Nashville SC plus/minus for 2018

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Ramone Howell (4) led the team in plus-minus, albeit in a very limited sample size. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

As we trudge through the offseason, let us not forget through all the player acquisitions and scheduling announcements that the 2019 season will be built from a baseline that was established this Summer.

Certainly everyone is entitled to an opinion about the relative quality of certain players (and I have mine, too), but as I’ve tried to do in the past, some sort of objective measure of contributions is always worthwhile. No single statistic or group of statistics can tell the whole story, but the larger the body of data we build, the clearer the picture we have.

One measure that I find potentially useful – with some significant caveats – is a hockey-style plus/minus number. The calculation is pretty simple: goals when a given play is on the field minus goals against when that player is on the field. Unlike hockey, there are limited substitutions in soccer, so it’s both a little easier to calculate and carries a slightly different meaning (and can also be normalized to a number per 90 minutes played). Since man-up and man-down statuses are rarer in soccer, I also ignored those situations rather than excising them from the number like they’d be on the ice.

Without further ado:

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 12.28.02 PM.pngRamone Howell’s team-leading +6.66 per 90 is a small sample size distortion: with only 27 minutes on the field, he was playing during game-tying goals against Cincinnati in the regular-season finale and the opening round of the playoffs.

With 3,180 minutes played for the team (35 matches plus 30 minutes of extra time in the playoff match), your mileage may vary in terms of how many minutes a player needs in order for the number to be meaningful. I would handicap it at about 1,000 just based on the eyeball test, even in the situations where the expectations somewhat match up to the observed value.

Ryan James probably falls into that range (at least for me), as well. James’s situation does point out one of the weaknesses of a plus-minus in soccer, especially with limited substitutions: especially late in the year, he was mostly coming onto the field late in games with a lead, so his team wasn’t trying to score in most of his time on the field. Obviously that they got scored on in some of those situations is less than ideal, but the leading game state doesn’t lend itself to a positive plus-minus.

Indeed, game state is something that I’d be more interested in exploring – and would have, but the spreadsheets were going to get really complicated really fast, and quite honestly I wasn’t sure how I’d like to handle it. Certainly it’s fair to say that a defender who is getting a bunch of +/-0 while playing mostly when his team had a one- or two-goal lead is a heck of a lot better than a striker ending with +/-0 coming onto the field when his team is down by a score and looking for a goal.

So, who are some of the other surprises? Ish Jome certainly stands out to the positive, and I’d say both Bradley Bourgeois and Bolu Akinyode are lower than we’d have expected. Jome’s season did include a silly red that may have cost his team a result against Bethlehem Steel, and he faded after that – including being benched over the next four contests. In his first several games, though, he was a very solid performer. It’s possible that the way we remember his quality over the course of the season is unfairly tainted by the way it tailed off.

Bourgeois to some extent suffered from the same condition as James, making only late-game appearances early before supplanting London Woodberry, and then for a couple games late when he was working his way back to fitness after injury. A fully healthy Bourgeois who begins the year in the lineup is probably a little higher up the chart.

Akinyode’s low number is interesting to me because he played so much of the season that his plus-minus is pretty representative of his time on the pitch (with the caveat that he’s not the sole driving force behind a number ending up where it did, of course). He also happened to miss one of the worst results of the year – a two-goal loss to Ottawa, which Michael Reed also missed the action in with an early injury – due to international travel issues. He finished +5 on the year, so his number is hardly damning, but per-90, it’s the lowest of any returning player.

James was only joined in the negative by London Woodberry (I’d say his negative number was fairly reached, with a red card in the Ottawa game that facilitated the Fury’s second goal, and the only own-goal of the year, in a one-goal loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies), along with Robin Shroot and CJ Cochran, who both suffer from small sample size, though you could also say they didn’t earn a larger slice of playing time with their performances.

Going forward, it’s worth noting that, aside from Jome and David Edgar (or depending on how you want to look at it, Jome and Akinyode’s finish below Edgar), every returning player finished with a better number per-90 than every player who will not be back with the team in 2019. Nashville SC has consolidated the best performers on the roster – with the same caveats about the limited meaningfulness of the singular number – and let the other guys seek other opportunities.

