Pitch Points gotta catch ’em all

After an extremely long delay, Pitch Points is back. Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for the latest updates. Some of these links are old because portions of this post have been sitting in my drafts folder for literally months. We regret the error.

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Slipping through the cracks. I thought this 343 Coaching podcast with Joey Anthone of @USAProspects was fascinating. It’s most interesting to me coming from the world I do (I cover high school football recruiting at the day job, or given that FCAC is not a for-profit venture, we can just say “the job”).

Joey has some consternation about some of the players he’s communicated with only getting US looks because of his coverage… but that’s just the way this world works, man. Maybe it’s not in other countries, maybe it’s not the way it should, but that’s the reality in a country this large: it is in football and basketball (sports in which the United States is far more advanced than the competition in comparison to our status in soccer), and you can bet your booty it’s the case in a sport that’s considered secondary or tertiary in our culture.

Part of the landscape in a country this big, and with this much talent, is that the media plays a role in the scouting thing – as should high school coaches, club coaches, college coaches, etc. That’s the sort of thing we need to figure out as a country, that the federation needs to figure out for purposes both self-serving and not: how to take advantage of everyone’s skillset that’s available.

Minor leagues are our future. Forbes delves into how second-division soccer and below can be key to future World Cup for the United States. It uh, does not actually do that so much as it’s just a feature on FC Motown – there’s a throwaway line or two about how a local club can show people what it’s like to be a pro, and about how maybe they’ll add some sort of youth team in the future.

Howeva, the point is more important than actually making it (and of course it’s one I’ve made in the past): American soccer needs the local clubs to help be that developer and example, and (this ties into the final graf of the section above, as well) in a country this size, unless and until we have more community clubs like it, kids are going to slip through the cracks. That’s what makes it especially frustrating for me to see people complain about, for example, the pay-to-play system (though the complaints themselves are legitimate to a large degree). Think kids shouldn’t have to pay to play soccer? Start your own organization that’s free for them.

From Olympics to the World Cup. Stars and Stripes FC takes a look at how much impact Olympic success has historically had on the next World Cup cycle for the USMNT. Short answer: not a ton.

There are 16 teams at every Olympics. One caveat to remember is not the best U23 players are at the tournament because they overlap with the Euros and Copa America. Also, during qualifying, players don’t have to be released for the tournament, so the deepest teams are the ones who qualify for the World Cup, not the top heavy ones.

Important caveats, yes, but if the analysis is strictly “does the Olympic tournament predict the next World Cup,” rather than “is the Olympic tournament strongly correlated with future success,” or “why might it not correlate?” then we good. In fact:

The players who will help boost senior national team success, like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie if they stay on track, will most certainly not be released for qualifying and may be needed with the senior team for the summer of 2020.

So essentially, we wouldn’t expect it. As mentioned in the first pull quote, Olympic qualifying and tournament can be more a measure of U-23 depth than U-23 quality. And of course, different nations treat it differently (Neymar was an overager for Brazil at the most recent Olympics, for example, whereas other countries simply don’t value it quite like that).

Building from scratch. This is more a feature on new CEO Ian Ayre than it is actually a story about how to build the MLS side from scratch, but interesting nonetheless.

He said: “When you are creating something from nothing, you have to create a DNA, then bring in people who fit. If you look at Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, culturally he was a brilliant fit for the club.

“For us, it means starting with scouting and analysis. By doing that we can begin to build a picture of the type of player we need in the timescale we are looking at.”

Appointing a coach is “some way off”, according to Ayre. Discussions have taken place internally, though, and he expects to be working seriously on a couple of names by the end of the year.

That’s certainly newsworthy-ish (as long as you don’t consider it the obvious way to build), at the least.

No, YOU’RE on loan. There’s been quite a bit of discussion about the European mega-clubs and their loan practices lately, especially after FIFA regulations to limit the number of players that clubs can have out on loan have been proposed.

