INDIANAPOLIS – Nashville SC was brimming with confidence heading into Saturday’s game against Indy Eleven. The Boys in Gold hadn’t conceded since their season opener, and were fresh off a pair of wins. That all changed in the first 34 minutes of the game, though.
Indy’s Soony Saad struck on the counter attack, sneaking in behind the defense after a failed header to clear, then beating Nashville SC keeper Matt Pickens one-on-one in the 15th minute. Just 20 minutes later, Saad struck again on an outstanding strike from a free kick. While Nashville SC would respond, the hole was too deep.
“What I am very pleased about is the way that they responded to being two-nil down,” said head coach Gary Smith. “Not a good spot to be in, of course, away from home. I thought the second half, we looked far more like the team that I’ve seen. And certainly more like the team that I want to continue to see.
“We showed more purpose with our possession, there were some very good moments from dead balls and from open play that maybe on another day we might have made a little bit more of. Still some really positive things to come out of the game. Of course, huge frustration that we haven’t earned a point when in all honesty, I thought the balance of play we deserved a point.”
NSC’s Ropapa Mensah earned his first start of the year, and went 90 minutes for the first time in a Gold uniform – including the preseason. He notched his second goal in as many games, poking one into the Indianapolis net just moments before the halftime whistle sounded (and almost adding one more before the teams went to the locker room).
“For Ropapa, it was a good 90 minutes, and I want to say I think it’s his only 90 minutes even throughout preseason,” Smith said. “He looked strong, he looked a problem for them. Forwards are those type of guys, when it goes into their feet or in and around the final third, you know that you’ve got a decent forward on your hands when you think something might happen. And I just felt that there were occasions and plenty of them where something’s going to happen. And it did, He got himself a good goal.”
That was all Nashville could muster, though, and despite plenty of opportunities in the second half of the game, the final scoreline was 2-1. While the result – and particularly, failing to earn at least a point with an equalizing goal – is a disappointment for the team, there’s plenty to grow.
“You’ve gotta look at the positives,” said midfielder Michael Reed. “We started building momentum. It’s tough when we’re two goals down. We had a goal at the end of the first half, and I think it was a positive thing going into the second half. We showed well in the second half, and we just didn’t put away the second chance or the third chance. Looking forward, obviously we can take the beginning of the game as lessons, and move on.”
“I thought we had them,” said midfielder Lebo Moloto. “I thought second half, they didn’t create as many chances, and their two goals came from just cleanup from the back on the first goal, and the second goal was just a good free kick. I thought we had them, second half, I thought we were going to come back, tie the game, and I thought we were going to win it. Just didn’t happen.”
In the face of disappointment, though, comes opportunity. The team is ready to take the next step – with a bit longer layoff before a Tuesday matchup against Penn FC.
“The guys are fit, we’re fit, we’re ready to go,” Reed said. “I think we’re eager, especially after this. The tough one is, if we would have gotten a point, I think we’d be a little happier. I think we deserved a point, especially with how the game ended. We’ve just gotta get these small things and keep moving forward.”
“We’ve seen it many times: your better play, your opportunities, and a bright mindset doesn’t convert into goals, unfortunately, all the time,” Smith added. “What I am pleased about is that we were able to turn things around in terms of how we were playing, and looked far better for it. My challenge, and the players’ challenge, is starting in that fashion.”
Sagging to sixth in the Eastern Conference (with No. 7 Richmond and No. 8 Cincinnati yet to play), the challenge is to claw back upward to remain in the playoff positions at this early stage of the season. With the Penn FC game followed by a road trip to New York Red Bulls II and a home game against Louisville City FC, the work is certainly cut out for them.