The players added this offseason are safely assumed to be upgrades: the top two scorers in the league, an all-USL defender, and two highly successful guys who didn’t quite earn league honors. That’s pretty solid. Building on the core that was established last season, trimming those who don’t play up to expectations, and adding highly successful talent to the top of the roster could just be a recipe for an exciting 2019.

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The graphical: Nashville SC 2018 player radars

We’ve reached the end of the USL season – though Nashville’s been done for nearly a month – so let’s continue wrapping things up by a graphical representation of the players’ 2018 performances.

A few notes here:

  • Field players only. I’ll consider doing something for keepers in the future, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that makes sense without broader comparisons.
  • I used a cutoff of 600 minutes played (because otherwise sample size errors would be even greater than they ended up), which removed Jordan Dunstan, Ramone Howell, and Robin Shroot from consideration.
  • I also took out Michael Cox and David Edgar, because they played the majority of their minutes with other teams (St. Louis and Ottawa, respectively), and the way the USL website presents the data, there’s no way to separate that out. Neither would have played over the 600-minute threshold for NSC, anyway.
  • That leaves a pool of 17 field players.
  • Keep in mind that some of these factors are an indication of quality, others are a description of style. “Was in more duels” is not necessarily synonymous with “better,” just a different type.
  • That said, I’m not happy with a couple of the metrics representing the sort of thing I wanted them to. Specifically, duels are not as indicative of a defensive mindset as I’d thought (particularly because aerial duels went mostly to Tucker Hume on longballs, etc.). I’d re-calculate the data, but I got way too deep into the process before realizing it, so it’ll have to wait for another time.
  • Since I’m using limited software here (Google Docs, actually), the wheels are a bit tougher to interpret, with no raw numbers. Everything is scaled from lowest on the team (0) to highest on the team (1), without regard for how it’d stack up to the rest of USL. For example, Brandon Allen had the best finishing rate on the team (30.3%), so he’s represented by a 1. There were plenty of USL players with higher marks (such as Cincy’s Danni Konig at 37.9%), but they’re outside of the sample size.
  • The stats are divided into four categories, starting with usage in the upper right, and going clockwise through shooting, passing, and defense. Each category includes four metrics, though as mentioned above, I’m not super-happy with how representative they all are of what I’m going for.

Here we go:

Primarily offensive players

Forwards, wide midfielders (minus Taylor Washington, who played wingback and fullback more than he played as an offensive-minded midfielder), and central attacking midfielders. Not sure whether to stick LaGrassa here because he also played significant amounts as a central defensive midfielder, but given his time as a winger and second striker, I guess I will.

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Winn’s role as an offense-minded winger was one that worked out pretty well for him as a distributor, especially. He barely edged out Kris Tyrpak for the mantle of “greatest percentage of his passes were key passes.” His finishing could use some work, and he was mostly a non-entity defensively.

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Allen’s role as a poacher and finisher cannot be overstated. Of course, there’s a bit of a confounding factor here: four of his ten goals on the season came from the penalty spot, and two of them came with the Bethlehem Steel before his transfer.

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Were it not for his season-ending injury, Moloto would have been one of the ironmen of this team. His conversion rate on shots was well-documented as being too low (though, as I’ve enumerated plenty of times in the past, that’s probably a product of feeling like he had to do too much with a whole new team, especially early in the year). His shots on-target rate indicates bad luck played a part, too. He was also one of the key creators for this team.

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LaGrassa played multiple roles for the team, as described above. His offensive numbers certainly indicate that he spent much more time in that CDM role (which I believe to be true, though I haven’t gone back and checked). His win rate on duels and tackles is certainly pretty good.

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Jome, like LaGrassa, played multiple roles, though his were a little less diverse: left winger, left fullback, and a little bit of central defensive mid. He pretty much got benched after getting a key red card.