Seems to me that this would be detrimental to players from the United States, who routinely use big-club money to transfer abroad, then get loaned out elsewhere within the continent (Matt Miazga with Chelsea, Erik Palmer-Brown with Man City, to name a couple that spring immediately to mind). Closing off a path for such moves doesn’t seem to benefit Americans at all.

Should the legislation come to fruition, one potential change could be a necessity for MLS to bring its outgoing transfer rules, policies, and practices closer to something approaching sanity, which is good in the long run, but more in a way to react to overcome new difficulties than a way that nets positive.

Etc.: This list of suggestions from the united supporters of FC Cincinnati will be an interesting document for Nashville fans to revisit (and make their own version of) in a couple years. … Very in favor of as many teams getting an opportunity in the US Open Cup as possible. … One of Nashville SC’s owners is a good dude. … Will be interesting to see what the Tampa Bay Rays do with the Rowdies. … Nashville got a boost for hosting 2026 World Cup games thanks to a solid job (and sales pitch) with the Mexico friendly.

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USL Power ratings: Sept. 24, 2018

Mostly a chalk-ish week, but some interesting swings in the USL. Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for all the content on USL, US Soccer, and Nashville SC.

Table Power

This rating method counts only opposition played and points attained in a given game – it is best used as a proxy for how the table is likely to play out at the end of the year. I’ve switched from including the raw number to showing projected points only. It’s more broadly applicable to the layman.

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USL East power rankings:

  1. Cincinnati – 78 points
  2. Louisville – 63 points
  3. Pittsburgh – 61 points
  4. Charleston – 57 points
  5. Indianapolis – 51 points
  6. Nashville – 49 points
  7. Bethlehem – 48 points
  8. North Carolina (+1) – 47 points
  9. NYRB 1.89 (-1) – 46 points*
  10. Ottawa 1.82 – 44 points
  11. Tampa Bay (+2) – 45 points*
  12. Charlotte (-1) – 42 points
  13. Penn (-1) – 39 points
  14. Atlanta – 28 points
  15. Richmond – 25 points
  16. Toronto – 15 points

*I’ve now baked in the non-conference results for NYRBII (draw against LA Galaxy II) and Tampa Bay (win over Real Monarchs) into the projected point totals, though they aren’t reflected in the ratings themselves. It basically docks Red Bulls half a projected point and gives Tampa 1.8 projected points.

The chart no longer includes Cincinnati, because they’re so far ahead of the pack (already locked into first, whereas nobody else has even clinched eighth yet) as to make the more interesting middle portion of the chart tougher to read. I similarly excised Atlanta, Richmond, and Toronto from the bottom, so we can have a clearer view of those still jockeying for relevant positions.

Charleston remains in fourth but drops a couple projected points. The system works in aggregate, rather than projecting individual games, but you can essentially interpret that as they dropped two against Nashville that they were “expected” to get.

There’s still a pretty intense battle at spots 7, 8, and 9 (and Nashville seems intent on making No. 6 be party to that battle as well). Red Bulls are the team on the outside looking in this week, though it’s close enough that any of those can certainly be in any of the four spots in play.

How about Tampa, though? Two wins in a week is two wins in a week, and it doesn’t matter if one of them is semi-fluky (an uncharacteristic penalty conceded and an own-goal by Nashville) and the other comes against Richmond when it gets down to it. Wins in four out of five – after adding some good personnel at the roster deadline – could have them poised to make some playoff noise.

At this point, Charlotte and Penn are pretty close to sealing their status as also-rans – though of course the Tampa climb is a lesson to not bury anyone too quickly, they’re headed in the wrong direction (more on this in a later section).

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USL West power rankings

  1. Orange County (+1) – 67 points
  2. Phoenix Rising (-1) – 65 points
  3. Real Monarchs – 60 points*
  4. Sacramento Republic – 58 points
  5. Portland Timbers – 54 points
  6. St. Louis (+2) – 53 points
  7. Reno 1868 (-1) – 53 points
  8. Swope Park (-1) – 53 points
  9. San Antonio – 48 points
  10. OKC Energy – 42 points
  11. Fresno FC – 41 points
  12. LA Galaxy II (+1) – 40 points*
  13. Colorado Springs (-1) – 38 projected points
  14. Rio Grande Valley – 36 points
  15. Las Vegas Lights – 33 points
  16. Tulsa Roughnecks (+1) – 25 points
  17. Seattle Sounders (-1) – 24 points

*As above, Real Monarchs’ projected points and LAGII’s include their non-conference results. That means the point totals won’t quite follow with the ratings themselves. 

