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Data Driven: How Nashville SC dominates opponents in its own half

By Nashville SC, 07/13/18, 5:00PM EDT

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Defense wins championships.

On its climb to the top echelon of the USL Eastern Conference, Nashville SC has successful defended against some of the top teams in the league.

Teams that are otherwise stellar offensively see a considerable decrease in productivity when they play Nashville SC. We crunched the numbers and found that Nashville’s opponents average 1.48 goals per game overall this season, but average just 0.58 goals per game against Nashville SC.

Team

 GPG vs. NSC

Total Average (All Gms)

Louisville City FC

1

1.5

Pittsburgh Riverhounds

0

1.24

Penn FC

0.5

1.22

Bethlehem Steel

0

1.61

Charlotte Independence

0.5

1.47

Charleston Battery

1

1.39

Indy Eleven

2

1.28

NYRB II

1

2

Tampa Bay Rowdies

1

1.53

North Carolina FC

0

1.41

ATL UTD 2

0

1.11

FC Cincinnati

0

1.94

     
 

0.58 AVG

1.48 AVG

 

 

 


Perhaps one of the reasons for this is how well Nashville SC limits shots on target. Any team can take as many shots as they’d like, but only shots on target have a chance to go in. According to our calculations, Nashville SC’s opponents get approximately one less shot on target against Nashville as opposed to any other opponent.

Team

Avg On Target vs. NSC

Avg on target excl NSC

Louisville City FC

4

5.07

Pittsburgh Riverhounds

2.5

4.13

Penn FC

3.5

4.31

Bethlehem Steel

4

5

Charlotte Independence

2.5

3.88

Charleston Battery

1

3.82

Indy Eleven

5

3.81

NYRB II

2

6.18

Tampa Bay Rowdies

6

4.5

North Carolina FC

2

4.44

ATL UTD 2

5

2.88

FC Cincinnati

2

5.29

     
 

3.29 AVG

4.44 AVG


That type of defensive energy was on full display last Saturday when the club played FC Cincinnati at Nissan Stadium. Cincinnati entered the match as the top scoring team in USL and featured top scorers like Emmanuel Ledesma. As the chart above shows, in all other matches to that point, Cincinnati averaged 5.29 shots on target per game. Against Nashville, however, the team had just two and they both came in the final 10 minutes.

“I think we were obviously very switched on defensively,” defender Justin Davis said of his team’s performance against FC Cincinnati. “I think our press put them in difficult situations and they weren’t able to work out of it.”

The club’s success on the back end is also due in large part to Matt Pickens’ performance when shots do get through on target. Despite facing the fourth-most shots in the conference (54), Pickens owns the top save percentage at 80.7%. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Daniel Lynd is not far behind, but the rest of the pack is far behind the two leaders.

TEAM

GOALKEEPER

SHOTS FACED (min 20 shots)

SAVE PERCENTAGE

Nashville SC

Matt Pickens

57

80.70%

Pitt. Riverhounds SC

Daniel Lynd

35

80%

Bethlehem Steel

John McCarthy

37

75.70%

Ottawa Fury FC

Maxime Crépeau

56

75%

FC Cincinnati

Evan Newton

49

73.50%

Charleston Battery

Joe Kuzminsky

33

72.70%

Bethlehem Steel

Jake McGuire

54

70.40%

Tampa Bay Rowdies

Cody Mizell

40

70%

North Carolina FC

Alex Tambakis

79

69.60%

Louisville City FC

Gregory Ranjitsingh

54

68.50%

Indy Eleven

Owain Fon Williams

62

68%

Richmond Kickers

Travis Werra

70

65.70%

NY Red Bulls 2

Evan Loura

51

64.70%

Penn FC

Romuald Peiser

45

64.40%

Atlanta United 2

Paul Christensen

35

62.90%

Charlotte Ind.

Andrew Dykstra

55

60.00%

Atlanta United 2

Nicolas Caraux

25

56%

Toronto FC 2

Gianluca Catalano

36

55.60%

Charleston Battery

Odisnel Cooper

20

55.00%


Going into Friday night’s USL action, Pickens is tied atop the league leaderboard in clean sheets with nine, and that doesn’t even include his clean sheet in U.S. Open Cup play against the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer (MLS).

With just four points separating the third and ninth-place teams, Nashville SC’s defense should be a monumental force as the club battles for a playoff spot.