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.

Takeaways from Thursday’s NSC training session

Before this afternoon’s Louisville City preview, a couple items from yesterday’s training that was open to the media (for post-practice interviews, see Gary Smith/Liam Doyle interviews and Lebo Moloto transcript).

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Michael Reed is your captain. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country (File).

This team is filled with leaders

It should come as no surprise that defensive midfielder Michael Reed is the team’s captain – the former San Antonio FC captain is an experienced vet (a second-division lifer to this point with NASL and USL experience), obviously has captaincy experience at his previous club, and is very much the steady hand in the middle of the pitch that you’d like to see out of the on-field leader.

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Taylor Washington learns from Kosuke Kimura. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country.

Something that I’ve noticed throughout training sessions though – and Gary Smith alluded to it yesterday – is that there’s not only a genuine love for each other among the players, but a desire throughout the roster to help each other improve. Smith mentioned Shroot working with Lebo Moloto after practice yesterday, we’ve seen it with Kosuke Kimura giving instruction to younger teammates when the rest of the squad has already hit the showers (right), and if not for the difficulty of directing the entire team from within the goal, keeper Matt Pickens would have been an outstanding choice for captain himself.

I predicted this in some of the player signing stories, but there’s a responsibility in leadership for the older players in potentially helping their younger teammates pick up on the mental and tactical sides of the game to help their careers last as long as possible (and reach higher levels more quickly).

NSC is expecting a different kind of challenge

That’s not just a level of intensity ratcheted up due to the arrival of games that actually count, and not just a greater level of talent from LCFC than some of the preseason opponents. The Lou is also going to present a tactical challenge, too.

Like last week’s training session featured plenty of practice in cross-field service from the centerbacks to the strikers – and we saw that plenty in the game against Chattanooga – this week’s revolved largely around dealing with a high press from the opposing offensive personnel. Look for NSC to show a focus on getting the ball out quickly when playing out of the back.

Louisville is the most tactically similar club to NSC (with a 5-3-2 or 3-5-2, however you want to classify it), so while the Boys in Gold are used to seeing it and know the ins and outs of what the formation wants to accomplish, they haven’t gone against it in full-go action yet. The amount of space available for wingbacks to roam up and down the flanks will be the biggest difference – Louisville will probably be the first team that truly wants to match them in workrate out there – but NSC will be ready to make the necessary adjustments to still find success wide.

Just how much that translates into turning defense into offense could play a major role in determining the outcome of the game.

Injury report

NSC buried this a little bit in their game notes (sorry for putting y’all out there like this!), but there was an update to the injury report. Jordan Dunstan is out – probably not a surprise given he missed the last friendly – while both London Woodberry and Bradley Bourgeois are questionable with leg injuries.  That means seriously diminished centerback depth.

My personal speculation is that Woodberry will be hale enough to make the starting lineup, and the question becomes if Bourgeois is in the 18 or out altogether (since he fell into the latter category for part of Spring). That puts Ryan James and Michael DeGraffenreidt in a situation where they’ll probably be pulled into the lineup away from their natural positions (outside back for both, though they’ve also each played some centerback), just to have the depth for subs at all.

For club and community

I’ll get into this a bit more in a later column (asked a few different questions about it for that purpose yesterday), but I was pleasantly surprised with the level of commitment that personnel from the club – players and coaches – have to the Nashville community. That’s not to say that I thought they considered it just a place to punch the clock, but they’re truly interested in giving back and being a part of the community.

Stay tuned for that in the coming days.

Stay tuned later this afternoon for the full game preview.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

From the film room: Brandon Vazquez scores on the Boys in Gold

Please drop me a line here or on Twitter about how I can make this feature even more useful for you. I want to be as helpful as possible in helping folks understand what happens on the pitch, and why those things happened. Thanks to Robbie Melton for the suggestion of narrating the video.

If you want to read/watch something a little more pleasant, I direct you to the first goal in Nashville SC history breakdown from yesterday. Today, however, I take a look at what went wrong when Brandon Vazquez put Atlanta United back on top (for good) Saturday afternoon.

Here’s the video with the chalk talk built in:

And if you want a better look at the moment of truth:

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Michael DeGraffenreidt passes off to his fellow defenders, but nobody stops ball.

So, despite my sterling narration, there are still a few things to unpack here. First and foremost, this happened in large part because Nashville SC was pushing forward to try to get a winner, and there was a turnover in the midfield. That prevented Taylor Washington from being involved in the play, and it seems likely that the NSC defenders are a little more comfortable with their five-man backline, and didn’t properly execute the fundamentals expected with just two centerbacks (and there could be an argument that Washington shouldn’t be quite as high up the field without defensive cover with fewer players back).

Of course, this doesn’t turn into a quick counterstrike if not for a turnover, so remove that giveaway and there’s little to worry about. If Akinyode and Hughes are able to track back a little faster (it seems the main reason that at least Akinyode wasn’t back is that he was man-marking Kratz and didn’t see the urgency when his team had a significant numbers advantage).

Lastly, the communication and fundamentals between DeGraffenreidt, Doyle, and Dunstan needed to be better. From my perspective – and I won’t claim to know the specific coaching points in NSC’s tactics, but speaking generally – DeGraffenreidt did the right thing by forcing Nagbe to cut to the right (where there was help), then passing him off to the centerbacks in order to follow Williams. With a numbers advantage, Doyle sinks into a pure sweeper spot, and that’s where Dunstan needs to step to the ball, even if it’s generally risky (remember, less so in this situation with a sweeper next to him). Attempting a tackle gives you a chance to stop Nagbe, sinking deep allows you to prevent a cross or get in the way of a shot… he was caught in no-man’s land.

The good news? These are correctable errors, mostly through simple repetition in training sessions (remember, NSC has based out of a 5-3-2 and probably reps it much more; we don’t know how significant a part of the plan a four-man backline is in the long run anyway). Getting those game reps against outstanding competition – Dunstan probably didn’t see many Darlington Nagbe-level talents in the NPSL last season, just a guess – will prepare NSC for the USL slate. That’s why you play live friendlies in preseason, to get ready.

Take it, learn from it, and get better from it. I’m confident NSC will be able to do just that.