NASHVILLE – In a long USL Championship season, it’s difficult to place too much stock in just one performance. However, it is important to evaluate each performance both good and bad.
Nashville Soccer Club Head Coach Gary Smith was thoroughly unhappy with the team’s showing in a 3-1 loss on the road at Charleston Battery on Saturday. In particular, he was disappointed in the defensive effort from what has been an elite backline so far this season.
“I thought the two centerbacks struggled all evening against a young center forward, coupled with the fact they played a slightly different shape,” Smith said. “That first goal was borne out of a slow start and getting to grips with the 3-4-3 they played which looked uncomfortable for the team. We were utterly embarrassed with the performance tonight defensively.”
The outing was particularly disappointing because the club had set such high standards for itself in the defensive third. Through the first five matches of the season, Nashville SC conceded two goals. The club conceded more than that in just those 90 minutes in Charleston. Between the matches at Ottawa Fury FC and at home against Memphis 901 FC, Nashville allowed just three shots on target. Against Charleston, they allowed seven shots on target.
Despite that, Nashville actually had more total shots than Charleston, but couldn’t create dangerous looks at the net. Smith attributed some of that to the flow of the match and the mentality of the team.
“Honestly a team that goes in front as early as they did, suddenly their mindset changes a little bit,” Smith said. “We had moments, the last 15-20 minutes of the first half. At that point you don’t get back into the game. They absorbed some good pressure. And then they found a way to get the second goal. We were untidy when we needed to be brighter and more creative. We weren’t anywhere near our best.”
On the bright side, Nashville SC has historically been a club that responds well after tough losses. Last season, Nashville lost by two goals just four times in USL play, and the club’s has two wins and two draws in the matches immediately following those losses.
While Smith made some lineup tweaks to stretch Nashville’s depth and adapt to Charleston’s style on Saturday, the performance in the match did not meet Smith’s high standards. As a result, he will be taking a long look at his squad and the 11 players that take the pitch next Saturday at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC could look a bit different than the one that got beaten at Charleston.
“I think looking at the opponent next week, it’s going to be a particular type of game,” Smith said. “I expect a reaction from whoever is going to be out there. I would expect as a player anyone that played today should be concerned about their place in the team. There is no way a team of this caliber should be conceding three goals. I have to say I am bitterly disappointed with the way we conducted ourselves.”