I should probably re-scale this chart to excise the bottom couple teams (which are basically going to finish in those two positions in one order or the other), like I did in the East. Next week, maybe.

The battle remains in those 5-9 spots, and with San Antonio’s recent form, I think we’re close to knowing who the playoff field is going to be, with SAFC missing out on the heels of a couple pretty bad weeks. The order among them (and then also between the top two, and Real Monarchs seem poised to let Sacramento challenge them for second-round homefield position).

There’s a lot of jockeying going on in that middle ground, with St. Louis the hotter team among them right now, on three straight weeks of rising up – going in the opposite direction of a San Antonio team that seemed comfortably ahead of them not too long ago.

LA Galaxy II remain perfect to their brand by being both incredibly predictable on a macro level (insane week-to-week results and a lot of goals) while being incredibly unpredictable (6-1 win over Real Monarchs!) on a micro level. I dig it. #Efra4USMNT, by the way.

Tulsa is no longer in the cellar despite going 0-1-1 this week, losing to Sacramento and tying Swope. They have the Sounders’ loss to RGV to thank for that.

Pure Power

This rating method uses almost an opposite philosophy: focusing only on goals scored for/against in each game, without attention to individual results. It looks at the quality of offensive and defensive performance against each given opponent, with a home/road component attached. It’s more effective for predictive purposes in single games, rather than necessarily projecting the end-of-year table.

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Lots of shakeup here, with results both expected and unexpected playing into varying degrees of movement. Phoenix passes Orange County for the No. 2 spot in USL, which (given that they’re now projects to finish behind them in the table) should make for an interesting last couple weeks at the top of the West.

Portland passes the Monarchs – who appear to be sort of terrible? – Bethlehem slides past a Nashville team that went 0-1-1 in two home games this week, RGV and Swope move past the sinking San Antonio, etc.

The biggest move of the week is a six-spot drop for Reno… despite their only result being a draw. That draw did come to a Vegas team that is bad generally and particularly so on the road, of course. The bigger issue is slight impact from the out-of-town scoreboard (their 3-0 win over Real Monarchs is greatly diminished by the Monarchs being the type of team that can lose to the Galaxy by five goals) and the teams around them in the rankings moving up in raw numbers. It is a drop, but not as big a one in the components as it turns out to be on the table.

The other is a drop for Ottawa, which loses four positions after getting thrashed 4-0 by a Louisville City team that is obviously quite good, but is considerably less so at home. That makes a bit more sense in the bigger scheme.

Looking at the pretty shading, your individual component outliers in comparison to where a team sits on the table are Salt Lake City’s road form, Nashville’s offense (shocker!), Red Bulls’ offense (for the positive – even though they’re still in the top 16 overall, the O is second-best in the league), Reno’s road form, and the defenses of both Colorado Springs and Ottawa.

Playoffs?

A minor point of clarification on these – they don’t take into account tiebreakers, so the “best” assumes being the top team in any multi-way tie, whereas “worst” assumes being the bottom team in any multi-way tie. Portland, for example, can finish as low as a tie for eighth… but on tiebreakers, they’ve already clinched playoff position.

Everybody in play in the East except for Cincinnati (already clinched, and already clinched first) and Richmond Toronto (already eliminated). Louisville will clinch with its next point (or dropped points from at least one of Nashville/North Carolina/New York/Bethlehem), whereas Atlanta United 2 is any missed points (or a single NCFC/Ottawa point) from being out.