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Hello, Mr. “tries shit.” If Mensah had been at full fitness earlier in the year, this team’s (often deserved) reputation for being a bunker-counter squad with little creativity in the final third might have been different. Mensah’s conversion rate wasn’t great, but to a certain extent, having him out there was not only a way for him to score, but to open things up for teammates.

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Extremely similar graph to Winn’s, save for the fact that Tyrpak didn’t join the team until August and only got into five games. A whole season with him available would certainly be interesting (though he and Winn have overlapping skillsets, to an extent).

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The “shoot only” version of an offensive player. You’d actually like to see at least the passes per 90 be higher, given that he’s a hold-up striker. If the key pass version of a hockey assist existed, though, he’d be much higher. Also: the graph that made me realize duels don’t belong in the “defensive actions” category.

Primarily defensive players

The rest of ’em. As you can figure from the above, there’s some overlap in the LaGrassa/Washington/Jomes of the world.

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The only player on the team (or at least among these 17 who got enough playing time to count) who didn’t register a shot. Solid defender and ground-coverer, and the majority of his key passes were crosses in from the wing.

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A lot of minutes played, solid defensive numbers (remember, we shouldn’t be holding a lack of volume in duels against him), and decent action going forward with key passes. Given that he played both centerback and fullback, the pass numbers generally get a little more impressive (aside from long passing, which you expect more of from a centerback).

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The most offensive of NSC’s central defensive mids, Reed made an offensive impact with line-breaking passes (that long pass mark is pretty nice, especially when considering how many of those passes turned into key passes, and how accurate Reed’s passing was overall). He didn’t get forward much until later in the year, which you’d like to see more of with a team that’s a bit more comfortable with each other next year.

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James didn’t play a ton to get much data on him. Non-entity offensively (unsurprising given that much of his time, especially late in the year, came as a third centerback sub). Was a very good ball-winner, though.

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Some eyebrows were raised about Doyle’s selection as the team’s defender of the year, but the graph is pretty impressive to me. Tons of blocks and clears, did a great job winning tackles, wasn’t a liability with the ball at his feet (completing a lot of passes despite simply booting many of them upfield), and was pretty much an ironman.

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I’m actually fairly surprised Bourgeois’s long passing rate wasn’t higher, because there was a stretch in the middle of the year where it seemed like he was just instinctively banging it upfield. He would have been one of the minutes leaders if not for a mid-season injury, he would have had a ton of minutes, too. Glad to see him get a couple goals in there, as well.

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Played multiple positions, scored on one of just seven shots on the year. Wasn’t super-involved on or off the ball, based on the graph, but was good when called upon.

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Hello, weird graph for a central midfielder. Akinyode was very good defensively (upper left quadrant) and got plenty of playing time (upper right). The bottom two portions are where it gets interesting: he was a non-entity offensively – aside from one absolute banger against FCC, of course – and his passing chart shows a guy who was similarly not involved either getting forward or moving the ball into the offensive third. “Guy who doesn’t mess up with the ball at his feet” is certainly an asset for a team, but I’d like to see more (or, if he’s not going to produce going forward, a couple fewer situations where he was jogging back in defense while his guy scored or set up a goal).

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Woodberry actually had the ball at his feet a lot for a centerback. He was fairly solid blocking shots and clearing them with regularity (perhaps there’s something to be said for that), though the other centerbacks had a bit more. Anecdotally, he did have a game-losing own-goal, of course.

What we learned

Aside from “let’s make sure we understand what part of the game duels demonstrate before chopping up the data,” I think a lot of what we see here either follows with what we saw on the field (“Ropapa tries to make things happen,” “Akinyode may not be physically capable of a pass longer than eight yards”), or taught us something that we might not have otherwise realized (“Hume’s shooting was actually more important to the team than his hold-up play,” “Winn and Tyrpak were far and away the most important setup men”).

Again, some of the graph is on a scale of “bad to good” while other parts are simply stylistic measures, so there’s a bit of mining you can do with these.

If you have any suggestions for how to make the graphs more enlightening, or a question/suggestion/etc. otherwise, let me know in the comments or drop me a note on the social channels. I’m all ears, and trying to get as much information displayed in an interesting and informative way as possible.

