Nashville SC loan watch: The (partial) return

IMG_0623
Cochran back. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Two of Nashville SC’s outgoing loans are recalled to the squad, while three remain with Inter Nashville FC. That and more in this week’s loan watch.

Fresno FC 4, Portland Timbers II 2

 

Cochran started between the pipes and went all 90 for the Foxes. Although he allowed two goals to a powerful Timbers offense, he was the difference in the final scoreline with three saves and a punched out cross. He also completed 57.6% of this 33 passes in distribution.

Loan totals: Started and went the distance in five of six games with Fresno (was an unused substitution in the other). 750 save%, 1.00 GAA. Completed 80/134 passes (59.7%) with three caught crosses, three punched clearances and three clearances.

Cochran has been recalled from his month-long loan, and will return to the Nashville SC bench (or potentially lineup to give Matt Pickens a rest at some point) going forward.

Inter Nashville FC 0, Chattanooga FC 0

Defender Jordan Dunstan and midfielder Ian McGrath started the game and went 90 minutes. Midfielder Ramone Howell started and went 66 minutes. Defender Michael DeGraffenreidt did not see the field.

Inter Nashville FC 3, Greenville FC 2

Defender Jordan Dunstan and midfielder Ian McGrath started and went 90 minutes. Midfielder Ramone Howell started and went 73 minutes, scoring in the 55th. Defender Michael DeGraffenreidt did not see the field.

Loan totals: The players other than DeGraffenreidt have started each Inter game since joining the team (he has missed the past two game). McGrath has three goals and an assist. Howell has three goals and has been shown a yellow card one time.

Dunstan has been recalled from his loan, and will re-join Nashville SC. The other three remain with Inter, which begins its playoff run tonight in Antioch.

Advertisements

Nashville SC loan watch: Midfielders scoring for Inter Nashville FC

Howell_Headshot_NoLogo (1)
Ramone Howell had an eventful week for Inter Nashville, scoring a goal and picking up a yellow card. Courtesy Nashville SC

Nashville SC’s players are not all playing for Nashville SC. NSC now has one player on loan to a fellow USL club (goalkeeper CJ Cochran to Fresno FC) and four to the local NPSL side (Michael DeGraffanreidt, Jordan Dunstan, Ramone Howell, and Ian McGrath at Inter Nashville FC). How were their performances at their temporary clubs?

Fresno FC 0, Real Monarchs 1

CJ Cochran was an unused substitute for the Foxes (Kyle Reynish made eight saves and allowed one goal in his stead).

Fresno FC 2, Sacramento Republic 0

In their second opportunity for a major upset last week, FFC came through. Cochran was key to the effort, making five saves while keeping a clean sheet. He also attempted 28 passes (24 of them longballs), completing 42.9% of them.

Loan totals: .800 save%, 0.75 GAA. Completed 61/102 passes (59.8%) with three caught crosses, two punched clearances and two clearances.

Inter Nashville FC 6, Georgia Revolution 2

Defender Jordan Dunstan and midfielder Ian McGrath started the game and went 90 minutes. McGrath scored a goal in the 88th minute. Defenders Michael DeGraffenreidt started and played 85 minutes. Midfielder Ramone Howell started and played 86 minutes, and earned a yellow card in the 78th minute.

Inter Nashville FC 1, Atlanta Silverbacks 2

Defender Michael DeGraffenreidt and midfielders Ramone Howell and Ian McGrath all started the game and went 90 minutes. Howell scored a 67th-minute goal. Defender Jordan Dunstan started and played 45 minutes.

Loan totals: All four players have started each Inter game since joining the team. McGrath has three goals and an assist. Howell has two goals and has been shown a yellow card one time.

Nashville SC loan watch: Down week in the diaspora

img_0571.jpg
CJ Cochran (green) will be keeping tabs on Nashville SC from afar. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Nashville SC had never had players out on loan before. In the course of a week, that… changed. NSC now has one player on loan to a fellow USL club (goalkeeper CJ Cochran to Fresno FC) and four to the local NPSL side (Michael DeGraffanreidt, Jordan Dunstan, Ramone Howell, and Ian McGrath at Inter Nashville FC). How were their performances at their temporary clubs?