Four teams have clinched on points in the West, while, as mentioned above, Portland has actually already clinched on tiebreakers. Seven teams have already been officially eliminated (which speaks to the stratification in the table mentioned in the Table Power section). OKC can’t quite be eliminated from contention in the midweek, and as mentioned in multiple previous sections, San Antonio is hanging onto hope for grabbing that final spot. Swope is a win away from clinching, while St. Louis is a win and a San Anotnio loss away.

What it means for Nashville SC

Not getting at least two points out of last week was pretty tough, but it doesn’t change the projections all that much. Yes, it makes the margin for error quite a bit smaller, but NSC is still headed for the same position. They also retain at least one gam in-hand on every team in the playoff hunt except North Carolina FC, so if they can finally, you know, make those games in-hand matter (Gary Smith mentioned this in his postgame Saturday), it should be fairly safe.

Sliding down the Pure Power table (which predicts game-to-game quality, rather than projecting the table) is a little worrisome, because it could mean that the Steel have a better run to finish the season than Nashville does on current form. The Steel are one of those teams jockeying for the final couple playoff spots.

Of course, with Atlanta, Toronto, and Richmond all coming up, Nashville simply needs to take care of business to make the playoffs – a loss against any of those three teams is bordering on inexcusable (even though NSC already has lost to Toronto once this year), and certainly so when the Boys in Gold are trying to fight for their playoff lives.

Win those, and the Red Bulls game (which comes after only the trip to Atlanta) is a true six-pointer. A win would all-but seal Nashville passing NYRBII on the final table. For now, the focus has to be – and this sounds like coach-speak, but it’s not, because Nashville has proven to be vulnerable in these situations – on taking care of business against Atlanta, otherwise the rest of it begins to become irrelevant.

Nashville SC can’t capitalize on chances, then beats itself in loss to Rowdies

Nashville SC began the 2018 USL season as one of the league’s top defensive sides. After a two-goal dud in the opener against Louisville City FC, they didn’t concede again until the fifth match of the year, and only one team (Indy Eleven, which did it twice) was able to pot multiple tallies against the NSC defense until the end of July.

The offense has never been particularly explosive, but with a defense like that, the Boys in Gold were able to not only survive, but thrive in spite of that fact. Since July 21, however, they’ve given up multiple goals to Ottawa Fury, Toronto FC II, Bethlehem Steel, and North Carolina FC.

It was the newly-established cracks in the defense that opened the way for a 2-1 loss to TampA Bay Rowdies Tuesday evening. The Rowdies got on board early when a through ball put striker Georgi Hristov in on keeper Matt Pickens. The veteran’s diving attempt prevented the goal… by taking out Hristov with no fingertips to the ball. Hristov converted the ensuing penalty kick for a sixth-minute lead.

From that point, though, Nashville would be the dominant side for the remainder of the first half. The Boys in Gold would launch seven shots – six from inside the box – while possessing 56% of the ball. An early cross from Kosuke Kimura in the 20th minute (working the wide areas of the field that Tampa’s 3-1-4-2 formation left wide open) would find Lebo Moloto to finish. NSC couldn’t convert any of their other shots, though, and this is a team that needs to be more clinical in the penalty area if the defensive performances are going to slide back.

Failing to convert on those chances – or the seven more shots in the second half, five of which came from inside the box – would come back to bit Nashville in the end. Tampa forward Junior Flemmings crossed the ball into the box, where defender London Woodberry (who came on in relief of an injured Bradley Bourgeois) would misjudge a clearing header, putting it into his own net. The 69th-minute go-ahead goal would stand up and NSC mustered only one more shot after going back down a tally.

With the loss, Nashville’s comfortable standing in the playoff positions – a standing they’ve held all year – begins to look quite a bit more sketchy. Tampa is on a solid run of form, and there seems to be no indication that NSC can rely on points against teams they should beat, including the Rowdies, who entered as one of the worst road teams in the Eastern Conference.

The task doesn’t get easier Saturday, with Charleston Battery heading to First Tennessee Park. The Battery currently occupy the fourth position in the Eastern Conference table, and have been beaten only four times all year. The last time these teams met up, Nashville took an early lead thanks to a Liam Doyle free kick, then conceded the equalizer at the beginning of the second half to earn a road draw. Even getting the single point Saturday evening looks a little less guaranteed given Nashville’s current form.

