Gary Smith met with the media this afternoon. Read what the Nashville SC gaffer had to say prior to his team’s trip up I-65 to Indianapolis, along with players Kosuke Kimura and Lebo Moloto.
“First of all, they’re in a similar position to us: lots of personnel changing in the offseason, new coach, new stadium, I think they’ve only played one home game, so I’m quite sure they won’t be at that point where they’ve taken full advantage of the field and the surface, which I’m hearing is a tad less than adequate – but we’ll see.
“They’ve got an experienced team, they look a very competitive team. I know Martin Rennie well, and he’s a good coach: he’ll be very very well-organized with that group, and so far that’s what they’re showing. They’ve got some very good players. They’ve changed it up a little bit – [Justin] Braun has got himself back into the group last week with McInerney’s suspension. Jack McInerney himself has played at a very good level: he’s a good goal-scorer. [Eugene] Starikov, who I’ve run into in the NASL is a talented boy. [Soony] Saad, [Tyler] Pasher, they’ve got a wealth of talent there in that forward line. [Zach] Steinberger had an excellent season last year with Jacksonville. All of these guys are really capable, and whilst no away game is easy, I think this will be one of the tougher ones that we run into.”
Does playing in Nissan Stadium (against Pittsburgh Riverhounds) prepare better for an NFL venue?
“I think from a dynamic standpoint, that huge backdrop., I don’t know how many fans will be there, but I’m sure they do get well-supported. The big difference will be, it could be with the roof shut, so there will be no elements, which will be quite strange. And it will be on turf, which I’m getting sort of varying degrees of comments about. I don’t know: we train there tomorrow, I’ll get a good idea of what the surface is like, and I’ll make all my decisions on the team. I’ve told the players: I think we ran into a surface in Louisville which we all looked at and said, ‘OK, this is different to anywhere else we’re going to play.’ I don’t want to make decisions based on what happened last weekend on the field that we have, which is immaculate for the most part, and dimensions that we’re very adept to. This is different, so we need to be different, and we need to be prepared for that.”
What are the differences between the NASL side and this year’s USL group for Indy?
“I think their changes – there’ve been so many players that have moved in and out of there. Martin has brought in, I want to say, somewhere between 10 and 15 players this offseason. The backline looks very different to last year; the front line looks completely different to last year. The guys that have taken up the brunt of the work in the middle of midfield, Watson has been with him before in Carolina and Vancouver I believe, these are experienced players, they’ve got a lot of professional games under their belt. They’ll be battle-hardened, ready to compete, and they’ve already played on that surface once so they’ll have a much better idea of what is needed to win the game. At the moment, they don’t look to be firing on all cylinders. I hope the weekend don’t change. At some point, as we’re finding out, you start to hit a little bit more fluency, a bit more appreciation with a group, some relationships are built, and I think that’s where they are. They looked to have a lot more joy down the left last week: with Ayoze [García Pérez] and Pasher, we’ll see whether that stays the same, I think that’s the first time that they’ve played together. They looked bright, but Carolina’s field I think is as wide as any in the division, and the surface is as good as any: that’s a difference as well. There’s lots of things that I can’t guess: only Martin knows the answer to. I can only prepare my group, and be ready for a challenge on that field against a very competitive outfit who’ve started off the season well.”
Does a two-game win streak provide confidence?
“I’ve said all along: winning and keeping clean sheets is something I can’t give to the group in terms of belief and confidence. I can come out and put on a session and try and organize the group, but I certainly can’t give them those sort of emotions. They’re in a great spot, they’re buoyant, they’re excitable, they’re looking forward to the next challenge: everything you expect when you’re doing well. When you’re not doing so well, the next game comes around, there’s a little bit of apprehension. At the moment, they’re in a very good place, and I think they’re looking forward very much to playing a good team.”
Can Nashville crack a good defense to win a low-scoring game?