Fresno FC 0, Colorado Springs Switchbacks 1

CJ Cochran started and went the distance for the Foxes, conceding on a set piece in the 86th minute on the only shot he faced. He completed 70.4% of his passes, and won one duel while earning a foul.

Loan totals: .700 save%, 1 GAA. Completed 48/74 passes (64.9%) with two caught crosses, two punched clearances and two clearances.

Inter Nashville FC 0, Asheville City Soccer Club 2

Defenders Michael DeGraffenreidt and Jordan Dunstan, and midfielders Ramone Howell and Ian McGrath started the game and went 90 minutes.

 

Inter Nashville FC 1, New Orleans Jesters 1

Defenders Michael DeGraffenreidt and Jordan Dunstan, and midfielders Ramone Howell and Ian McGrath started the game and went 90 minutes.

Loan totals: All four players have started both Inter games since joining the team. McGrath has two goals and an assist. Howell has one goal.

Nashville SC loan watch: McGrath gets goals

img_0571.jpg
CJ Cochran (green) will be keeping tabs on Nashville SC from afar. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Nashville SC had never had players out on loan before. In the course of a week, that… changed. NSC now has one player on loan to a fellow USL club (goalkeeper CJ Cochran to Fresno FC) and four to the local NPSL side (Michael DeGraffanreidt, Jordan Dunstan, Ramone Howell, and Ian McGrath at Inter Nashville FC). How were their performances at their temporary clubs?

Fresno FC 0, Sacramento Republic 1

CJ Cochran started and went the distance for the Foxes. He made five saves and allowed one goal (83.3% save percentage), plus he caught one attempted cross and punched another away for a clearance. He also completed 20 of 22 passes.

Fresno FC 4, Swope Park Rangers 1

Cochran made two saves and gave up one goal in a surprising 4-1 win over the reigning USL runners-up. He completed 10 of 25 passes (goal kicks drag that down, obviously), punched out one cross, which counted as a clearance.

Loan totals: 77.8 save%, 1 GAA. Completed 30/47 passes (63.8%) with two punched clearances and a caught cross.

Inter Nashville FC 5, Asheville City Soccer Club 1

Defenders Michael DeGraffenreidt started the game and went 90 minutes.

Midfielder Ramone Howell started the game and went 78 minutes. He scored a 57th-minute goal.

Midfielder Ian McGrath started the game and went 90 minutes. He scored in the 32nd and 82nd minutes, and also added an assist.

Loan totals: Same as above, this was their first game with Inter.

From the film room: CJ Cochran makes a much-needed save

The streamed portions of Friday’s friendly against Ottawa Fury didn’t feature any scoring, but there were some close calls for each side. Today, I break down one that Ottawa almost canned, but for a great save from goalkeeper CJ Cochran.

The situation

It’s the 50th minute of the game. Nashville SC still has its second-choice lineup on the field (there would be a mass substitution at 55′), while Ottawa’s starting XI went the distance.

The game is still tied 1-1 after each team scored within the first five minutes. Ottawa jumps into a counter-attack to try to change that after a Nashville turnover. However, CJ Cochran’s ball-stopping ability makes a key appearance, and the game would ultimately finish with the same score, despite this golden chance.

The setup

Nashville SC is in its preferred 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2 – though they’re mostly interchangeable, that’s probably a fairer description of the formation given how high the wings pushed in this game). The Boys in Gold are pressing high up the field, and it pays off to a certain extent when Ramone Howell is able to tackle the ball away from a Fury player. However, his backheel touch is heavy, and Ottawa is able to retain possession.

The Fury would prefer to play out of the back with shorter passes and individual runs, but Nashville’s press is making that very difficult. That means both teams have plenty of personnel in the Fury’s defensive end.

A hopeful long ball for Carl Haworth sets the play in motion.

FullSizeRender

What happens

The play begins with a battle won by Ottawa winger Carl Haworth over NSC left centerback Jordan Dunstan. Dunstan has a chance to tackle the ball out of bounds, and not only is that effort unsuccessful, the attempt (and subsequent losing of his balance) gives Haworth plenty of space all by himself with the ball.

