Pitch Points has a busy offseason

Running down the links of interest to Nashville SC and US Soccer fans. Please follow the site on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook if you don’t already, and if you like what you read here, share with a friend and encourage them to follow as well!

Daniel Ríos & John Ingram in front of Nashville skyline
Courtesy Nashville MLS

Busy offseason for Nashville SC. A little self-promotion here, but there’s been a ton going on over the past few weeks. Here’s a greatest-hits from some of the signing-related content I’ve been publishing:

Nashville SC offseason tracker. Signing profiles for Daniel Ríos, Ken Tribbett, Darnell King, Kharlton Belmar, and Connor Sparrow.

Given that I nailed the Tribbett and Belmar signings, you may want to re-visit these two posts, though I will say that NSC seems to be even more ambitious that I’d expected, so they may be obsolete by this point.

The Berhalter-ing. Who will be in the January USMNT camp? It’s always an MLS-heavy one, so keep that in mind when making your guesses.

Berhalter spoke with the MLS Extra Time pod about his vision for the USMNT. It’s not super-heavy on details, but certainly the generalities sound pretty good, and he’s quite obviously a very, very bright soccer mind. The tactical talk they did with video rather than just audio, on the other hand, is extremely informative:

I think just about everybody is excited to see the beginning of a new era for the US Men’s National Team after the yearlong interim tenure of the new North Carolina FC coach, and I for one anticipate it to be a very positive era (yes, that puts me outside of the constantly-pessimistic USMNT mainstream).

More from an interview with Alexi Lalas. And little fluff, primarily focusing on his love for tactics and analytics (without giving many specifics on either).

MLS thinkpieces. This was published before Atlanta United’s win in MLS Cup, but that make it all the more important (because it was obvious, title or not, how far ahead of the curve the Five Stripes are). MLS owners can’t agree over how best to grow the league($).

MLS now has a stability never before achieved in American soccer. It has strong markets with stadiums and training facilities built across the country. And it has a relatively diverse group of owners, many of whom are investing hugely in the sport.

Yet some owners expressed caution about whether the league is truly prepared for the next era of growth, especially if that growth is predicated on unbridled spending.

The sides are (somewhat simplistically, but perhaps fairly) divided into the progressive, “let us spend” types and the “don’t let the other guys spend because then I’d have to” stodgy types. I think it’s pretty clear that the vast majority of American soccer fans side with the former. Certainly a lot of the regulations have allowed clubs to survive and the league to remain stable and grow, but if others want to spend more, so be it.

Interestingly, Don Garber also admitted in his State of the League speech prior to the title game that MLS should be willing to become a selling league… something that he personally had been opposed to in the past. Of course, you don’t want to only be a selling league, but certainly embracing that side of the transfer market would be a positive (and profitable). League rules make it tough for that to be worth teams’ while all-too frequently, so hopefully some of the regulations about who keeps what portion of a transfer fee, how that see can be used (right now, my understanding is a team gets $750,000 max, only in TAM, for any non-Homegrown sale).

MOAR MLS. Speaking of Garber changing course on things, it sounds pretty likely that the league’s expansion will not stop at the previously established limit of 28 teams. Major League Soccer will get to that mark within the next year (Nashville and Miami will be Nos. 25 and 26, so two more bids are on the table), and then there will be a re-evaluation.

Looking simply at who makes geographic and demographic sense, stopping at 28 would be a mistake:

  • Phoenix (this one is a must for me)
  • Sacramento
  • St. Louis
  • San Diego
  • (The above plus Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Raleigh are the known bids for spot 28).

With Austin effectively promised No. 27… there’s not a ton of room there. Yes, USL can fill some of the gaps in the first tier, but the size of our country sort of precludes sticking to the “smaller top division” that you’d see in England (20 top-flight teams in a country smaller than the state of Michigan – and that’s with Northern Ireland and Scotland included, even though those constituent countries of the UK have their own top-flight leagues).

I’m all for as much expansion as the market(s) can support, and would assume there’s probably an MLB-like split at some point where the two leagues don’t play each other in the regular season with any regularity, though it’d be an East-West split rather than the semi-arbitrary divisions that baseball has. “But there’s interleague play all the time now!” is true, but the growth of soccer in the country and the logistics of cross-country travel for a sport that’s a little more physically demanding would make that sensible to me.