Lineups

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Match events

  • 6′ TBR GOAL – 10 Georgi Hristov (right foot, penalty conceded by 18 Matt Pickens)
  • 20′ NSH GOAL – 10 Lebo Moloto (right foot, assisted by 27 Kosuke Kimura)
  • 45’+2 Half time
  • 46′ TBR Yellow card – 24 Tarek Morad (foul)
  • 53′ NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 22 Bradley Bourgeois
  • 61′ TBR Substitution – On 7 Junior Flemmings, off 10 Georgi Hristov
  • 69′ TBR GOAL – NSH 28 London Woodberry (headed own-goal)
  • 70′ TBR Substitution – On 20 Martin Vingaard, off 18 Joe Cole
  • 73′ NSH Substitutions – On 32 Brandon Allen and 23 Taylor Washington, off 12 Tucker Hume and 19 Alan Winn
  • 82′ TBR Substitution – On 90 Kyle Porter, off 88 Kwadwo Poku
  • 90’+7 TBR Yellow card – 13 Sebastian Guenzatti (foul)
  • 90’+7 TBR Yellow card – 19 Daniel Vega (time wasting)
  • 90’+8 Full time

Preview: Nashville SC v. Tampa Bay Rowdies

Nashville got a road draw against Tampa what feels like ages ago. Can they improve the result when they welcome the Rowdies to First Tennessee Park?

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Lebo scored last time. It was cool and good.

The essentials

Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies (9-12-7 USL). 37 GF, 37 GA so far in 2018, 13th in USL East, 13th in USL East Power Ratings and 18th in combined-table Pure Power.
Recent form: TBR (W-L-W-L-D) NSH (D-L-W-L-D)
The Line: None yet (will update when available).
Time, Location: Tuesday, Sept. 18 7:30 p.m. CDT  • First Tennessee Park
Tailgate: With The Assembly at the green space just East of the stadium, with The Heaters at Von Elrod’s, with The Roadies at Pastime.
Event: USL Regular season
Weather: 81ºF, 3% chance of rain, 61% humidity, 4 MPH NNE winds
Watch: Locally on MyTV30, stream on ESPN3 (no subscription required, which is not usually the case). See the list of soccer bars in Nashville if you want to watch in a game atmosphere.
Listen: Locally on 94.9 Game2 in English, 96.7 El Jefe FM en Español.
Follow: @NashvilleSC, @ClubCountryUSA, USL gametracker page, @TampaBayRowdies, #NSHvTBR
Elsewhere: Nashville SC preview. USL league preview.

Tampa Bay Rowdies

So. This is a team that’s sort of average overall, but they save all their good stuff for home, and all the bad stuff for the road. Does that sound like Nashville? Well, imagine they’re not nearly as good at home, and much, much worse on the road (for all the hand-wringing among fans, NSC is actually barely below-average away from home). It is also the second-most expensive team in USL (and to the best of my knowledge, would be one of the most expensive in USL history if not for FC Cincinnati smashing those records as they prepare for next year’s jump to MLS). There’s no excuse to have the amount of talent the Rowdies do – albeit while overpaying for over-the-hill Premier League talent like Joe Cole – and be as straight-up bad as they are.

They’ve added even more talent recently: while Cody Mizell has played the majority of the minutes between the pipes this year, Daniel Vega has started all five games in net after signing from Miami FC at the end of the NPSL season (the same team from which Nashville SC signed Kris Tyrpak). They also signed forward Jaime Chavez from the same club on Friday’s roster deadline, and he was an unused substitute in their 1-0 win over Atlanta United 2 Saturday. They loaned out forward Jochen Graf (three shots on goal in limited time this year) to Reno 1868 for the remainder of the season in the wake of the Chavez signing.

“With a couple injuries we’ve had, the choice to bring him in was a no-brainer,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said. “It’s no secret that we want to score more goals and Jaime can help us do that.”

