In its second-to-last preseason match, Nashville SC defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-0 on Feb. 14 behind closed doors in St. Petersburg, Florida.
With the season home opener on Feb. 25 against NYCFC on the horizon, the Boys in Gold built match fitness, winning the competitive friendly with two from Teal Bunbury in the extra 30 minutes of the 120-minute friendly.
Head Coach Gary Smith was pleased with the team effort as the second phase of preseason in Florida is coming to an end.
“I thought the guys that started the game showed a tremendous attitude,” he said. “The attitude of what we would class as a more senior group coming into the game was spot on and delighted in the end to get a couple of goals.”
Smith praised especially Bunbury for finding the back of the net and providing Nashville with the late lead.
“Teal has been around the block,” Smith said. “He’s seen championship wins, he’s got tremendous experience and he’s got some qualities that suit our group terrifically well. Different players will be looking for different things to work towards that opening game and a couple of goals for him are doing a world of good.”
Youngsters Stepping Up
The match also became a golden opportunity for the younger players in the group to partake, as the lineup for the first hour-plus of the match was filled with mainly younger players.
“I thought those younger guys, for the most part, did a wonderful job of raising everyone’s spirits and playing terrifically well for 70 minutes,” Smith said. “These guys are all trying to make an impression against a very, very good team and I think the majority of them have come out of it with some great credit.”
In the last phase of the game, a more experienced group was brought in.
“The best chances started to appear certainly when we got the second group on for the last 50 minutes,” Smith said. “Pleased obviously that the first group have done such a good job, and giving themselves a real shot in the arm and that the second group came out with the right attitude and have won the game.”
Creativity in the Final Third
Smith continued to see excellent progression in the group’s creative element, especially on the flank.
“If you look at the way that the game has unfolded today, Jacob’s caused terrific problems down the left, and Fafà has been a thorn in their side down the right, lots of pace, lots of individual ability,” he said. “But I mean, I couldn't be happier for Teal to get on the sheet with a brace, and to go into Friday’s game, where most teams are going to be looking at a dress rehearsal for the start of the season, in a confident mood.”
A shift in tactical patterns allowed the players to express their best qualities on the field.
“A big part of it was to give those guys the opportunity to succeed and playing a position that felt more comfortable to them,” Smith said. “They were put in the right positions, they did a sterling job and I think all of them came off the field feeling great about themselves and that's a big part of those guys making their step forward towards the season.”
Nashville will conclude its preseason vs. FC Cincinnati on Feb. 17.
“The Cincinnati game still gives us another opportunity to, you know, formulate that starting group, find the right rhythm and of course be as confident as possible,” Smith said.
GEODIS Park reopens on Feb. 25 for the MLS Season Opener between Nashville SC and NYCFC. Purchase the remaining tickets here.