atlanta United 2

A major bounceback game for Nashville SC was spearheaded by some familiar faces. How did NSC get back on the right side of the ledger?

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MOTM performance from the young winger. Ryan Lassan Photography/For Club and Country

Quick note: my ratings are score-based after a film review, and on a scale that… there’s technically no range but anything over 15 is generally good and under 9 or so is bad for a full game worth of performance. Community ratings are on a traditional 1-10 scale.

Formation and tactics

Nashville went with its 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 (with Lebo Moloto sinking into more of a midfield role) throughout the game. NSC’s gameplan was very clearly to catch Atlanta United being aggressive down the flanks, and countering in behind their fullbacks with runs from the wingers and from their own fullbacks. It worked well!

The middle of the pitch didn’t get much love: thanks to the style of play by Atlanta, the cetnerbacks and central midfielders had mostly a spectator’s role (though the CDMs did push out toward the sideline a bit to get involved defensively). Don’t take low scores in my ranking system as an indictment here: they just didn’t see much action on this day, and for defensive players, that’s a good thing.

Gary Smith’s substitutions were solid to me, though I might have liked to get Alan Winn out of the game a little early after he took two yellow card-worthy fouls (shockingly, neither of them actually drew even a whistle from the ref, who had a real struggle with this game). I’d also like to see Ropapa Mensah come on a little earlier – 13 minutes pre-stoppage is not much of a run, though the five minutes of stoppage time in a 3-0 game that already saw the team who was down starting to get really chippy (again, the ref had poor control of the game here) gave him a bit more.

Since I’ve broached the topic of officiating: calling off the goal by Michael Reed was the right decision, not because keepers deserve more protection, but because it was an obvious foul by Reed no matter who the player was. You can’t shove a guy in the box and then score a goal (the contact was significant enough that it probably would have been a penalty if a defensive player had given that amount of shove, and we all know how conservative officials are whistling penalties on set pieces). Nashville committed one or two fouls that probably could have been carded but weren’t. Not giving the penalty when Brandon Allen was swept from behind with a wide-open goal was unconscionable. That’s “you don’t get assignments for a little while even though you’re not officially suspended”-level bad. Then, after missing both takedowns of Winn, he did give a yellow card on a hard tackle from behind of Lebo Moloto, but given the… attitude with which Atlanta was approaching the end of the game, there’s a chance it was red-worthy. Certainly came as an indication that there was no need to give five minutes of stoppage time in the game. Awful performance from the man in the middle, and Nashville only got the slightly worse of it.

Anyway…

Gary Smith community rating: 8.71

Community comments:

  • Not the toughest team to bounce back against, but getting the job done is getting the job done.”
  • “Navy uniforms at home gets a 0.”

Midfield

Ladies and gentlemen, your Man of the Match:

Alan Winn 19.60 (66 minutes) – Community rating: 9.57

That Winn racked up such a huge score in only 2/3 of the game speaks volumes to what he contributed. His speed up the wing (especially against a team that’s really vulnerable in that area) is a game-changer when he’s fully healthy, and he appears to be just that. Notably, he’s more comfortable making plays for teammates now, and I was really impressed with his desire to make an impact defensively. If we get more performances like this (probably not too many: Atlanta was particularly vulnerable to his skillset), the sky is the limit on this season

Community comment: “Alan Winn looks back to form, and it came at a really good time.”

Taylor Washington 15.54 (76 minutes) – Community rating: 7.86

Washington had a lot of success for some of the same reasons Winn did: his speed down the flank is able to exploit a particular weakness of this Atlanta United 2 team. He was pretty involved offensively for more than just crossing (which he’s done well in recent weeks, but we need more than just that), and he’s a good defender for a midfielder – we saw midweek he’s just an OK one as a pure fullback. He took a couple shots, and was unlucky not to score one of them. He doesn’t combine with Justin Davis quite as well as Jome, which meant less Davis involved in the offense, but clearly NSC didn’t need the left-sided fullback to get forward.

Michael Reed 11.32 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.86

Again, remember that the center of the defense was left mostly alone by ATL UTD 2, so while his score in my system is low, that’s not because Reed had a poor performance. He was his usual self… there was just less of it. He did have the foul on the would-be goal (though he wouldn’t have been able to poke the ball home without fouling the keeper, so it is what it is), and was a little hesitant to rip a shot late in the game even with a numbers advantage and his team comfortably winning the game.

Bolu Akinyode 10.83 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.71

 

Akinyode suffered from the same problem as Reed when it comes to high scoring: a simple lack of volume. One of the main weaknesses of his game (tracking back in defensive transition) didn’t make an appearance because the Baby Five Stripes didn’t want to attack that way. He remains hyper-conservative on the ball, and doesn’t get his head up to survey options even when he has plenty of time and space. The back-passes are better than the alternative of a turnover, but especially against a team whose attack was so toothless, I’d like to see more aggression in the passing.

Matt LaGrassa 1.97 (23 minutes) – Community rating: 6.43

A decent bounceback game from a guy who’d struggled in the previous few outings. Having Atlanta players barreling straight at him actually seemed to help: while it led to some mistakes, there was also an element of “play, don’t think” added to his game where he wasn’t overdoing it on the mental side of the game. He did get smoked in a man-to-man mark on Lagos Kunga, but also made an extremely nice run that Ropapa Mensah reward with a long pass, though the final product wasn’t there in the end. I’d still like to see him play centrally a little bit, but he showed he can hang on the wing in the right situation.

