NASHVILLE – Nashville SC remains undefeated through the first three weeks of the 2021 Major League Soccer season after securing their first clean sheet in a scoreless draw against a new-look Inter Miami CF side.
Heineken Man of the Match Joe Willis says coming away with a shutout was important this game as the team works to merge the fundamentals from a successful 2020 season with new aspects to their game in the 2021 season. Willis made two crucial saves early in the match to maintain Nashville SC’s clean sheet, and earned MLS Team of the Week, pres. by Audi, honors for his performance.
“It felt good to keep the clean sheet. We’re starting to get back to what made us successful last year: being very tough defensively to break down,” said Willis, who led MLS with nine clean sheets last season. “Obviously, we would like to get three points out of the game. So, we’ll take that into this week, try and figure out how to make it better, and hopefully we can get our first win next week.”
Head coach Gary Smith agrees that the clean sheet against fellow Englishman Phil Neville’s Inter Miami was important for the group: especially as the team is coming off of a few slow starts.
“We’ll go into the next fixture with a much better mental state with a clean sheet, and I believe you’ll see a more relaxed and free-flowing group in the early exchanges,” Smith said.
Smith reiterated that Nashville SC has not had a straightforward preseason, and the team is making quick strides to create a rhythm for the 2021 season. The team is also working to find the right balance between its successful defense from 2020 while adding increased pressure in the attack this season.
Smith says he believes Willis’ performance against Miami helped Nashville SC fans see the mix he and the team are working to create this season. “He looked like the goalkeeper we saw last year. He made two outstanding saves in the opening 10 minutes,” Smith said.
Overall, Smith is pleased with the team’s performance early into the season. “We’re slowly but surely finding the team that we saw last year, but with some added impetus that we know can give us opportunities.”