IMG_0047

At that point, though, it’s still mostly just Haworth against the other two centerbacks (Ian McGrath in the middle and trialist Gabriel Pfeffer). With both wingbacks and central defensive midfielder Bolu Akinyode coming back to cover (and Dunstan rushing back into position with LWB Taylor Washington covering wide), numbers-wise this isn’t all that scary.

However, Sito Seoane has a step on Michael DeGraffenreidt coming in on the offensive left flank, resulting in a two-on-two between Seoane and Haworth for Ottawa and McGrath and Pfeffer for Nashville.

Poor communication between the NSC duo, the slow-recovering help, and a crafty diagonal run from Seoane create an opening to get behind the defense. Haworth times and weights his pass perfectly, and there’s a great chance to put the Fury ahead.

IMG_0048

However, CJ Cochran, sliding to his left, manages to make his body big in front of his goal, gets his right arm extended, and makes the save. The ball falls to Akinyode, and he plays it wide to Washington, who clears long.

Takeaways

Playing the CBs wide while the outside backs got upfield had a role in this. Even though NSC had numbers back, their offense-oriented formation made it tough to recover to an extent. If one centerback gets beaten (as Dunstan was early), there are only two players back. Dunstan shouldn’t whiff on a clearance – and certainly not in a way that puts him out of the play – but the formation exposed NSC to a degree. Of course “we are in a formation that isn’t conducive to taking a risk and failing” should also go through Dunstan’s mind at that point.

The other primary problem here was the communication snafu between Pfeffer (in his only game action with NSC – and it doesn’t sound like there’s any likelihood he gets signed beyond that trial) and McGrath. The angle of the run combined with Haworth’s path to lead both to covering the man with the ball, while Seoane got a bit of a free run.

Faster tracking back by DeGraffenreidt – whose presence may have led Pfeffer to believe that Seoane was covered, though DeGraff dropped off with another Fury midfielder running on – could have given one of the centerbacks the impression that stopping the ball was the priority. Since there were even numbers (2v2), neither felt the opportunity to take that risk.

It’s also important to underscore that these weren’t mostly first-team guys. McGrath signed just a couple weeks ago as a midfielder, Dunstan is w

Video

Watch the whole play (it loops a couple times with the chalkboard representation interspersed) here:

Breaking down Nashville SC’s three new signings

Given that they were announced the day before the inaugural Nashville SC game, you’ll have to forgive me (and be a little understanding) that I haven’t yet broken down the three newest Nashville SC player signings. I am now here to right that wrong.

Bledsoe McGrath Winn

Micah Bledsoe

A keeper who spent the 2017 season with Louisville City (but did not see action), the 23-year old Bledsoe signed after a short stint as a trialist and practice player with the Boys in Gold. He’s also a local guy, having played collegiately at Lipscomb.

Let’s go back to those Lipscomb days, since they encompass the last game action for Bledsoe. The Bisons (because Lipscomb doesn’t know that the plural of “Bison is Bison.” Surely I’m not breaking new ground with that observation) went 10-6-2 during his senior season in Fall 2016, with Bledsoe playing in 13 of those 18 games. He had a 9-4 record, including five clean sheet victories. He faced 56 shots, saving 41 of them (.732).

Are goalkeeper highlights something you might be interested in? Good:

Bledsoe started every game – and played all but one minute of the season – for a 9-9-2 Bison team during his freshman year (.798 save percentage), earning All-A-Sun freshman team honors. His sophomore year was the team’s best with a 12-4-1 record, but he played in only four games. His Lipscomb bio doesn’t mention an injury, but given that the player who replaced him (Nate Davis) has worse save numbers, I would imagine there was one. Junior year, he was back in the starting lineup, with a career-low .674 save percentage (three shutouts) as the team slumped to 6-10-1.

With the addition of his senior stats (above the video), he’s a career leader in wins (26), save percentage (.735) and shutouts (15).

It’s clear that Lipscomb just isn’t particularly good as a soccer program overall – not terrible, but just fine – given the records of the squad, and Bledsoe’s save percentage rode with the overall quality of the team. The direction of the cause-and-effect relationship is probably a little more toward “worse teams made life tougher on him” than “bad years from Bledsoe led to bad years for the Bisons.”

