MEMPHIS – Sometimes, all it takes is one strong effort to get back on track.
Nashville Soccer Club found that strong effort on Wednesday night with a decisive 2-0 victory over Memphis 901 FC, snapping a two-match losing streak. It was also Nashville’s first clean sheet since a 0-0 draw against Indy Eleven on May 25.
While grabbing all three points was the main objective for the squad, earning a clean sheet was also important for Head Coach Gary Smith’s side after 10 days to let those back-to-back losses simmer.
“There’s been a lot of good work, of course some disappointment in the early stages of this 10 days that we had leading up to the game,” Smith said. “But I think the guys had the opportunity to emotionally get over a couple of bad results. They then got their teeth into tough work. It’s not been easy these last few days. I think everybody has been reminded through results and through work and through the environment that we’ve had that we are better than we’ve shown, and it doesn’t just come to you. You’re not going to be given results, you’ve got to work for them. I feel tonight that some of that work paid off. I think the spirit that the guys showed weathered some difficult periods, and they did more than enough to win the game. I’m just very pleased that we’ve gotten back on track again.”
The back line got a major boost from newly-acquired Jimmy Ockford, who was brought in on short-term loan from MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes this week. He scored a goal off of a set piece late in the first half to put Nashville into the lead, becoming the fourth player in club history to score in his debut. He also had five interceptions, leading the team on the night. Smith was thrilled with Ockford’s insertion into the lineup.
“Jimmy’s a good player,” Smith said. “He has a good pedigree, he’s a very genuine and spirited player. I think in any circumstances, anybody who comes in can give the group a lift. Especially somebody of caliber coming from an MLS side. For the guys who played around him, I think it steadying them a little bit. It gave us a more assured approach, and there were some really good performances back there. There was some pressure to deal with. Jimmy did exactly what I hoped he would. The goal was a bit of icing on the cake. He’s shown in the past, and his record will tell us, that he’s more than capable of getting goals.”
Ockford, who had not made an appearance for the Earthquakes this season, was excited to get back into live action and enjoyed getting to play with his new teammates.
“I thought I did pretty well, but it was a team effort,” Ockford said. “With all of the guys in front of me, I think we did well as a group. We had good vibes from the start of the day, and we pulled off the win and a clean sheet. It can’t get better than that.”
Nashville’s second goal came off the foot of Daniel Ríos, who moved into a tie for the league lead in goals with his strike early in the second half. Despite only managing a pair of shots in the match, Ríos managed to get himself on the board.
“He had an awful lot of attention from their back line, and in a lot of cases I thought he was impeded more than it was given,” Smith said. “He keeps going, he gets up, he keeps digging away, he gives us a great target. In those opportunities that came along, and there weren’t many – their back line was pretty sound – they’ll be disappointed that in the two or three moments that they did give up we scored two goals. He’s clinical. That’s what good players do, especially good forwards. They don’t get many chances, and when they do they make you pay for it. And he made them pay at a very, very good time for us.”
Now, Nashville turns its attention to a massive match next weekend against Indy Eleven at Nissan Stadium, the club’s future MLS home. Smith knows his players should have all the motivation they need to come out strong in that match.
“It really is no greater opportunity on the stage,” Smith said. “It’s going to be in front of a crowd that we hope may well replicate what we might see next year. I think the guys are fully appreciative of the game, of the stadium and the importance of really what it represents. I think as importantly or even more importantly, is the fact that Indy are in a very good position in the league and I think we’re at a point where we’ve got to be showing our true credentials. Next week is going to be a very good opportunity to do that.”