 

Breakdown and player ratings: Nashville SC 1-0 North Carolina FC

Nashville SC waited until the last possible moment to find a winner, but they did. Without much trouble from NCFC, the trouble finding goals of their own was the only question mark for NSC.

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Man of the Match Ish Jome.

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 and NCFC both came out in relatively standard 4-4-2 formations with two blocks of four. As usual, NSC’s central midfielders remained pretty defensive (with forays forward, especially late in the game, from Michael Reed). There was a slight twist with a return to stacked strikers – Lebo Moloto playing well underneath Brandon Allen – that was significant enough I’d almost characterize the formation as a 4-5-1 with the central midfield in a diamond.

Ish Jome and Matt LaGrassa were the wingers, and as has been the case when LaGrassa is nominally out wide, he tends to drift centrally and the field gets a little tilted toward the left side (we’ll see that Jome’s abilities make that… not a problem). The wingers stayed on their natural sides when Alan Winn entered in the 79th, but flipped in about the 88th minute, so both Winn (righty playing on the left) and Jome (lefty playing on the right) would be able to shoot with their strong foot from a slightly better angle.

NSC threw tons of numbers forward after this stretch, trying to find a late winner. While the winner did come on a set piece, it was Winn pushing forward that earned the free kick, so there was some value there.

For what it’s worth, this is one of just a couple games I can recall (and first in USL play) where Gary Smith didn’t use all three subs.

Gary Smith community rating: 8.13

Community comments:

  • “Should have been a bigger win.”

I agree with that sentiment, though I think that was more finishing-related than coach-related (though I can only speculate that the commenter intended that to be a criticism of the coach, since the language is non-specific).

Midfield

Ladies and gentlemen, your Man of the Match:

Ish Jome 23.40 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 8.38

I’m pretty surprised his community rating was so close to many of his teammates, because I (and the broadcasters, particularly Ronnie Woodard) thought he was head-and-shoulders ahead of the field. Maybe it’s a similar situation to Robin Shroot in the first Penn FC game – the poor finishing is more memorable than the great runs down the channel? He was a consistent threat down the side, stretched the opposing defense, and is underrated as a defender and ball-circulator. His relationship with Justin Davis is very nice, as well. With just a few weeks as a member of the squad, the sky is the limit here.

Michael Reed 17.78 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 7.75

Reed had a very nice game, and when he feels free enough to involve himself in the offense – as he did against a bad NCFC team – he can build up some comfort, take more confident touches, and really excel over the course of a game. He’s still prone to a heavy first touch, or trying some… ambitious… things (long shots, wild threading passes) that don’t work out. His steadiness as the team’s leader is underscored by how much less frantic this one felt than the Tampa Bay game a week earlier.

Matt LaGrassa 12.65 (81 minutes) – Community rating: 7.00

This was a second-straught rough outing for LaGrassa in my view, and quite frankly if he’d finished out the game, his score might have ended up lower than it is (I thought he had a worse performance than Akinyode per the eyeball test) because of negative events. It’s the tendency to make those negative things happen that is the problem, because he has no issue being highly involved in the contest (albeit from drifting inside when he’s supposed to maintain some width on the wing), it just doesn’t play out positively every time. He has a good touch and good weight on his passes, but gets it taken away and tries unwise passes a little too frequently. It’s easy to see why he’s been passed on the CDM depth chart, but it’s also easy to see the great flashes at times.

Bolu Akinyode 11.85 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 8.13

Akinyode’s reputation precedes him, and although he recovered very well in the second half, the fans voting him third-best player in the game behind Matt Pickens and Ish Jome is insane. He was pretty shaky in the opening frame, with a lot of defensive miscues – albeit ones that really didn’t get punished because NCFC is bad. From the opening whistle (we saw the now-patented “get run by, then show limited effort to catch up to your man-mark) to letting his mark free on a corner… let’s just say it was good he recovered and his confidence wasn’t shaken. Akinyode did show a bit of burst I didn’t think he had once he came into the game, and had some crunching tackles. Still, “completes a lot of his passes” is overrated rather consistently by the fans.