That injury was to new signing Stefano Bonomo Aug. 22 (Bonomo started the season with Red Bulls II, and is a former US Youth international). Whoever plays, they are a fairly low-scoring unit: 37 goals in 28 games is less than a quarter-goal per game better than Nashville’s (somewhat famously) meager output. In their 3-4-3 (which plays out like a 3-1-4-2, 3-2-3-2, 3-4-1-2, or a true 3-4-3 alternately), they generally rely on Georgi Hristov and Junior Flemmings to get the job done, and they lead the way with six and five goals this year, respectively. Kwadwo Poku plays in the No. 10 role when they have one on the field, and is otherwise a central midfielder of another variety. He has, uh, one goal and one assist all year.

“I think when we played them last time it was on the end of a tough stretch of Open Cup,” Nashville defender Liam Doyle said. “We scored early and we defended well, but they were actually really good that game. They made the pitch big and were very good going forward. I think this time we need to be a bit more offensive and take their attack away as well.”

Their typical three-man backline (sometimes they have four in the back, but that’s more a changeup) has included Abdoulaye Diakite in the middle, Tarek Morad on the left and Hunter Gorskie on the right when all are available. Zach Portillos – who otherwise plays as a left-sided midfielder and a pretty conservative one at that – is drawn into relief duty in the backline when needed.

Cole, the Premier League vet and team captain, is almost always one of the central defensive midfielders (he missed the previous NSC matchup with a red card suspension). His minutes have been limited lately, which seems to be more of a “he’s 37 years old” thing than any specific injury. They will be without CDM Dominic Oduro (yellow card accumulation), so that should make Cole’s presence more important.

“They have got some exceptionally talented players,” said NSC head coach Gary Smith. “They have constantly been a team that has looked and tried to find the remedy and solution for success and silverware. They have kept their quality and experience around the group, with guys like Joe Cole who is capable of really talented and creative things.”

Their leader in key passes on the year is Marcel Schäfer… who hasn’t been with the team since mid-June, after moving back to his native Germany with VFL Wolfsburg (where he subsequently retired). They have a problem creating, and don’t do a ton of finishing, either.

The Boys in Gold

So, Nashville’s recent run of form isn’t great. Does a long break between games – they haven’t seen the pitch since last Saturday’s wild 3-3 draw against North Carolina FC – help them bounce back? Previous long gaps haven’t meant a ton to the performance:

  • 10-day break after 2-1 road loss to Indy Eleven, 0-0 draw at Penn FC.
  • 11-day break after that draw at Penn FC, 1-1 draw at New York Red Bulls II.
  • 13-day break after 2-0 win against Louisville City, 1-1 draw at Charleston Battery (two Open Cup games in between)
  • 10-day break after 1-0 win over North Carolina FC, 2-0 loss to Indy Eleven (Open Cup loss in between)
  • 10-day break after 1-0 loss at Charlotte Independence, 2-0 loss at Ottawa Fury.

That’s three bad results, and the two good results are road draws to decent teams. Long breaks in-league haven’t necessarily meant Nashville SC gets back to form with more training time (rather than focusing on the game-to-game preparation with quick turnarounds). Hopefully this break, coming off the thriller in North Carolina, gets the team ready to hit the stretch run.

“I think with four games coming up in 12 days it is always nice to get a little downtime,
mentally as much as physically,” Smith said. “You get a chance to catch yourself in what has been going on in the competition and the stresses and strains of weekly games, and we’ve been able to do some decent work again. We’ve had nice downtime and some good rest. We’ve been able to look at certain areas and try to polish them off towards these seven games.”

The team should be in reasonably good health with a long layoff, but sadly that may not be the case: wingers Kris Tyrpak and Alan Winn are both questionable for NSC with an ankle injury and a strained hip flexor, respectively. Those are your two scoring wingers, so does a gameplan that relies upon defense-and-service wingers make more sense? I think so.

That’s why the 3-5-2 with defensive-minded wingbacks who also like to run the sideline, along with a physical presence at striker, seems to be the right choice. We’ll see if that’s what comes out of the team sheet this evening.