Ish Jome 0.73 (33 minutes) – Community rating: 7.14

A second straight quiet game for Jome, though this one was less troubling to the eyeball test: it was more about coming on well after Nashville had a 2-0 lead and was willing to pack things in and counter intelligently (which prevents a player with his skillset from being super-involved, since he’s a gifted offensive player). He did run out of ideas breaking into space down the left channel a couple times, which also plagued him in other games where he struggled, but he showed more offensive diversity at other times. Just not a lot for him to do in this one.

Forward

Lebo Moloto 17.18 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 8.71

I know there’s been discussion (including the latest Soccer Speedway as well as a complementary piece on Golden Goal) about who Nashville SC’s MVP to date is, and Moloto is one of only two options that’s remotely reasonable (the other is Pickens – guys like Winn or Mensah aren’t a big enough piece of the whole picture, even though they have exciting moments). He dominates so much on the ball for Nashville, and is such an important part of creating what offense they do have – though the wingers are starting to play a bigger role lately. He’s also an effort player defensively, including high up the field. For a guy who has near-ironman status, you can’t ask a whole lot more. He didn’t create the goal he scored, but it was a nice reward for a guy who does basically everything else right.

Brandon Allen 8.99 (81 minutes) – Community rating: 8.14

Allen dunked one Alan Winn cross home, should have earned a penalty on another, and hit a post and then suffered a diving save on the rebound on a third. That’s pretty good production for a striker (especially one with a poacher reputation/style). He’s also a guy who came in with a reputation of not having any effort defensively, but I’ve been impressed with how hard he works there. The negatives? His full-90 fitness is poor, and I think he should have been taken out of the game sooner, not least of which because the replacement is a good one in Ropapa Mensah (and while the big Ghanaian also doesn’t have 90-minute fitness, certainly he’s capable of at least 30-45 minutes). Allen had a great score at the half, but had a negative score for each of the three divisions (coming out of the break, then after each of the two substitutions that came before he was taken out of the game) before being subbed.

Ropapa Mensah 3.82 (18 minutes) – Community rating: 7.57

I’ve encouraged patience on the Mensah hype train multiple times, not because he’s anything other than an outstanding talent, but more because he’s a young guy prone to inconsistency (and with no ability to perform over a full 90 just yet). While there were mistakes in this game – his attempts to do something crazy result in turnovers, but sí vale la pena to me – the level of creation for a guy who’s mostly a pure striker is great. The long service I mention in LaGrassa’s section above was borderline jaw-dropping. He in no way deserved an assist on Moloto’s goal (an Atlanta player had a crappy clear that went right to Moloto, though Mensah was standing near him), but in terms of performance, it was a just reward. Give him another 20 minutes or so pls.

Defenders

Kosuke Kimura 16.90 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.29

While I thought Kimura had a good game, I was surprised to see the spreadsheet churn out a number quite this high. He was solid in positional defense, benefitted from Alan Winn’s increased comfort combining with his fullback, but to have one of the highest overall marks on the field? It’s interesting. He did seem to be highly involved though, and defending in the half-spaces and higher up the pitch can help rack up a high number. I doubted Kimura very early in the year, and he continues to excel to prove me wrong.

London Woodberry 11.07 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.43

Woodberry was the more aggressive – yet less mistake-prone, though those seem to end up being opposites more often than not – of the centerbacks in this game. He took away a lot of shooting angles (which, yes, Atlanta United 2 also managed to do itself), and deflected a shot or two, made a lot of simple clearances. I was a little surprised to see him score this highly in my system nonetheless.

Justin Davis 10.44 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.71

Davis would have been higher-graded than Woodberry but for the late stages of the game. He got a little more involved in the offense (honestly, it seemed almost “I’m bored, let’s goof around a bit – though the insertion of Jome plays a role there, since they like to combine with each other) and had a couple mistakes with the ball. While that’s generally a problem for a defensive player, the game situation makes me sort of shrug at it. Before that, he was solid in his positional defense, had a few patented slide tackles, and generally looked like himself.

Liam Doyle 6.67 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.14

Doyle had a questionable play or two on which he stepped up improperly (or overly aggressively, you could say), springing a player in behind. Fortunately, ATL UTD2 is generally not good enough to take advantage of that, though Matt Pickens was called into service on one such occasions. His other main negative was a little bit of composure lost on the ball when the Baby Five Stripes tried to press high: there were a couple opportunities to play out of the back, but he saw the pressure coming and just booted aimlessly upfield. With his leg strength, it’s hardly the greatest sin. As mentioned above, just not a lot for the players in the center of the pitch to do.

 

Goalkeeper

Matt Pickens 11.60 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 8.00

Pickens had basically nothing to do. He was credited with five saves, two of them legit (very early in the game, he pushed one out for a corner, then he came off his line to cut out the angle on the aforementioned Doyle play), and three of them just letting a 25-yard attempt slowly dribble into his arms. He still ended up with a decent score in my system because his distribution was mostly good, and making no mistakes (he had one goal kick go out of bounds only) is a good way to be.

Thanks for participating in the community ratings. Check back after each USL game for your opportunity to participate!