Alan Winn 2.48 (16 minutes) – Community rating: 7.75

Winn didn’t have a ton of time on the field, but what little time he did spend was very effective. Nashville’s late-game plan (offense offense offense) was well-suited to his game, of course, but he did track back defensively a couple of times. His speed on the left earned the free kick that led to the game-winner, as well.

Forward

Lebo Moloto 16.64 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 7.88

Moloto played underneath Brandon Allen, dropping for the ball, and that seemed to fit his skillset. He tends to overuse the same idea or two in a game (this time, it was the flick behind himself to a runner when he was posted up), and defenses catch on a bit. He also gets into a little bit of trouble because defenses converge, knowing he’s the most important player to the offense. He needs more help from his strikers (more on that in a moment, obviously). Moloto is getting a bit of a Justin Davis or Matt LaGrassa “has plenty of negative plays, but just has a ton of plays overall to run up a score,” albeit with much more on the positive side. Also: it’s unconscionable that this penalty was not given. That’s terrible officiating:

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Brandon Allen 10.91 (70 minutes) – Community rating: 5.75

I thought this was Allen’s first truly poor game in a Nashville SC uniform. There would have been little to complain about if his yellow card was a straight red (he barreled into a player away from the ball, then stuck out a foot to try to trip him), and he probably deserved a second yellow for a shove early in the second half. There’s something to be said for the “mercurial striker” archetype, but he has to keep his composure. He was decent-not-great in the actual run of play, unable to find much space in the box or drop deeper to force his team to involve him. He seems to do better with side-by-side strike partners.

Ropapa Mensah 4.44 (25 minutes) – Community rating: 8.50

Mensah’s going to get overrated because he’s the goal-scorer, even though he didn’t do a whole lot before that. On the other hand, dude’s job is to get goals and win games, and he did just that. NCFC was really compact to try to bunker and escape with the point by the time Mensah came on, so being unable to turn on the ball and get shots off is not worrisome to me.

Defenders

Bradley Bourgeois 16.32 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 8.13

The defense was very solid – indeed, there was little for them to do in this game – and against a sputtering NCFC offense, much of the scoring for the backline actually comes from their offensive contributions. You know the deal here: Bourgeois finally got at least an assist on a set piece, and he’s able to play up on various types of dead-ball situations and also track back quickly.

Justin Davis 15.56 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 7.63

Davis was very comfortable pushing forward with the ball in this one, in large part because there wasn’t much to worry about tracking back. He still had some of his nice full-speed slide-tackles, but this was more about crossing and interplay with Jome (his teammate with Minnesota United last year) than anything on D.

Kosuke Kimura 12.27 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 6.88

With little defending needed, Kimura was able to push higher up the pitch than we’ve seen… probably since Nashville switched to the 4-4-2 formation? He whipped in some decent crosses, even took a couple shots (whiffing one on the backside when service got through the box), and was able to dribble in traffic and recycle laterally to his teammates. He was no defensive liability in that time, so nice.

Liam Doyle 10.97 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 7.25

Again, not much to do defensively, so don’t read a whole lot into a pedestrian score here. Doyle’s contributions included a number of inch-perfect long balls from the left foot (as we’ve seen all year), primarily on cross-field service, which unfortunately meant that LaGrassa fumbled a couple of them. He did have a couple sketchy moments including a poor mark on the only NCFC threat on goal (a header on the run), and heading the ball onto a runner in the box on accident, but given the output from North Carolina FC, not much to worry about.

Goalkeeper

Matt Pickens 10.46 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 8.50

I think Pickens’s community rating is slightly overrated on account of keeping the clean sheet, but there simply wasn’t a whole lot for him to do. Even the saves he made were relatively simple efforts, and NCFC just couldn’t trouble him because they don’t have the horses to be an offensive threat against a defense like Nashville’s. Pickens didn’t do anything wrong, of course, but he didn’t personally impact the match enough to be named Man of It.