Projected lineups

I gave away my predicted gameplan above, and Tampa Bay has been pretty set in its 3-4-3 ways in recent weeks, so not a ton of surprise available here:

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You have your target guy in Hume, a “tries shit” complement in Mensah, and a creator behind them in Moloto. The back eight is about what you’d expect.

Predictions

Nashville could really, direly use a win here. They’re playing a very bad road team. Can they get it done?

  • The defensive strength that Nashville showed early in the year has abandoned them (no truly good defensive game since Aug. 18 against Louisville City). It comes back in this one, against a Rowdies team that typically struggles to score.
  • Hume’s hold-up play and heading ability work well with the lineup, and he gets an assist on the game’s opening goal, with Mensah finishing it off.
  • Mensah is replaced by Brandon Allen around the 70th minute, a bit of a “defend a little more stoutly, and do it with a guy who can still score” replacement. Allen does not score, but he assists a Lebo Moloto goal.
  • I think we see the end of Ish Jome’s timeout that he’s been on since a first-half red card against Bethlehem Steel. He’s made the bench the past two games, and I think he comes off it in this one (replacing either wingback, more likely Washington).
  • Your third sub is a pure defensive one, bringing on Matt LaGrassa to replace Hume – while Moloto pushes to the front a bit – as Nashville tries to ride out the two-goal lead with something approximating a 3-6-1.
  • Tampa Bay does find a goal, but it’s too little too late.

Nashville wins 2-1. Recent home form has probably been better than it feels (4-1-1 in the last six, with the loss to Bethlehem the lone true blemish, and weighing more heavily than it probably should), and NSC has scored multiple times in three of those six. Against a bad road team – without a key defensive midfielder – that continues, and Nashville is back in the good for a stretch here.

Nashville SC to give free tickets to Hurricane evacuees

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The Weather Channel

From Club release:

NASHVILLE (September 13, 2018) – With millions fleeing the potential effects of Hurricane Florence as it bears down on the Eastern Seaboard, Nashville Soccer Club will be offering evacuees free tickets to its two home games next week.

Anyone that presents a current North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia ID to the First Tennessee Park box office on gameday for Nashville SC’s next two home games, against Tampa Bay Rowdies on Tuesday, September 18 and Charleston Battery on Saturday, September 22, will be given a free ticket to the match.

“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the storms along the East Coast,” said Nashville SC CEO Court Jeske. “Sports can be a unifying experience in times of crisis, and while a soccer game is unimportant compared to a life-threatening storm, we hope a couple of hours of distraction and fun will allow for an escape from the realities of evacuating a home.”

Both of Nashville SC’s games next week will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. CST.

This is a cool and good idea. A little good deed never hurt anyone, right? Also a little potential bonus for Battery fans who were contemplating making the trip but didn’t want to shell out for tickets.

The Wrap: Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-1 Nashville SC

After each USL game – or sometimes after two in a row! – I provide a handy recap of all the content related to that outing so you can find everything you need to get knowledgable about what went down. As always, if I missed anything, hit the comments, or the inbox via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail

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Local Content

Game story:

“That’s the biggest point that we have earned all season,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “They put us under a ton of pressure. There was a lot of character shown by the lads considering how many games we have had recently, and I think that showed a bit in their legs.”

That pressure is explained by a few of the key charts in The Graphical:

Tampa Bay got a lot of shots off Saturday evening. 25 of them, in fact! Nashville’s goal felt like it was constantly under attack. Let’s take a closer look at shot quality, though:

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Nashville’s offense on the left, Tampa’s on the right

That’s a whole lot of missed shots (nine) and blocked shots (10). When you take into account that 19 of those 25 shots had no legitimate chance to score, it looks less like Tampa Bay’s offense dominated Nashville’s than that their style of play is to launch shots over and over again, hoping that sooner or later some of them go in. I don’t intend that as an insult, either: it’s a fun style of offense to watch, and with a bit more quality in the final third, it can lead to some huge scorelines.

