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