NASHVILLE – When Nashville Soccer Club forward Daniel Ríos steps on the field, he has just one thing on his mind: putting the ball in the back of the net.
He’s done that seven times in Nashville’s first 10 matches of the season, placing him just behind New York Red Bulls II’s Tom Barlow for the league lead in goals. Even though his numbers are extremely impressive, Ríos has no time to be satisfied.
“If I’m honest, I would expect more goals,” Ríos said of his hot start to the season. “My individual goal is to always score goals. Before every tournament or game, my goal is to score goals. Obviously, first I want to help the team to achieve three points, and then score goals.”
Ríos will bring that thirst for goals to First Tennessee Park on Saturday night when Nashville SC takes on Charlotte Independence, a club Ríos is very familiar with from his days at rival North Carolina FC.
In Ríos’ last outing with North Carolina against Charlotte on October 13, 2018, he had a pair of world-class goals, including a chip over the keeper with his left foot late in the match to seal a victory.
He has tried that same kind of chip over the keeper several this season, and he will keep trying it until one goes in.
“I’m ready,” Ríos said. “I’m always ready. I am ready to try it. Obviously, I want to score, so hopefully I can have a beautiful goal again.”
Head Coach Gary Smith is thrilled with how well Ríos has adjusted to the group and how much offense he has created in the first 10 matches.
“When I look at what Daniel gives the team and what he offers as an individual, it’s hard to pick out an area that he doesn’t tick boxes in,” Smith said. “He’s a very good target man, so he’s strong and he’s tenacious to secure the ball. His link play and first touch are very good, and he’s intelligent, whether that’s with a choice of pass or timing of his movement. He works tirelessly for a center forward and we’ve seen plenty of them that do a great job in front of goal and when the ball’s there to be creative. But, Daniel is very genuine. He gives us something leading the line there, and you’ve seen exactly what he’s about when the ball gets into dangerous areas. He deals with crosses, he finishes first time off of the floor, he’s capable of scoring on his own. He’s got a lot of qualities, he really has. At the age he’s at, I would think there’s only going to be more development in his game. Maybe not physically, a good size and good physical stature, but in terms of the way he plays and maybe some of the experiences that he’s now going to run into, it can only enhance his game.”
Charlotte Independence comes to town after losing to amateur qualifiers Florida Soccer Soldiers in the Second Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday. They currently sit outside the USL Championship playoff picture and have just one win in league play. Meanwhile, Nashville SC is riding a two-match winning streak, and has scored eight goals in two matches across all competitions.
However, that doesn't mean that Smith isn’t ready for a battle on Saturday night in Nashville.
“They’ve got players that have been, and played to a very good level in MLS,” Smith said. “For whatever reason, things are not going their way at the moment. Why, and when they’ll turn it around, not for me to really discuss. But what I do know is when I look at the group, they’re certainly not to be taken lightly. There’s a lot of talent in there and if at some point they do start to find the right chemistry, they’re going to be very difficult to play against. What we have to make sure is it’s not this weekend.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM at First Tennessee Park. Tickets to the match are still available here