Nashville SC

From the film room: Chattanooga nearly breaks through

Nashville SC’s win over former rival Chattanooga FC Saturday evening turned out to be  comfortable affair, but that doesn’t mean the Boys in Gold were perfect. On the contrary, there were a few minutes near the beginning of each half when they looked vulnerable indeed.

Let’s look at one that occurred in the 58th minute (not long before Chattanooga actually did end up finding the back of the net). For a full breakdown of the game, see yesterday’s analysis.

The setup

Nashville SC led 3-0 at halftime and has made a number of subs. We see a mix of first-team and second-choice personnel on the field. There’s a bit of a chemistry disconnect (as there was to open the contest with the mixing and matching of the lineup).

CJ Cochran is in net (halftime sub), with Taylor Washington, Justin Davis (halftime sub), Liam Doyle, Ryan James (moved from wingback), and Kosuke Kimura (halftime sub) in the backline. Bolu Akinyode and Michael Reed (halftime sub) are the defensive midfielders. That leaves only two players – Washington and Doyle – in the same positions they were in the prior half, and James at a different spot, though still with game-ready legs after the first half.

The play begins with Kimura trying to clear the ball down the right wing. (Ignore the colors and numbers for CFC in all graphics – the coachboard app leaves a lot to be desired in terms of “working properly”).


What happens

Kimura’s clearance… does not go well. Instead of getting upfield to allowed NSC to regroup (or out of bounds to restart play), it goes right to a Chattanooga player. With NSC out of its shape – take a particularly close look at your presumed back three of Davis-Doyle-James – there are openings to exploit with some nice passing.

The next Chattanooga player to receiver the ball cuts toward the corner of the 18-yard box and fires in a cross. It goes directly to Davis, but his chest-trap is awkward, and he fumbles around with it at his feet a bit. That allows a Chattanooga player to make a tackle, which results in a lucky bounce right to his teammate.


That teammate takes a nice bending shot that easily beats Cochran. He can’t turn it quite enough, though, and it glances the outside of the post and ends up as a harmless – if harrowing during the process – goal kick.

All told, it amounts to nothing, but NSC could have given one back here.


(My recommendation is to watch part of it, read the takeaways, then watch again. It loops a couple times here).


In several aspects, this is just one of those moments that is going to happen in the course of a match, with a few unlucky bounces in a row adding up to something scary. Chattanooga didn’t score, so you shrug and move on. How frequently is Kimura going to fail to clear in that situation? How frequently is Davis going to handle the ball poorly? How frequently is a tackle going to bounce directly to his teammate for a nice shot? Maybe individually, you could say “often enough,” but for all three to occur on the same play is rare, and NSC won’t be punished by this odd confluence of events often.

There are still some coaching points here (from a tactical perspective, not a technical one. There’s no “LOL tim thinks he can teach technique to pros” moment), nonetheless.

  • Washington is wide because he’s expecting a breakout from his team (again, Kimura bungling a clearance like that is rare), not a turnover. He reacts too slowly when the team gets back into a defensive posture, or he could wall the tackling player off from Davis, or at least provide an easier outlet for him. With Washington’s speed, he’ll be in the right spot more often than not even when he is slow to realize the turnover.
  • Davis and Doyle need to communicate better to re-set the line (and Davis to a slightly lesser extent). While Doyle has great technique in tackling and an absolute laser-guided missile distributing the ball from the back, this is the fourth or fifth time in five (public) preseason appearances that we’ve seen possibly poor communication when he’s in the center. That’s not to say he’s to blame – he may well not be – but he has to be able to help overcome it, too.
  • Akinyode does a really nice job tracking wide to force the crosser to make a forward move before getting his cross in. Unfortunately, that means he – through no fault of his own – ends up in a better crossing position, able to slot the ball behind Reed and the player Reed is marking. Akinyode can’t get a foot on to block the cross.
  • Of course, Davis is going to trap and clear (or clear first-touch, or distribute to Washington, or basically anything other than “give the ball away”) 95 times out of 100. That’s not a major concern here, since even giving the ball away meant the tackler didn’t get it, and had to hope it fell to a teammate.
  • Chattanooga’s overload on NSC’s right side (bottom of the screen, unfortunately top of the graphic what with the Coachboard app’s limitations) is actually an underrated part of this play. Kimura ends up chasing his man into the corner – correctly – but CFC is able to send a second guy into the area. Kimura can’t mark two players, and his original mark slips away, where James should probably have a chance to prevent him getting on the end of the play, but his eyes are outside because of the crosser’s position.
  • Cochran was beaten, but he actually had decent position on this one. That those statements are sort of the opposite of what we expect (great reactions and ball-stopping, still working on positioning and distribution) are either encouraging because he won’t do it often, or discouraging. Either way, not stopping a shot that ends up wide of frame is hardly the greatest sin.

Like I said, this isn’t going to happen often: the individual mistakes are rare enough that we won’t see them frequently, and all coming together on the same play is going to be even more uncommon. The chemistry of guys playing out of position or coming on cold from the bench with teammates they don’t always line up next to (and won’t, with any degree of frequency) makes it even less troubling.

Gary Smith and his players will adjust and learn. They’ll have to be better – and less unlucky in all steps except the last one – when the regular-season intensity hits this weekend.


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