“I think there’s a couple of decisions that they’ve got to make in their backline: they’ve got some injuries, one or two of the starting guys have been in and out of the team. Again, I can’t tell who’s going to play. I would think the personnel in this game’s going to make a big difference. If they can get their full group out fit and healthy, they’ll be a tough nut to crack: they’ve shown that. But so will we. We certainly going away from home know that they’ve got to make the game. They’re at home, they’ll; be wanting to get on the front foot. We have our style and we certainly have a plan to try and go into their home stadium and to get a result, but I would think they’ll want to get their first win under their belt at home, so therefore they’re going to be nice and aggressive, and on the front foot, and they’ll try and take the game to us, I’m sure. We’ll be ready for that.”
What are your plans in case of a win? St. Elmo’s steakhouse?
“I doubt it. I very much doubt it. If we get a victory, the first place I’ll be stopping is probably a liquor store on the way home to get a couple of Coronas
His chemistry with Alan Winn
“I mean, me, Taylor, we have Ramone and Alan as well, we’re the quick players on the team. Alan loves to go up and running. So do I and so does Taylor. Obviously at home, it’s good to have that: always just threatening behind, and behind, and behind. Especially over the weekend when we played against [Charlotte], they had a younger kid playing left back. I just told Alan, ‘you know what, don’t worry about defending too much, just keep going, keep going. I’ll be serving the ball, I’ll try to give you the ball as much as possible.’ I think we did: me and him did a great job of creating the momentum in the first half, and it led to the goal, and that was a huge plus. If you’re always up a goal, it’s going to be a relief and a release for your mental aspect, and we got going. Second half was a little tough but still, I think we managed the game well. It’s good to have that, as well as Taylor on the other side.”
Shutting down Charlotte produces confidence?
“It’s similar to that: I just told everybody, ‘be positive, it’s our home game, fans are going to be behind us. Just keep going, keep positive, stay positive. Just don’t worry about the mistake – it’s all about how you’re going to come back from a mistake.’ That’s what I told them to just keep going forward. Certainly we know what we can do, so we’ve just gotta keep going that.”
Will playing on a narrower field change your approach to the game?
“Definitely. It’s a smaller field, a tight field, and then it’s turf – and it isn’t this turf, I’ve heard. It’s going to be bumpy and it’s going to be hard for us to maintain possession and get that rhythm going. One of those games, that’s what away games are. It’s tough for them as well. It’s going to be a little more of a battle. Obviously, the smart soccer player IQ comes in, and we can unlock that. Other than that, we’ve just got to be ready to play that battle against them, because they have to do that as well.”
Does a win streak heading into a long road trip help the team cope with the challenges of being away?
“We have a great group of guys here. Everybody’s focused, anybody can play. We can rotate anybody certainly, no problem playing a position, because we train like that every day. Everybody knows what they have to do. We have three shutouts, it’s not just the wins: that’s huge. We’ve only conceded two goals in four games, which is not easy to do. We’ve done that, and that’s a huge confidence boost for us. We’ve just gotta keep doing that game-by-game.”
What’s the new fatherhood experience been like so far?
“It’s been pretty good. I slept last night. A lot of pees on my face; he’s peed on me twice already. It’s been pretty good. I’m enjoying the experience of it.”
Does it feel like the offense is starting to click?
“Like I said two or three weekends ago, it’s kind of tough to build momentum, chemistry, especially going to goal. I feel like we’re slowly but surely getting there. We created a lot of chances last weekend, even two weekends ago against Bethlehem. I know they had a red card, but we were still able to create a lot of chances. We didn’t finish them, but at least we are moving one step ahead to what we’re trying to achieve.”
Does it feel like there’s more support around you lately?
“I mean, I feel like it’s the first year for the team, first year for everybody, and Gary working with us. I felt like… we just changed the formation, and with the formation, there’s more guys up top in it. Instead of retaining possession and waiting for the other wingbacks to join, now we’ve got Alan [Winn], we’ve got Taylor [Washington], got [Michael] Cox. I think that having the wings has been probably our success going forward. Obviously, us getting comfortable with each other too.”
Has playing higher up the pitch been a positive change for you?
“I’ve played with my back against the goal. I’ve played as a striker, last year at Swope I played as a false No. 9, so I’m familiar with playing up top. Gary still gives me the freedom to drop. I can make the team play, or find passes. I’m enjoying it so far.”