Nashville SC loan watch: The (partial) return

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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.

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Nashville SC loan watch: Midfielders scoring for Inter Nashville FC

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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

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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

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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.

Preview: #ElNashico 2018 – US Open Cup round two

The second round of the US Open Cup often sees local battles of Davids and Goliaths: Second-division (USL) clubs enter the competition, and their lower-division brethren who make it through are often looking to prove themselves against teams from a higher level of play (that is to say, they want to prove maybe it’s not the higher level of play it’s believed to be). With geographically-paired teams, there are bound to be some local derbies with a bit of bad blood, whether those feelings are overt or under the surface.

That’s especially true in the battle of Inter Nashville FC v. Nashville SC, with many of Inter’s players having played for the previous incarnation of NSC (Nashville Football Club), the club taking over NFC’s spot in the NPSL when NSC began making moves toward an MLS bid… and plenty of those Inter players having tried out for the USL squad this preseason, but none of them making the cut.

Vanderbilt Soccer Stadium should have a very interesting vibe this evening, if nothing else.

The essentials

Teams: Inter Nashville FC (1-0-0 NPSL Southeast Division, 6-1 first-round Open Cup victory over PDL side Charlotte Eagles) v. Nashville SC (3-2-3 USL Eastern Conference).
Time, Location: 7:30 p.m. CDT  • Vanderbilt Soccer and Lacrosse Complex
Event: US Open Cup Second Round
Weather: 79ºF, 24% chance of rain, 3 MPH E winds
Watch: Tickets available • Stream on the US Soccer website
Events: Tailgate with The Assembly at Hurry Back, The Roadies at the parking lots surrounding the stadium.
Follow: @NashvilleSC, @internashfc, @ClubCountryUSA, US Soccer page, #ElNashico
Etc.: My interview with Inter coach Richie Askey. NSC’s Gary Smith talked a bit about the Open Cup at last week’s media availability.
Elsewhere: Nashville SC official site preview. Re-watch Inter’s first-round win to get hyped up at work today. Chuka Aruh was TheCup.us’s player of round oneGolden Goal match preview. Aruh’s story is a good one.

 

Nashville SC

There’s a bit of an unknown here: it’s not based in the fact that we don’t know about NSC following eight regular-season games and a half-dozen preseason friendlies, but rather that we don’t know what we’re going to see out of the team that is assembled to take on a fourth-division side – and if the “can’t lose” nature of the derby changes the calculus a bit to put a stronger group out there than Gary Smith might otherwise do.

He was fairly open last week that he doesn’t intend to put out the Best XI Nashville has available.

“I’ve got a bit of a shadow group that I’ve put down,” he explained. “Like all teams, we’re training throughout the week and there are certain guys that I saw that are getting through games and might need a little more rest. There are certain areas of the field that I may not have as much depth and players may need to be turned out again…

“My sole focus on Wednesday is to win the game. If we win that game 10-nil, it’s going to make no difference to me than winning it 1-nil. It’ll just make my life easier on the touchline. As long as we’re in the hat for the next round, I don’t mind how we win it: we just win it.”

The second paragraph there certainly implies that he doesn’t intend to put out a group that would compete in USL games, and the first sentence indicates that we’re probably going to see something close to Nos. 12-22 on the lineup sheet as a base roster.

Nashville SC doesn’t have another regular-season game for another ten days, and if they win this one, a mid-week US Open Cup match beckons Wednesday beforehand. There’s plenty of time to rest the team’s best players (and with USL rival Indy Eleven the likely opponent next week in the event of a win tonight, a stronger lineup will need to be ready).

Smith’s “just win” statement indicates that he’s likely to do the minimum that he sees as necessary to ensure a win, not the minimum to play a competitive game and probably win.

Inter Nashville FC

On the other end of the touchline, the game carries quite a bit more meaning for Inter, which has the chance to upset the local big boy (and the team that it tries to position itself as the grassroots answer to, despite the intertwining between the clubs, the fact that Inter hasn’t existed as long as NSC, etc.). That’s ultimately a bigger deal for a team that should do well in the NPSL even if their focus on this evening makes a bit of a tougher time on Saturday’s bounceback game against Georgia Revolution.

