NASHVILLE – The theme of Nashville Soccer Club’s Saturday night 2-0 win over Memphis 901 FC was patience.
Not only did the players have to wait an extra 78 minutes to kick off due to dangerous thunderstorms rolling through the mid-state, but the Boys in Gold also had to wait through another 78 minutes of gameplay before opening the scoring to claim the victory.
During the delay, the team found creative ways to stay loose and stay warm while waiting for the storm to pass.
“I actually beat [Matt LaGrassa] in soccer tennis,” defender Darnell King said. “Me and Daniel [Ríos] played him and Michael Reed to keep our legs moving.”
Once the match finally kicked off, Nashville got to work and dominated the 901 FC squad, owning possession and the shot share. In the first half, Nashville SC put up 12 shots to Memphis’ one. However, they still couldn't find the breakthrough, even as they continued their domination into the second half.
That’s when Matt LaGrassa came to the rescue with a great run and shot through the keeper’s legs and into the back of the net in the 78’ minute. Patience had paid off.
“I think we’ve had our struggles in the past scoring goals against organized defenses,” LaGrassa said. “To get that break through against a team that was pretty organized tonight, it was a big relief for a lot of guys. We created plenty of chances, but none had gone in at that point. Finally the moment came.”
Minutes later, Ropapa Mensah doubled Nashville’s advantage with a persistent effort in front of goal off of a corner kick. The super sub had come in earlier in the half for Tucker Hume, and he was a pivotal part of Nashville’s breakthrough late in the match.
While it was the forward Mensah that was the key to getting the goals, the rest of the squad played a cohesive match to that point to set up the scoring. The midfield and defense kept Memphis’ attackers to the perimeter, allowing just one shot on target in the entire match. For reference, Nashville took seven, including five in the second half.
“The front two started great,” said Head Coach Gary Smith. “I had no issues with the way we built out our chances and created. You’re always looking for that real clear sight at goal or maybe a little bit of fortune. Both forwards and wide players, the fullbacks were active. The midfield players were getting very high up the field. We regained in good areas and we kept some good pressure on their backline in that first period. You don’t always get what you deserve, and we didn’t. On those days, you’ve got to stay focused and strong and believe that that moment will come.”
The patience to stick with a game plan and have faith in Smith’s system was remarkable, and it began in the lengthy lightning delay. Even as the players were invited back to the field only to have to retreat back to the locker room minutes before a rescheduled kickoff, the Boys in Gold kept their minds fresh and stayed composed.
While some might have gotten a bit of cabin fever while holed up in the locker room, Nashville’s players never lost their edge and came out of the other side with the victory.
“It’s really difficult for both teams,” said Smith of the lightning delay. “You go and prepare yourselves, everything’s built up towards a particular kickoff time and then it’s delayed. It’s bad enough to go back out and prepare in a brief 10 minute window, but to have that pulled from underneath your feet as well, it’s just tough mentally. There’s no way around it. You’ve got to somehow stay focused, stay engaged. I actually thought we started very brightly and credit to the players. They took all of it in their stride; they’re very professional.”