Etc.: Nashville MLS CEO Ian Ayre is behind an anti-scalping ticket measure based on Blockchain technology. … #OptaProSoccer conference in Chicago Jan. 9 should be a good one, but it’s invite-only :(. … A little history lesson on Atlanta-area soccer. … Zack Steffen‘s transfer to Manchester City is official. … Podcast with Liam Doyle from his homeland (I’ll admit I haven’t had a chance to listen yet).

If you come across something you’d like me to share in a Pitch Points (or any other type of post), feel free to drop me a line via the comments here, or the social channels linked at the top of the post.

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Pitch points: With plans! Maybe!

Jacobs and Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre
“We’ve GOT to formulate a PLOT” – Eminem-inspired and forward-looking. Courtesy Nashville SC

For future consideration. Bournemouth has hired a loan manager to track their players who are out with other clubs. Maybe not that interesting on its own (they’re hardly the first to do it – certainly Manchester City and Chelsea have entire departments to manage their empires) – but does indicate a seriousness about the way they intend to do business. As Nashville SC enters the big leagues, these are the sort of ideas that they’ll want to stay on the forefront of. Personnel management (from academy to senior team, to scouts, etc.) is such a huge part of being a club that gets the most out of its resources.

Fortunately, the Nashville Soccer Supporters’ Trust president David Wasiolek got a sitdown with GM Ian Ayre (must be nice 😒), and came away with some positive takeaways in that regard:

  • The club has a strong vision of what a Tennessee-wide academy system would look like and how players could be developed and monitored across all the youth organizations and age groups. Personally, Ian would like to see this begin either simultaneously with the start of the team or even earlier.

  • Ian is working hard with Mike Jacobs on identifying top talent to bring to Nashville. There is a great desire to build a team of exceptional talent that also reflects the diverse flavors that make up the stew we call Nashville.

Those are the key newsworthy items, and a positive sign. There isn’t enough talent in Tennessee to primarily build a roster from home territory – New York/New Jersey is ain’t, much less Southern California – but as the club builds, it can play a role in helping change that.

I’ve been involved in that area of things in a different sport (American football) for most of my professional career, and will be extremely interested in seeing how it plays out.

Bethlehem Steel to Philadelphia. Bethlehem Steel announced this week that they’ll be playing the 2019 season at the home of their parent club, Philadelphia Union, with a change to USL stadium requirements:

Unfortunately, we have been informed by the USL that Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium no longer meets the minimum requirements set forth by the league due to a lack of stadium lighting. Upon hearing the decision that we could not return to Goodman, we visited and analyzed multiple other potential venues with the aim of keeping Steel FC in the Lehigh Valley, but there was no solution that met all the league requirements that could be ready in time for the 2019 season, including field size, capacity, and lighting, among others.

As a result, Bethlehem Steel FC will play next season at Talen Energy Stadium while we evaluate stadium options for beyond 2019.

Steel supporters are not happy, feeling betrayed not by the Steel’s front office, but rather by the Union.

I feel multiple ways about it (first off for the supporters: if you want to feel like the organization owes it to the local fans to stay in Bethlehem, you should have worked to get more than 2,300 fans out to each game). At the same time, clearly the Steel or Union felt like they’d be able to get waivers indefinitely – “the NASL gambit” – or is truly not all that invested in staying in Bethlehem.

USMNTakes. This story with Steve Cherundolo was pretty interesting. The former Men’s National Team standout was a guest coach with the Nats during their two-game stint in Europe. He was recently fired as part of the Stuttgart coaching staff, and has some outsider takes. For subscribers to The Athletic, Paul Tenorio has much more with Cherundolo.

I also present this:

I disagree (and strongly). You call up guys who give you the best chance to win, regardless of their club situation. That’s particularly true for guys whose club situation comes with an asterisk. Is “only turned 18 in February and was ineligible to play for his club team” or “can’t beat out Neymar for a spot in the lineup” damning? Is it worse than “is mediocre starter on mediocre MLS team?” I’d say no.

If the games were meaningful, you could convince me otherwise, but given that Dave Sarachan’s lone mandate seemed to be to blood the young talent – and that it’s the one thing he did pretty well in his 13 months as MNT manager – I don’t understand the complaint. That’s particularly true when Weah in particular proved to be one of the better players for the team over this time period. Clearly “playing for club team” isn’t the only indicator of high performance (which goes back to the above).