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

The Graphical: Nashville SC 1-0 North Carolina FC

Welcome to The Graphical, in which I mine the Opta data for insights as to how Nashville SC’s most recent result came about. You can also see more conventional game coverage from the North Carolina FC win here at For Club and Country, and don’t forget to vote in community player ratings before tomorrow’s deadline.

Bend until they break

At halftime, this game felt like it had a lot of scoring in it, even if neither side was able to find twine before the break. As the second half wore on, it increasingly felt like one of those games, with tons of chances but never the one that pays off.

Indeed, up until the final kick of the game, it looked like chance after chance would be left wanting. Plenty in the pressbox had to scrap game stories mentioning it. But was it accurate? In a word, yes:

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Look at all those chances for Nashville (right side), and indeed, a fair number for NCFC – though five of their ten chances were blocked, and only two of the others were on-frame. It’s not that neither team threatened, but rather that both threatened a lot and couldn’t perform the final action.

This was a bit of a throwback to the beginning of the year, when Nashville would consistently threaten, but just couldn’t score. Of course, I consistently noted then (and it’s since borne out) that creating those chances time and again is eventually going to pay off: even a poor finisher is going to hit the back of the net given enough chances, and all indications were then (and are now), that NSC’s finishers aren’t bad – just intermittently unlucky.

Still, eleven shots off the frame of the goal (nine of those from inside the 18, three inside the six-yard box) is not super-great. I’d contend, based both on recent history and the nature of some of those misses – if I recall correctly, two of the three inside the box were from set pieces, one from a cross that was barely touched by Matt LaGrassa as he slid to the endline – that you’d more likely see a three- or four-goal output in the exact same circumstances. I wish we had full Opta xG data for USL contests, because the chart alone looks like a 3.8-0.4 type of margin.

For what it’s worth, North Carolina FC’s on-target percentage was much worse (20%) than what felt like a poor day for Nashville (28.6%).

Tilting the field

It would be unfair to say NCFC’s only chances came on the counter or set pieces, because they had a bit of decent possession and chain-building. However, it is totally fair to say that the majority of the play took place in their defensive end of the pitch. Nashville dominated possession (67.6% to 32.4%), and had plenty of that possession in the attacking third.

In addition to the heavily populated shot chart above, look at each team’s clearances:

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Again, that’s Nashville’s defending on the left, NCFC’s on the right. NSC had to clear from its own box 11 times. The Railhawks had 22 defensive clearances inside their 18, and unlike Nashville (only had to clear from elsewhere in the defensive end on one occasion), they also had to make plays on the defensive flanks and at the top of the key from shooting positions.

This was a dominating game in every way except the scoreboard. We all know soccer, of course: dominating doesn’t always mean you win. But more often than not, you play like this and get a result.

More like “W”Ish Jome had been here a little earlier, folks

Still workshopping the pun.

 

The paths of Nashville SC’s two newest signings in terms of their integration into the squad have been divergent. Brandon Allen slotted in immediately, and put up goals like he’d never played anywhere else (before fading slightly in the past week-plus). Ish Jome has received steadily increasing time, and has gone from looking a little uncomfortable in his passing relationships with teammates to a potential breakout star.

He was outstanding in this one, certainly his best game in Gold – and likely to earn MOTM honors I’m finished with the community ratings.

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Look at that passing chart: he completed 83.3% of his passes, and all but two of his ten incompletions were attempted crosses (a high-risk strategy that you’re not too upset to see fail, because when it connections, they’re among the most dangerous offensive plays you can make).

It was his speed up the flank that drew the most attention, though. Take a look at this average position:

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The left-right orientation is going to be a little skewed because he flipped over to the right side when Alan Winn came on (so his average is dragged over to the right, but it’s an optical illusion because the chart doesn’t separate the two positions he played).