He has twin older sisters, Amber and Aubrey, who were both collegiate keepers, as well. They don’t match his 6-5 height (5-9 apiece), but Aubrey, who graduated from Wake Forest, is a fellow pro, plying her trade with the NWSL’s Orlando Pride 2015-17. Amber graduated from Boston University. The family hails from Cincinnati.

As a squad member with a veteran and another experienced guy ahead of him, it’s likely that he gets only sparing minutes in 2018, but he can build on that experience (and learn from both Matt Pickens and CJ Cochran) to hopefully carve out a professional career.

Ian McGrath

McGrath is another young guy, having just finished his college career at Evansville University in Indiana. He’s an offensively-minded midfielder who scored 12 goals as a senior (26 for his career, plus 11 assists). At 6-3, 180 – Evansville listed him with another inch and five pounds, for what it’s worth – he’s also a good-sized kid, and only 21.

Evansville was 11-8-2 his senior year, falling in penalty kicks in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals. McGrath was the straw the stirred the drink in a major way, earning all-region honors along the way. In addition to his 12 goals, he had six assists, making him responsible in one way or another for more than half of Evansville’s 34 goals scored on the year. He did it on a ton of shots (73, 37 of them on goal), and by completing three of five penalty kick attempts.

Here’s the video:

He’s the first player I’ve profiled who we’ve actually been able to see on the field for Nashville SC before writing the profile (by a margin of about one paragraph), though I didn’t have many takeaways from his 11 minutes Saturday. That means the video is what we have, and the first takeaway is that several of his goals were from distance (even extreme distance, with a half-field shot finding net). He can really crack it, and also has a couple cool finishes in close with both feet (he also whiffs one with his left and hits it again to finish with the right) and has a few headers. He has a creative flair for finishing – or at times attempting to finish – that is exciting, as well.

McGrath has a knack for finding space and a passing lane and finding the right guy, though he’s not flashy with the ball at his feet or in distributing it. He doesn’t have outstanding speed, but like I just mentioned, manages to find space a bit. He seems long-term like a defensively-oriented midfielder who can push forward and pack a bit of a scoring punch when needed (or on set pieces).

Alan Winn

Winn is the most exciting signing of the new trio (as if his assist Saturday afternoon didn’t make that clear enough). He was a draft pick for the Colorado Rapids just this January, and after feeling like he didn’t have a good shot to get signed to the senior squad, looked at his other options and signed with NSC. That is a coup for an expansion USL side. The 21-year old Texan stands 5-11, 172 according to UNC (Nashvile SC shorts him 10 pounds on that).

He played college ball at North Carolina, and was a Mac Hermann semifinalist and a second-team All-America selection following a senior year in which he scored 11 goals and added two assists for a UNC team that fell to Indiana in the College Cup (final four) of the NCAA Tournament – and is obviously a perennial power.

He played in 77 total games during his four years in Chapel Hill, rising from six starts as a freshman to a full0time starter the following three years. His career totals include 23 goals and 14 assists from 143 shots (58 on goal). His senior year was by far his most efficient, with goals/shots rising to .262 from the mid-teens his first couple years and a slide to .082 as a junior.

Here’s the college reel:

Here’s some assist you might be familiar with:

He’s listed as a winger/striker but gives me the impression that he’s most comfortable playing out wide on the left, and either beating players 1v1 to finish or feed a teammate (or just giving a beautiful service on his first touch for his club team’s first-ever goal, either way).

This kid is going to be a pro, he’s obviously an MLS-caliber player (he featured in just one preseason friendly for Colorado before leaving for Nashville), given that he was the No. 25 overall pick in the SuperDraft this year. He doesn’t turn 22 until later this month – can NSC hold onto him for two years to have him be a part of the initial MLS roster? It might be an interesting situation to monitor, because he may try to make the jump next Summer, rather than waiting one more year.

He should play significantly, and make a pretty good impact for NSC this year, especially in formations that call for a true offensive winger – which, to be fair, is not what I expect out of the primary tactical setup. He can also play striker, but while he’s a good finisher, it’s not quite as natural for him.