Miller, McCarty break down the benefits of preseason scrimmages
BRADENTON, Fla. – Once the regular season in Major League Soccer begins on Feb. 29 against Atlanta United FC, presented by Renasant Bank, Nashville Soccer Club will be focused on earning wins on matchdays and preparing for those on training days.
But in order to get there, preseason is all about laying that foundation, which is why all scrimmages played within these six weeks are so valuable. They allow the Boys in Gold to build the chemistry and connections needed against an unfamiliar opponent.
Defender Eric Miller found Thursday’s scoreless exercise against Swedish side IF Elfsborg to be extremely beneficial.
“Often times in training, [Head Coach] Gary [Smith] will explain something beforehand and as much as you try to be honest and pretend like you don’t know what’s going on, at least at some subconscious level you know what the other team is trying to do,” Miller said. “It makes it difficult to try to do that sometimes. For us to play an opponent that knows nothing about us, that we can really try and do the things we’ve been doing in training against a group that has no idea what’s coming, I think that’s really valuable and vice versa as well with us having to deal with problems that we haven’t seen before, players that we haven’t seen before, and just an entire team that we haven’t seen before. It’s a good thing for us to have to deal with and continue to work on.”
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The players have spent the first two weeks of training camp getting to know one another on and off the pitch, as well as working on the basic structure and shape of the team.
Head Coach Smith placed an emphasis on defensive shape and the communication in that half. While the defense showed its promise by keeping a clean sheet in the first scrimmage, midfielder Dax McCarty also thought the offense also showed the beginnings of a dynamic attack that will take time to develop.
“For me the positives were in our shape,” McCarty said. “We’ve been working a lot on our shape and how we’re going to defend and how compact we want to be. We really limited the other team to very few chances. I don’t think Joe Willis or any of our keepers had too much to do.
“And then on the other side of it, the attacking side, that’s always going to be something that comes a little bit later in terms of those connections and trying to click and create chances and score goals,” continued McCarty. “You’ve seen some positive play, we saw some really positive stuff from our backline through our midfield and even up to the strikers and the attacking players who created some chances. It’s just a matter of getting on the same page as fast as we can.”
While the process of building chemistry and understanding tactics took a big step forward on Thursday, McCarty knows the process can’t be forced and will run its course in due time.
“For me moving forward, the most important things are just establishing connections on the field, establishing relationships on the field between players who are going to be playing in similar areas,” McCarty said. “What I mean by that is: how quickly can our centerbacks get on the same page? How quickly can our fullbacks and our wingers get on the same page? How quickly can our central midfielders and our attacking midfielders all get on the same page in terms of how they want to play, the certain movements that Hany Mukhtar likes to make? The certain runs that our wingers and strikers will be making. These are all things that have to come organically.”
Nashville SC returns to Florida on Monday to continue with the second leg of their preseason training. Their next test is a scrimmage against their first MLS opponent, Chicago Fire FC, on Thursday, Feb. 6.