NASHVILLE – After three weeks away from the pitch, Nashville SC returned to training this week for the first time since being withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament on July 9.
With the pain and disappointment of missing out on the tournament in the rearview mirror, Smith and his players are ready to start preparing for a potential restart of the regular season in the coming months.
“It was a pretty disappointing period of time down in Orlando, as I’m sure everybody can imagine,” Smith said. “The group went down there to compete and prepared incredibly well to show as well as we possibly could in the circumstances. Unfortunately, we were unable to do that. It’s good to be back out on the field, and the guys have certainly looked a lot more vibrant and energetic since we've been back. And I'm looking forward now to the restart, if you like, to the schedule, which we’re all hoping takes place in the next month or so.”
Going into the MLS is Back Tournament, Smith placed a heavy emphasis on physical fitness and stamina, working his players hard on the training ground and during team workouts. The team hoped to be as prepared as possible to grind out matches in the heavy heat of Orlando. Prior to being withdrawn, the players expressed their desire to continue in the tournament, even with a shorthanded group.
That emphasis hasn’t changed as Nashville SC now tries to regain that fitness and look ahead to potentially playing again.
“We're very much into what can only be described as a third preseason for the group,” Smith said. “When you’re limited as we were to no work for three weeks, the guys went from being one of the fittest groups down in Orlando to one of the most inactive groups for three weeks. There’s a lot of sharpness, match fitness and general mentality towards your work that’s lost. A big part of that preparation now has to be a real building process of getting the guys minds back on track and focused and physically working through those levels and foundations that can offer us the best opportunity to compete.”
With a yet-to-be-determined season restart looming, Smith now has the task of getting a brand-new squad back into match shape and understanding the fundamentals of the system. It’s a tough task, but if 2020 has taught him anything, it’s that nothing is easy these days.
“Working at those things for one week only doesn’t make anyone perfect at what they’re trying to achieve, but I do think given some of the work we’ve already done, it reemphasizes what we want to look like, how we want to approach games and that confidence within the group that they can deal with most situations in a game,” Smith said. “It’s not an ideal world, but not much in the last five months has been ideal for anyone.”