NASHVILLE – This Saturday night’s clash against Bethlehem Steel FC, presented by Piedmont/Tennessee 8-1-1, will finish up quite the week for Nashville Soccer Club.
It will be the club’s third match in seven days, and while the Boys in Gold will certainly be feeling the weight of a three-match week, Head Coach Gary Smith wants to make sure his players are in the right mindset going into the match against the Philadelphia Union’s reserve squad.
“I do honestly think that these games can be very much, I think they call them ‘trap games’ over here, in England they’re banana skins, wherever you are, they’re difficult games,” Smith said. “It’s at the end of a tough week. We’re playing against a very talented group of players. It doesn’t matter who goes on the field. They’ve proved that their conveyer belt of development in Philadelphia is as good as most. Which means that at any given time, those players, if they click, if they’re in form, they’re more than capable of beating anyone, and they’ve proved that. They go away from home and beat Louisville one-nil and we could probably name others if we stand around long enough. The one thing that is a difficulty for those groups in consistency.
“For Brenden [Burke], he’s got players who are shifting in and out of that group as you’ve said. There’s a lack of continuity through injuries and suspensions and that’s without what the first team ones. Honestly, I think he’s done a fabulous job there, and it is extremely frustrating when those situations occur. For us, it’s really about keeping our feet on the ground and doing the things that have been productive for us. If the guys get away from that and feel as though we are at home, and we’re in a good run, and the job will get done, it just doesn’t. You’ve seen it happen so many times.”
Physically, the players have been making sure to take care of themselves so they can be in the best condition possible to play their best on Saturday against Bethlehem. Nashville’s nearly tropical climate at this time of year doesn’t help, but the players are still doing everything they can to stay fit.
“I mean, it’s not easy in these conditions,” defender Ken Tribbett said. “It’s warm, it’s muggy, it’s hot. We played almost 90 minutes against a good side. Even though they’re a man down, we’re still moving around a lot. To have two days off, it’s important to take care of your body. All of the guys, we’ve gone in to cryo, massages, we do what we need to do to take care of ourselves, drink a lot of water. And the guys that have played two games this week, they really in particular have to make sure they’re ready to go.”
Tribbett was forced into Wednesday night’s match against Hartford Athletic after a gruesome injury to captain Michael Reed early in the match. For much of the match, Tribbett was used as a defensive midfielder rather than his natural defender role. However, he didn’t miss a beat, scoring the first goal in the second half to help secure the victory for Nashville.
“I mean, it’s certainly a different position,” Tribbett said. “I’m not going up all the way, I’m not a forward. It’s still a defensive position. I’m still on that mind of defend first, but I have more responsibility going forward. I get on the ball a little bit more. I have to find certain passes and defend further up the field to kind of block our back four.”
Going into this match, Nashville SC has won the last four matches and has kept a clean sheet for the last four matches. With the stretch run ahead going into the playoffs, Smith hopes his team can keep this momentum going. That task starts with taking care of business on Saturday night.
“We have coming up, and I certainly don’t want to look past Bethlehem or Charlotte because those games really lead us to the importance of the next two games,” Smith said. “If we get our job done on the weekend, and can get a good job done in Charlotte, then the games against New York and Tampa have so much more magnitude to them because of the position in the table. We’re not even taking Indy into the equation here. We’ve still got a couple of games in hand. What every team will know is, Indy has got to win those games. Now they’re a good side, don’t get me wrong. More than capable, but there’s a little bit of difference when you’ve got to bag the points. There’s pressure. There’s not been bundles of pressure for those top three teams in the last sort of month or six weeks. I think our run has put people under a little bit more of an edginess, and hopefully that effects their game. In this run in, anything can happen. I’m sure it will, and we just got to make sure that we stay the right side of the fence.”
Kickoff on Saturday night is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT at First Tennessee Park. Tickets are available for just $5.