Striker Chuka Aruh and winger Ivan Sakou are the offensive headliners, while keeper Hayden Coffman and defenders Richard Reichenberger and Liam Collins (along with defensive midfielder Felix Obilo) are going to be the impactful players on the other end of the pitch.

The question is going to become whether Inter Nashville has the horses to run with the higher level of talent Nashville SC presumably has. If it was a full-strength NSC team, the answer would almost certainly be “no.” However, the top few players on Inter’s team – Aruh is probably a pro caliber player if he continues growing into the striker position after coming up as a defender, for example, while Coffman and several others were on the NFC teams back in the day – are capable of going toe-to-toe with a USL side, particularly one that isn’t first-choice.

The style of play for Inter Nashville has been “our guys will beat your guys,” which is a great strategy for competing in the NPSL. Is it an upset-oriented mindset, though? Not really. From the first name on the lineup sheet to the 18th, they can’t just rely on out-talenting NSC. They’ll likely need a career day from a player or two to really be a major threat here. That’s certainly a possibility, especially with the awkward feelings and shoulder-chips for the Inter side. We’ll see if it comes to fruition, though.

Projected lineups

 

I have no reason to believe that Inter went with much difference than its best XI against Charlotte Eagles, since the opening-round US Open Cup game was theoretically a matchup of equals (despite Inter showing that to not be the case). Look for a similar group, though I have a couple changes here.

Meanwhile, Nashville SC… I think they’ll put out what is mostly that 12-22 side that I mentioned earlier, with a couple starters mixed in, plus more on the bench to use if needed.

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The Inter numbers are going to be off, I apologize for that but neither they nor the NPSL has a numbered roster, which is… not ideal.

I’m assuming Woodberry gets some time if he’s close enough to full health, but centerback is (weirdly, given the depth situation early in the year) one of the deeper positions to take on an NPSL team, with Jordan Dunstan, Ian McGrath, and others potentially available.

I don’t expect some of the more banged-up (or heavily-used and potentially due for some rest) players for NSC to make the squad. That likely means no Alan Winn, probably no Lebo Moloto, et al.

Predictions

 

Nashville SC is going to have some heavy-hitters on the bench (and of course they may sprinkle a couple more into the lineup to start, as well). If things start to go sideways with the “shadow group,” a key player or two will mix in. Barring the emotional lift and motivation for Inter, a second-unit Nashville SC side should be able to win nonetheless.

  • Nashville SC plays pretty conservatively early in the game to feel out how its less-powerful lineup matches up with Inter Nashville FC. If it’s “pretty well,” things will open up and they’ll try to put the game to bed early.
  • On the other hand, if they feel they can’t boss the game, they’ll stay in that shell for awhile, making sure to not let Aruh and Sakou make a dent on the scoreboard, while attacking primarily through the counter.
  • Most likely, I think the answer is somewhere in between: NSC is clearly the better side, but it’s close enough that they can’t be a risk-taking team without being susceptible to the counter-attack. The teams play relatively even ball in a bit of a spirited match.
  • Nashville SC gets on the board early, but goes into the half with just a 1-0 lead. The teams trade goals out of the break (though Inter is never able to get back to a level scoreline), NSC brings on a couple of the more regular contributors, and puts the game to bed.

Nashville SC 4-1 Inter Nashville FC is the final score. It may very well end up with a closer margin than that, but given the importance that Gary Smith is clearly willing to put on this game, I think he adjusts the tactics enough to let his superior talent get the job done in the end.

Nashville Soccer 102: What is the US Open Cup?

The title says it all: Nashville SC will be playing Inter Nashville FC in the US Open Cup tomorrow. What does the competition entail, why are two teams from different leagues playing each other in it, and what’s the endgame?

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What is the Cup?

It’s just the oldest soccer competition in the United States – and despite our country’s reputation as a non-footballing nation, one of the oldest continuous soccer competitions in the world. This year’s edition is No. 105 straight. That makes the US Open Cup much older than MLS (est. 1996), and virtually every club in the country.