The headline here comes across as “finally, proof Christian Pulisic cares about the USMNT” which is an epically dumb take. Fortunately, the story is much more productive. It does, however, include a mention of the hot take to end all hot takes (if only to refute it, as the story implies).

Meanwhile, Tyler Adams writes for The Players Tribune, including the unsurprising “will be going to Europe in January” news. U-20 standout Alex Mendez will sign with Freiburg. And of course, goalkeeper Zack Steffen will likely sign with Manchester City (and then almost as likely, head out on loan somewhere).

Etc.: Add Madera Café in Plaza Mariachi to the soccer bars list. Thanks to reader Santiago for bringing it to my attention. … English clubs’ academy output. … Are we still talking about Jonathan Gonzalez? In a way, yes. … Probably the one guy with a legit argument for beating Matt Pickens as USL keeper of the year does so. …  … Austin Bold’s coach is also the coach of the USVI team. … Story on Liam Doyle’s re-signing from the Isle of Man, and one on Ropapa Mensah from one of the many Ghanaian soccer outlets. … USL Players Association earns league negotiating recognition.

Nashville SC announces returning players

From Club release: NASHVILLE (November 14, 2018) – The majority of the main contributors of Nashville Soccer Club’s successful inaugural season that finished in a USL Cup Playoff appearance this season will be back for 2019, pending USL and federation approval. Each of Nashville’s 12 highest minutes-played contributors will be back next year, including all four primary defenders and starting keeper on the league’s second-best defense.
Matt Pickens and Alan Winn are two players who return under contract. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country
Returning under contract in 2019 will be keeper Matt Pickens, defenders Justin Davis, Liam Doyle, Bradley Bourgeois and Kosuke Kimura, midfielders Michael Reed, Matt LaGrassa, Bolu Akinyode, Taylor Washington and Lebo Moloto, and forward Alan Winn. Forward Tucker Hume and midfielder Ramone Howell have been re-signed by Nashville SC. Hume will return after scoring seven goals in the final three months of the season to propel SC into the playoffs. Howell, meanwhile, made his first two USL appearances as a rookie in Nashville’s final regular season game and playoff game, both against FC Cincinnati. Finally, forward Ropapa Mensah has been purchased from Inter Allies FC in Ghana following a season-long loan in 2018 with Nashville SC. Mensah became Nashville’s first-ever goalscorer when he struck against Atlanta United FC of MLS in Nashville’s opening friendly at First Tennessee Park. The club would like to extend its sincere gratitude to every player on the 2018 Nashville SC roster for each of their contributions on and off the field, making for a successful inaugural season for Nashville SC. That means your departures are as follows (in order of minutes played): F Brandon Allen, D London Woodberry, D Ryan James, M Ish Jome, GK CJ Cochran, M/F Kris Tyrpak, M/F Robin Shroot, and D Jordan Dunstan. And several players who never saw the field in USL play (alphabetical): GK Micah Bledsoe, D Michael DeGraffenreidt, M Josh Hughes, M Blake Levine, and M Ian McGrath. Very few surprises there. See here for my predictions. I was wrong on Bledsoe (thought he’d be kept for depth), James (thought his versatility would keep him around one more year), Cochran (really thought he’d have a chance to compete for more minutes with Pickens beginning to transition into coaching), and Tyrpak (the spark he provided late in the season seemed worth keeping around). Four incorrect calls, two on backup goalies, is hardly something to be ashamed of, no? See some of my predictions/ideas for who might fill in the roster here and here.

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.

 

Pitch Points (also) joins the big leagues

Welcome to Pitch Points: rounding up links of interest in Nashville, US Soccer, and other topics of interest. Don’t forget to follow the site on TwitterFacebook, and now Instagram, where you can always drop links to share in one of these posts.

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Except it says “Cincy” somewhere. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

Cincy Soccer Talk (PHRASE COPYRIGHT 2018 FOR CLUB AND COUNTRY). Cincinnati has a lot to gain from getting into MLS before Miami and Nashville. Sounds like a win-win, since Nashville’s interest in joining up for 2019 was approximately zero.

