NASHVILLE -- Even amongst numerous trials and tribulations, the Boys in Gold have shown that sticks and stones will not be enough to keep them from playing their game.
As one of 2020’s Major League Soccer expansion teams, Nashville SC has faced much adversity in its infancy, including a tornado that ravaged its community, the COVID-19 pandemic and most recently its withdrawal from the MLS is Back tournament.
But Nashville SC is not giving up. With their noses to grindstone, the Music City club members are preparing for whatever may come next.
“We're very much into what can only be described as a third preseason for the group,” Head Coach Gary Smith said. “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.”
That resilient mindset translates onto the field as well. Nashville SC’s fighting attitude in training and in matches is an indicator of how it approaches the real-life adversity the club has faced since its inception. The hours of work put into training before and after the MLS is Back Tournament only add to the tenacious attitude of the team.
Within the last five months, Smith has seen his players’ growth born from the difficulties they’ve faced, crediting them with their insight into the entire team’s dynamic.
“The players suddenly have a lot better understanding of my expectations for the group,” he said. “I think they have a lot better understanding and appreciation for one another as well.”
The team also draws strength from being at home after it’s time in Florida. From isolation in Orlando back to the training pitch at Currey Ingram Academy, the group dynamic and ability to work as one is vital to making the strides in fitness and competition that the team wants to showcase upon its hopeful return to league play.
“There was a lot of disappointment and frustration in how things played out with the MLS is Back tournament,” captain Dax McCarty said. “We wanted to be involved, we all wanted to play. But once we got back to Nashville and started training again [there was] a little bit of hope and optimism that we’ll be able to get back on the field soon.”
With the team’s safety in mind, Nashville SC is training hard and taking precautions every day to ensure its return to league play is a successful one. Pandemic and tournament woes aside, the team is focused on a strong presence for when they can finally take the field again.
“It's not an easy environment or position to be in,” Smith said. “But it's one that we all understand and realize that if we're going to get any full of success or enjoyment out of the season then we've got to get ready again for the middle of August.”