Long story short, this is our country’s national championship. While the MLS Cup can decide the winner of our top pro league, the US Open Cup is the top team in the land. Yes, since the establishment of Major League Soccer, teams from the top division have dominated the competition. However, there’s always the dream of the little guy at the very least pulling an upset or two, and maybe even going all the way.

In that respect, you can think of it as a closer analogue to the NCAA basketball tournament, rather than the structure we’re used to for professional sports in the United States. Mid-major teams always have the ability to spring an upset in the first or second round – folks in the area are certainly familiar with Middle Tennessee’s upset over Michigan State a couple years back.

Who’s in it

That is, it’s like the NCAA Tournament if that event wasn’t still restricted to teams from an individual division. While the comparison between, say, the ACC and Southern Conference may feel like a huge gap, it’s not the same as if every college team in the country was able to participate together.

The US Open Cup includes teams from every US Soccer sanctioned division, from the top-tier professionals in MLS (aside from the Canadian teams, who have their own similar competition), to Division 2’s USL (Nashville SC is here), to a theoretical tier three though one currently doesn’t exist, to Division 4 leagues PDL (where Nashville SC’s U-23 team played last year) and NPSL (Inter Nashville is here). The vast majority of Division 4 teams (all in the PDL, and most in NPSL) are amateur teams – no paid players, plenty of volunteer support in the gameday operations, front office, etc. That’s not as low as it goes, though, true amateur sides sanctioned by the amateur arm of US Soccer (USA Adult Soccer, or USASA) go through qualifying to participate in the first round. That’s right – if you play in the right beer league, and your team is good enough in that beer league, there’s a path to participating in a tournament against the big boys.

While only a handful of USASA teams qualify into the first round of The Cup proper, this is theoretically a tournament that any sanctioned team in America can play its way into. (Even teams from the now-defunct NASL – good riddance to it, as well – qualified with a special exception this year).

How’d we get here

The pre-qualifying rounds include the USASA teams battling it out at a local, regional, state level to participate in the tournament. There was also a play-off round for some of the NASL teams to earn their way into the tournament (although by the letter of the rule, they were ineligible by virtue of not playing in a sanctioned league).

Once the tournament itself begins, the teams are slotted against regional opposition in round one, which consists of the Division 4 teams (and those below). Inter Nashville FC played against the PDL’s Charlotte Eagles last Wednesday, emerging with a resounding 6-1 victory.

Round 2 takes place tomorrow, and that’s where USL teams enter the mix, including Nashville SC. (Depending on the divisional structure in any given year, the exact entry points among the divisions and leagues is a bit on the “variable” side, for what it’s worth). It’s once again paired by geography, and that’s why you have two teams from the same city – but two tiers apart on the US Soccer pyramid – playing each other.

For those who are truly at the 102 level of learning about soccer, but the way, local matches are traditionally called “derbies” (pronounced “darby”), because we come from an anglophile soccer culture, which is why you’ll often see insufferable tools complaining on Twitter that the reason the United States didn’t make the World Cup is because we call the sport “soccer” instead of the pip-pip-cheerio approved “football.”

What’s next

The winner of tomorrow’s game already knows that the opponent will be one of two options: the USL’s Indy Eleven or PDL side Mississippi Brilla. Given that the first several rounds of the tournament are paired geographically, the round three draw took place at the conclusion of round one (or it was supposed to – there was a bit of a delay and the announcements weren’t made until yesterday).

The Nashville team – be it Inter or SC – will be the host for the third round. NSC has already played Indy once – losing 2-1 in Indianapolis just a couple weeks ago.

Round four is where MLS teams enter the competition, and that’s where the competition can get really fun. Attendance-obsessed though FC Cincinnati fans may be, their team’s run through a couple MLS teams to reach the national semifinal – they lost to New York Red Bulls, who subsequently fell to fellow MLS team Sporting Kansas City – was a great story in soccer last Summer. (For what it’s worth, their opponent tomorrow is Detroit City FC, home to the most insufferable fans on the planet, so for this time only, go FCC).

The stakes

Beyond being crowned the national champion, there are monetary considerations for advancing and winning the Cup. The winner receives $300,000, the runner-up $100,000, and the farthest-advancing team from each non-MLS division earns $25,000. That’s obviously life-changing money for some of the amateur and even NPSL-type teams.

