NASHVILLE – As the second half of Nashville Soccer Club’s match against New York Red Bulls II rolled on, Head Coach Gary Smith wanted to switch things up to try and spark his team’s offense in a 1-1 stalemate. He brought in Matt LaGrassa in the midfield and Ropapa Mensah going forward to try and find that spark with a new formation.
However, those changes never got to take their full effect, as a second yellow card and red card to defender Forrest Lasso changed the dynamic of the match and helped push NYRBII to a 2-1 victory at First Tennessee Park.
“I’m not going to be sour about defeat,” said Smith. “I thought they were better than us for a good period of the game. I felt as though we deserved the opportunity with Forrest [Lasso] staying on the field to see if we could change the dynamic of the game. At that point I went 4-4-2, and it would have been a really important moment. I felt as though we needed to change the dynamic of the game, and I would love to have seen how that would have been born out. But sadly, I didn’t.”
Nashville SC came out flying to start the match and scored the first goal off the head of Ken Tribbett. After that, the young Baby Bulls settled into the match and began to dictate the pace, leading to the equalizing goal right before halftime. Smith had just begun to implement his tactical changes when the red card was issued in the 65’ minute. Just a few minutes later, a set piece goal by New York put them in front for good.
Smith spoke his mind about the referee’s decision to give Lasso a red card.
“I didn’t see the replay actually,” Smith said. “Everyone tells me that it was very harsh. I’ll pick my words very carefully here: I think we’ve seen a naïve decision. I’m not saying it wasn’t a foul, I’m not saying it wasn’t obstruction, but there’s a very big difference between giving somebody a second yellow card and ejecting him from the game. Was there real malice? Was there an edge to what he did? Like I said, I haven’t seen it, so I’m not going to get too deep into that. But it strikes me as a maybe a little bit of a naïve decision.”
Even with the red card thwarting the team’s efforts to adjust and strike back, Smith acknowledged that NYRBII was the better side for stretches of the match, particularly after Nashville’s goal. The players echoed similar sentiments, citing a shift in attitude after scoring first.
“I just think after we scored, our mindset just kind of went to, ‘OK, we got our goal. Now we can kind of sit in and defend a little bit,’ where before we were pushing,” Tribbett said. “We could have maybe done a little bit better there, but I think we just have to make it to halftime without conceding. Then we’re feeling better going into halftime.”
With the club pushed back to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, the Boys in Gold turn their attention to Charleston Battery on Saturday night. The Battery are clawing for playoff position, and Smith believes his team will be chomping at the bit to get three points given what transpired on Wednesday night.
“I think any defeat is disappointing,” Smith said. “We’ve been on a really good run, conceding one goal and scoring 13. Everyone came into the game with great confidence. You could see how the game started. To score and then lose the game in the circumstances that we did, of course it will have an effect on the players. It has an effect on all players. But, I do think given the way the scores are going, it really condenses that top six or seven. I would anticipate that there are going to be some results that we all look at, maybe like this one, and say wow I wasn’t expecting that. The challenge for us is to make sure that we’re not on the receiving end of that. The biggest challenge on the weekend will be recovery, get our mindset on track, getting focused again, being ready for a very challenging Charleston side. They’re a good team, they’re very different to this group we just played. But make no mistake, they’ll come here and they’ve got their own fight on their hands and it will be one of the toughest games of the season, I suspect.”
Tickets for Saturday's match against Charleston Battery, presented by Vanderbilt Health, are available here for just $5.