Don’t forget you can always vote in the community ratings. The results thereof are included in the Breakdown and Ratings, in which I named Matt Pickens MOTM:

Matt Pickens 22.91 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 9.67

Pickens was blameless on the goal that was scored, and made a number of key saves and clearances with his fists. There’s still a moment or two per game where he’s going to misjudge a ball to his team’s major risk, but they didn’t bite the team in this one, and his distribution is a highly underrated asset.

He was good, folks. You can see the rest of the players’ ratings by clicking through above.

Finally, take a look at how Lebo Moloto’s goal came about in the Film Room.

Elsewhere – Blogdom

Golden Goal match story and player ratings.

Elsewhere – Newsy things

USA Today Network Tennessee recap. USL official site with the game story. USL’s Eleven things also touches on how both teams can be happy with a draw.

As always, thanks for visiting. Please fell free (nay, encouraged!) to share with friend 

 

From the Film Room: Lebo Moloto presses and finishes against Tampa Bay

This one was pretty straightforward: A nice bit of high pressure from Nashville SC forced a mistake from Tampa Bay defender Ivan Magalhaese, Bolu Akinyode quickly transitioned to offense, and Lebo Moloto got rewarded for getting the play going in the first place.

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The situation

Nashville SC is on the road in one of the toughest places to play in USL. The team has absorbed a bit of pressure from the Rowdies’ offense, but is standing tall thus far. As TBR try to build out of the back, Nashville goes to a nice amount of high pressure, resulting in a turnover, a fast break, and a goal.

Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oOyhS2wJ3A

What happens

This one is pretty simple:

  • Nashville is in a high press, which we’ve seen pretty regularly in recent weeks. Ropapa Mensah is able to cover both LCB Tami Mkandawire and defensive midfielder Martin Vingaard, while the Nashville wide midfielders are closely man-marking the Tampa fullbacks. That means Lebo Moloto can slide over to put a bit of token ball pressure on Magalhaese while central midfielder Bolu Akinyode can closely mark Alex Morell.
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  • Moloto’s pressure forces the pass to be a little inaccurate, and Akinyode’s good defensive positioning allows him to be in the right place to intercept it.
  • This is a key to the play: Akinyode doesn’t waste any time gettin forward. He immediately passes the ball to Mensah. Morell falls on his face, meaning Vingaard (who would otherwise be able to mark Mensah) has to step up to pressure.
  • Both centerbacks drop to recover to Mensah. Molotov’s smart run down the left puts him on position to be wide open for the feed.
  • Clinical finish from the South African forward puts NSC on top.

Takeaways

We’ve seen Nashville intermittently provide high pressure to teams that attempt to play out of the back. This time, it finally paid off in a goal.

  • To a large extent, this play doesn’t happen without mistakes from the opposition. Moloto’s pressure is fine but shouldn’t force a pass as far behind Morell as Magalhaese dishes. Similarly, it’s possible Morell doesn’t receive the pass… but still manages to not put it on a platter for Akinyode or fall on his face in the process.
  • This is what pressing gets you, though. It’s not always about winning individual battles as much as it is convincing opponents into a mistake. At the USL level, those are going to be more frequent.
  • Also key to this play? Akinyode’s awareness and ability to take a loose ball and immediately turn it into effective offense. I’ve been critical at times of his transition play (he’s either stuck on offense or defense for the most part, and hasn’t been ambitious enough with his passing much of the year), but this is a bright step forward in that regard. If he can do that consistently, this team has another level.
  • Mensah has done a great job learning to be more than just a finisher, and that improvement has been rapid. Again, more diversity in his game gives another element to the offense.
  • Underrated: the runs up the wing by both Alan Winn and Taylor Washington. I’m a big “create space” guy, and while the fullbacks were too far upfield to likely make an impact defensively, that duo staying wide and forcing the FBs to cover them means they definitely can’t.

Nashville’s low scoring at the beginning of the year looks more like an anomaly and product of competition by the day.

Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oOyhS2wJ3A