NASHVILLE (March 12, 2018) – While the slate is now clean ahead of Nashville SC’s United Soccer League (USL) season opener on Saturday at Louisville City, the preseason offered fans a sneak peek at the club and its style prior to its inaugural season. With seven preseason games in the books, let’s take a look back at the club’s first month.
Just 30 days ago, the club opened in front of a rowdy home crowd in Nashville SC’s first-ever home friendly at First Tennessee Park against Major League Soccer (MLS) opponent, Atlanta United. Despite a downpour, the game resulted in a sellout and produced Nashville SC’s first-ever goal thanks to Ropapa Mensah’s chip into the back of the net. Eventually Atlanta emerged victorious, but Nashville SC made an immediate positive impression with its home atmosphere.
“The Atlanta game was a fantastic, historical occasion,” head coach Gary Smith said. “For us, two weeks into our preseason, it was one of our biggest challenges we were going to face. The more senior group started the first half, and I was absolutely delighted with their application and defensive work.”
Since the opening preseason defeat, Nashville SC has posted six consecutive results including a 3-1 win over Orlando City SC of the MLS. In all, Nashville scored 12 goals in its seven games and posted results against two MLS sides and both USL teams it has played in the last month.
“Orlando put out a strong side with a number of internationals,” Smith said. “For 10 or 15 minutes, it looked we might have a difficult morning. We had a couple of changes and found ourselves in a much better position. We got stronger and stronger as the game went on and ultimately, we ended up 3-1 winners. It was very pleasing for all.”
One of the keys to success this preseason has been balanced scoring. Nashville has had eight different goal scorers with four forwards, three midfielders and a defender snagging goals. Forward Alan Winn led all players with three preseason goals, while Matt LaGrassa and Mensah each tallied two.
Defensively, Nashville has allowed eight goals, but just five since Atlanta posted three in the preseason opener. Veteran keeper Matt Pickens has shown why he became the first signing in Nashville SC history. He has allowed a paltry three goals during his time in net in the preseason, including holding Atlanta United’s starters scoreless for the first half and Chicago Fire scoreless for more than 60 minutes.
Ultimately the preseason is about building chemistry and learning the system, two things that become even more critical in a team’s first year. In that sense, Smith is delighted in what he has seen so far.
“All in all, it’s been a very productive time,” Smith said. “The players are in a very good spot. We’ve grown slowly but surely throughout this time. We are in a good place.”