That said, this piece from Cincy Soccer Talk is v. interesting, and certainly something we’ll be watching from Nashville not just for Cincinnati’s own MLS launch, but how it will apply to ours down the road, as well. Bookmark it, y’all.

Sports Illustrated on Cincinnati. How does it affect #SaveTheCrew? Regardless of what anyone says, the answer is “not at all,” because trashman’s desire to move the Crew is based only in his desire to move the Crew: there is no way to make Columbus an appealing final destination to him aside from a $200 million-dollar bribe in the form of a municipally-funded stadium.

Also, since I’ve harped on this regularly… The Detroit media really were clueless all along that their city’s chances of getting an MLS franchise went to zero when their home field situation was announced as Ford Field. How did you not know this all along? Why are you surprised now? How did you not possibly research a topic you wrote about constantly? So strange.

500m talent pool. Sporting Kansas City and other MLS teams are stretching the definition of “homegrown” with the league’s homegrown player rule.

In short, each team has a territory to which it lays claim, and youth players from that area are eligible to be “homegrowns” if they are signed to the MLS side through that team’s academy. The loophole at play here is that there are large portions of the country (including decent soccer-playing areas) that aren’t within any team’s homegrown territory… and kids are joining academies halfway across the continent, living with host families, and earning homegrown status despite not being truly from that club’s range.

I don’t have a problem with it: anything to help 1) talented kids get better coaching earlier, and 2) MLS improve its quality of play with domestic players, is absolutely fine by me. (I also think it’s fine if MLS improves with foreign players, for its own purposes. From a USMNT perspective, domestic players are preferred, obviously).

It’s also relevant to our interests: Tennessee is a state that doesn’t produce a ton of high-level soccer talent (I count just a couple MLS/USL players from the Volunteer State, and my research finds not very many at Division-1 colleges in comparison to similarly-sized states, either). Certainly, we’d like that to improve – and expect it to with an MLS team headed to town – but Nashville SC may need to get creative in filling its academy in the future, as well.

I’m also interested to see how this “MLS 2 sides play in USL D3” thing works out. I think it’s a better fit in the long-term – as it relates to developing players, at least. Also, uh, “a sign of giving up on finding a USL partner” is not a negative.

Overall this does have a bit of the feeling as if the club has failed at several attempts and decided to go in-house as a last resort.

“They failed at something worse, so they’re doing something better instead” is a win. Except inasmuch as I guess it means your front office might be difficult to deal with? That’s not something that affects fans on a day-to-day basis. Operating your own B-team is objectively better in basically every way (the only downside is that you have to pay for it), especially given that a USL affiliate’s primary job is to win (as opposed to the owned & operated teams, which are designed to develop).

Geographic spread of your #brand is also objectively a good thing. Would choosing to put a hypothetical MLS B-side in, say, Franklin mean that Nashville chose a bad location in the city for the A-side? Of course not. It just means they’re in more places – and in fact, I would view it as a failure to waste the opportunity to spread the brand if they just had it in the same area.

So it doesn’t matter that we didn’t qualify? Cool. Writing in The Guardian, Beau Dure writes that the United States will never win the World Cup (though it’s immediately hedged with “not any time soon,” which has a different meaning, but I’ll let it slide).

While many of his points are valid – we do indeed start way behind the European (and South American) powers from an infrastructure and desire standpoint, too many folks are interested in suing their way into relevance than acting in the interest of the good of the game, etc. – I don’t disagree with the end product. “Boise State can’t win the Fiesta Bowl because they started way after Oklahoma” is essentially the point here… and we all know what happened in 2007 (and against TCU in 2009). There’s something to be said for investment trumping all.

Are we headed in the right direction now? Maybe not. Are we headed in a better direction after the USSF presidential election? Probably not as forcefully as some wanted, but I think so. There’s plenty more work to do, and it will require a lot more people to become more dedicated to a cause, sure. But “never” (or “not any time soon”) is still extreme to me.

The US has gotten out of the group stage in four of the past six World Cups (since the announcement of MLS, which I would contend is when the game changed), and when you’re in a knockout tournament, anything can happen. They were a Wondo sitter – yes, in a game they were dominated – away from matching their best performance since 1930 just four years ago.