Of course, the pride is a big factor as well. The hope of this site is that US Soccer continues to increases the prizes (particularly for lower-division clubs), making the competition a more meaningful one for all.

Pitch points defeats Eagles soon

Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I round up interesting links about local, national, and international soccer. As always, if you see something out in the ether that you’d like me to include, you can always hit me up via Facebook or Twitter.

US Open Cup tonight! Inter Nashville FC takes on Charlotte Eagles (who, I must note every time, have never been sanctioned by USSF despite brazenly flouting Federation rules?) in Matthews, N.C. tonight. You can see the Open Cup match center here.

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There’s no clear indication as to whether it will be streamed, but probably?

If you want to know more about Inter, check out my story with head coach Rich Askey last week. They’re a little too known as “Nashville’s other club,” when a rivalry status isn’t all that necessary – unless and until tonight’s win over Charlotte, at which time a one-week rivalry period leading into the second-round Open Cup derby is allowed.

Either way, there are plenty of reasons to pull for Inter Nashville tonight, so do it!

Men’s National Talk. The USMNT has turned down an invitation to the Copa America, and Stars and Stripes FC’s Donald Wine says it’s the right choice.

While many fans may be disappointed that the USMNT will be missing out on competing against some of the best teams in the world at Copa America, this is the right call. You want your best team, whatever that may be, ready to go to compete in the Gold Cup and win that to qualify for what could be the final Confederations Cup (if it actually happens).

I understand the spirit of that argument, but reject the premise. You can… still send your best team to the Gold Cup? Like, am I missing something here? Just send the B team to the Copa, and give young players competitive minutes against great opposition in South America. Here’s an example that took me like 30 seconds:

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It’s not polished, but again, pretty much just thrown together (and yes, primarily based off the call-ups for the Paraguay friendly, plus a couple key players added for the Gold Cup roster).

That’s your Gold Cup side on the top: basically an A-team, but composed of guys who won’t age out out the pool by the time the 2022 World Cup rolls around. The bottom is your B-team with a similar concept: those who aren’t quite going to beat out the players for the Gold Cup team, but are pretty darn good for a B-team (and again, aren’t going to age out by 2022).

It’s hardly a polished breakdown, and you could flip-flop a player between the teams here and there, or make an argument for plenty of guys I didn’t include to be on one roster or the other… but that’s the point, yeah? You have two capable starting lineups, and you can have veterans (Bradley, Dempsey, Guzan, Altidore, et al) plus other younger guys who aren’t going to age out and could have an argument for being in one of these sides (Acosta, Delgado, Moore, Rubin) on the bench that you can distribute between the two teams in any fashion that fits the needs and goals for each squad.

Obviously, this is just a thought exercise, because Copa ain’t happening, but that’s a bit of a bummer, of course. And this was a fun thought exercise nonetheless.

In other national team news, DeAndre Yedlin is “proud” that Americans care enough to be upset about missing the World Cup. I know the word choice is going to rub some folks the wrong way, but I’m okay with it. I’ve been thinking about a post pushing back on the “missing the World Cup will set us back 10 years” concept. Yedlin’s statement is part of what I’ve been thinking of: while the layperson is less likely to get interested in soccer this Summer, a lot of those who are already engaged to various extents have or will step up their engagement as a result of that anger/frustration. It’s already played a role in a presidential ouster, even if that ended up being not quite as exciting as folks wanted.

Meanwhile, the MNT manager hiring pool is… fine? Still uninspiring though? Surprised not to see Greg Vanney on it, and it’s a little too focused on American candidates, but there are some decent options there.

Busy Saturday morning? Get out and join the Roadies Rally for Soccer for the Nations, a v. cool local charity. Doing well and doing good simultaneously is obviously something this blog gets behind, and causes like SFTN are right up my alley.

Etc.: USL out here launching an in-house podcast. … Ideas more cohesive (and certainly more interesting) than the mindless “let’s do pro-rel.” … Chicharito for MLS? … Nashville SC’s Liam Doyle is unavailable for the Isle of Man National Team in the World Football Cup the non-FIFA version of the World Cup). … Add another book to the ol’ “things to eventually read” list. Phoenix Rising building a development pathway.