More importantly though, look how high up the pitch he played both in that representation and his personal heatmap:

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He was a terror getting down that left side, and as you saw just above, he banged in a bunch of crosses (four successful, five unsuccessful) when he got there. The dynamic of a lefty playing on the left and a righty playing on the right – versus flipping them, so the players can shoot with their natural foot in the center of the pitch – is something I’ve been watching lately. Justin Davis is certainly the most comfortable fullback overlapping his winger on the side, while Jome is the most comfortable winger getting high up the pitch without support.

Playing the wingers inverted so Jome can create speed down the right flank (if he’s comfortable enough dribbling on that side of the field) might be a better fit with Davis’s skillset (he can cross it to a striker or cut it back to a righty winger to shoot from near the top of the 18), since Kosuke Kimura isn’t overlapping as much on the right.

With the offense currently seeming tilted toward the left side, that might be something to look at. Jome provides that flexibility as he gets more comfortable with his teammates – he’s certainly a skilled and naturally talented player. To date, he only has one assist to show for it, but that will increase if he continues playing like he did Saturday night.

Thanks as always for reading FCAC. Please feel free to share our social media posts with a friend who is interested in learning about the team and reading in-depth coverage of Nashville SC.

Video: Gary Smith, Ish Jome, and Bradley Bourgeois discuss win over NCFC

Nashville SC pulled out a win at the death against North Carolina FC. Hear what gaffer Gary Smith and two of the game’s key performers – midfielder Ish Jome and centerback Bradley Bourgeois (who assisted on the game winner) had to say in the aftermath.

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Nashville SC signs Ish Jome

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Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Nashville SC’s roster has boasted one player from the inaugural MLS season of Minnesota United practically from the beginning, and now it officially adds another. Midfielder Ish Jobe – who was a teammate of Justin Davis in Minnesota both with the NASL side and the MLS group – has signed to the first-team squad.

Jobe has been training with the Boys in Gold for a few weeks, and finally earned the opportunity to join the senior team. The news was first reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Here’s what reporter Megan Ryan had to say about him:

Jome played for the Loons their final season in the North American Soccer League before making the jump to MLS last year. The 23-year-old played in 12 games with seven starts as a utility player, slotting in at forward, midfielder and defender at times… [Since last season, he has] trialed at the New York Red Bulls and with Danish second-tier team Fremad Amager in Copenhagen.

Jome was not an NASL Best XI player in United’s final year in that league (Davis and current Loons star Christian Ramirez were Minnesota United’s only selections), in fact making just nine appearances in 32 games, five of them starts. In 496 minutes, he notched one goal and one yellow card.

The 23-year old Gambian grew up in the North Star State, but played his college ball at UC Santa Barbara. In three years with the Gauchos, he played in 56 games with 48 starts, tailing off over the course of his career in terms of playing time, but actually peaking as a junior with three goals and three assists in his career-low 16 appearances after being named to the preseason all-Big West Team as a wingback.

Oddly, he’s mostly a left back, which is the position that is manned by former MNUFC teammate Davis. Not a ton of time available there, given that Davis is one of three players (along with keeper Matt Pickens and defensive midfielder Michael Reed) to play every minute of the season. Maybe a chance at midfield? Simply providing depth? Rewarding a guy who’s been a valuable practice player? A potential move back to the 5-3-2 (at least as a changeup)?

Here’s the highlight reel from his college days:

A tall-skinny left back who’s comfortable cutting inside to shoot with the right but prefers shooting/crossing with the left is a skillset that NSC doesn’t have (and in a body type they didn’t have even when Taylor Washington was playing at that spot). He’s got good top-end speed but isn’t necessarily a quick guy, probably in part because he doesn’t have the muscle built up at this point. Similarly, there’s a lot of wasted motion with his skill dribbles – effective though they may ultimately be – in part because he lacks the muscle mass to smoothly move all the length in his limbs.

Other than showing the top-end speed – which takes him a sec to build up to – to catch up with runners, he doesn’t have a ton defensively on the highlight reel. Could be more of a depth signing at left midfield and a project to mold into a more well-rounded player long-term.

At the youthful age of 23, he has the ability to develop into a legit USL talent. Probably not one who makes an MLS jump (barring very rapid and sizable improvement), but one who can be a rotation player.