Feels to me like missing the World Cup has (understandably) damaged folks emotionally, and that emotion – which has carried over into coverage of some of the NASL litigation, etc. – is coloring a bit of folks’ perception of the upside here.

Speaking of missing the World Cup, I haven’t read this piece yet, but have seen only positive remarks about it. Probably tearing into it immediately after posting this story, in fact. (And I’ll also be posting a Soccer University piece for a more 1,000-foot view on missing the World Cup next week).

 

 

Etc.: Since I never talk West Ham even though they’re in the Twitter avi: Manuel Pellegrini is a huge grab as manager, IMO. … Sign up to support one of the SGs’ Prideraiser campaigns. … Surely this would all be fixed with #ProRel4USA. … HOK is one of the architecture firms vying for Nashville’s MLS stadium, and one of their top designers has retired. … I wish I could say the lede to this was just a “some idiot is racist” story, rather than a “problem with US soccer” story, but alas it’s both, and both are inextricably linked in our country. … USL fluff on Brandon Allen, and from overseas on Liam Doyle.

Nashville earns road draw against Charleston, will regret not taking all three points

Nashville struck early on the road Saturday evening – defender Liam Doyle blasted a shot into the bottom-right corner of the net after Lebo Moloto laid off a free kick – but Charleston Battery was able to respond early in the second half to level the score. While Nashville would have chances, neither team would find the game-winner (at least a game-winner that counted) and split the points in the Holy City.

“It’s tinged with a little disappointment that we didn’t take all three points,” said head coach Gary Smith. “It was a solid performance; we are in a good run of form right now. There were one or two moments where we could have had more quality around the box, but the guys have shown a professional attitude on the road. Once we wake up in the morning with another road point we’ll be delighted.”

No chance to pull ahead was closer than Taylor Washington’s 69th-minute header – which actually found the back of the net, but was called back on what appeared to be minimal contact – and a foul on Washington.

“I didn’t get a chance to see the replay, but they said I pushed him in the back,” Washington opined. “Gary’s reaction told me what I need to know, and he said that the ref had gotten it wrong. The defender went into me, and I was just trying to get above him. I thought he embellished it, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Nashville controlled much of the game, even on the road against one of the top sides in the Eastern Conference standings. While the Boys in Gold had only 48.3% of possession, the field was tilted with both teams playing closer to the Battery’s end of the pitch than Nashville’s, and NSC had nine shots – four inside the box – to Charleston’s six, with two from dangerous range.

Unfortunately for Nashville, one of Charleston’s shots in the box came from the right foot of Autalla Guerra, and beat Matt Pickens to his right, scoring into the bottom corner of the net to equalize, and allow Charleston to pick up a point at home.

With the result, Charleston remains third in the Eastern Conference standings, while Nashville remains tenth. The Boys in Gold fortunately have at least one game in hand on nearly every team ahead of them in the table, with a league-low nine contests played. They’ll make up some of that gap posthaste, with a mid-week game against Pittsburgh Riverhounds this Wednesday the third in a run of six games in 18 days. The trip to Steel City will see a rematch of NSC’s second game of the year, a 0-0 draw in Nissan Stadium.

The game kicks off at 6 p.m. Central (7 p.m. local).

Starting lineups

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Match events

  • 25′ NSH GOAL – 5 Liam Doyle (left foot), assisted by 10 Lebo Moloto
  • 45’+1 – Half time.
  • 50′ CHS GOAL – 10 Ataulla Guerra (right foot), assisted by 2 Jay Bolt
  • 53′ CHS Yellow card – 10 Ataulla Guerra (dissent)
  • 54′ NSH Yellow card – 17 Michael Reed (foul)
  • 66′ CHS Substitution – On 13 Nicholas Rittmeyer, off 2 Jay Bolt
  • 66′ NSH Substitution – On 32 Brandon Allen, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
  • 70′ CHS Substitution – On 15 Gordon Wild, off 9 Ian Sventesson
  • 81′ CHS Substitution – On 21 Angelo Kelly-Rosales, off 25 Kotaro Higashi
  • 81′ NSH Substitution – On 11 Ish Jome, off 23 Taylor Washington
  • 86′ NSH Substitution – On 13 Ryan James, off 20 Matt LaGrassa
  • 90’+3 NSH Yellow card – 2 Justin Davis (dissent)
  • 90’+4 – Full time