INDIANAPOLIS – See what Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and midfielders Michael Reed and Lebo Moloto had to say after their team’s 2-1 loss to Indy Eleven.
“No doubt, they were better than us in the first period. It’s sometimes difficult to evaluate why, but we certainly started slowly. There were numerous occasions where the ball was lost too cheaply. Players I think found the surface a little bit more difficult to contend with than I think maybe they expected. It is different, and it takes some time to adapt.
“And then you throw into that mix a very very good strike for the second goal. A completely avoidable goal for the first goal. It’s a routine ball down the middle of the field that this backline have dealt with numerous times already this season. You know, it’s very difficult to work out why, but somebody makes a choice to think they can head it, and suddenly the forward’s in and the moment’s gone. It happens in the blink of an eye. That actually gave them all the incentive they really needed to try and take advantage for the most part of the first half. We actually finished in great fashion: scored, hit the woodwork, looked bright, Ropapa had a great chance, and unfortunately we probably didn’t want the half to end. We looked like we were on the front foot, we’re back in the game, we’re so close.
“What I am very pleased about is the way that they responded to being two-nil down. 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.”
Ropapa Mensah played his largest role of the season, what was your takeaway?
“Really pleased. The choice to change things up was purely based on the surface and maybe how Ropapa would deal with it. I thought Michael played very well against Charlotte without getting on the scoresheet. For Ropapa, it was a good 90 minutes, and I want to say I think it’s his only 90 minutes even throughout preseason. 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. He was a little erratic toward the end of the game, and probably didn’t show enough of a clinical edge for the second chance that he had in the first half. Got through in on goal, and wanted to take the skin off the ball rather than be a little more cultured with his finish. But he’s young, he’s boisterous, he showed good quality today, and I’m pleased he was able to perform in that fashion.”
For Club and Country: Can you maintain momentum through halftime somehow?
“The break often for teams that are going well, it – momentum is tough to build. They built their momentum for a number of different reasons: a goal, some poor giveaways by us, players being caught in possession. Them being at home on the front foot all of a sudden they’ve got great momentum. Their momentum offered them the opportunities, and I believe it was only three shots in the first half and they scored twice. Nevertheless, it offered them the opportunities to get on the front foot and be bright. As we started to turn the screw a little bit more toward the end of the half, you now see a shift, that’s in the mentality for them: the’re two-nil up, they want to protect it, we start to get a little bit higher up the field, we get a goal, we get a chance, we hit the crossbar, now it’s shifted completely.
“I do honestly think we continued that into the second period. There were some good moments, we looked bright, we looked like we could get ourselves on level terms, which is a nice feeling. The guys felt internally that the game was there to get on level terms. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. We’ve seen it many times: your better play, your opportunities, and a bright mindset doesn’t convert into goals, unfortunately, all the time. 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. Conceding two goals away from home is not a good place to be. You can’t give teams a two-goal start when you’re on the road, and it’s a big part of our learning curve.”
FCAC: Bradley Bourgeois and David Edgar barely missed headed chances from set pieces, is that something they’re going to convert more often than not?
“You can only ever try and create chances. Only over a period of time are we going to tell whether or not we have the right bodies to continue to score goals and enough goals, or that becomes a little bit of a trend where we make chances and don’t score. I don’t think the second is a true reflection: I do think we have individuals that are capable of getting on the scoresheet. Today we literally have fallen foul of a poor start to the game, and they’ve taken advantage of that at home. We’ll see that across the world. We certainly have to take lessons and learn from the situation.l It’s the first time that I’ve seen it from this group. We go to Louisville nil nil at halftime, we’ve been to Bethlehem, one-nil at halftime we’re up. This is the first time we’ve conceded two goals in the first period,. The response was great. Now I can’t fault that. Certainly don’t want to be in that position too often.”
FCAC: You brought David Edgar on at halftime. What was behind that decision?
“A couple of things really. I felt in a game where we had looked a tad nervy and unsettled at the back, which was out of character for that backline, I thought he would bring some stability and guidance with the experience he’s gort. I was also very concerned about Liam’s position on a yellow card, and how he was playing. He was having an uncharacteristically difficult time. I’ve sene the last four games, he’s been solid as a rock and reliable, and all of a sudden in the space of thirty minutes it looked different. At that point, I don’t have too long to consider, and I know I’ve got a very experienced guy on the line, and I think that was the right choice.
“He settled things down, his distribution was good, he’d be better for the 45 minutes, and maybe we have to take small positives when we get a defeat. Maybe that’s one of the positives to c ome out of it with. We’ve seen another good player enter the field who become3s part of the consideration for the next challenge.”
“Yeah, you’ve gotta look at the positives. 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.”
You had a shot hit the crossbar, have you been more involved in the offense?
“I think we’re just kind of building as a team, seeing where the gaps are, seeing where we can create. It’s tough with a new group: we have different players from all over the country. I think I’m just trying to help out the offense, help out the attack, create more options, and take the chances if we can. Unlucky about hitting the post, but going forward, hopefully the next one goes in or I have an assist.”
Does Ropapa Mensah bring a different dimension onto the field?
“He brings a lot of different things; he’s a diverse player. He brings something that Coxy doesn’t bring, something that Tucker doesn’t: bringing some speed, threatening in behind. Today it showed. He’s gotta find the ball in better areas, and then for him to play the entire game was a big one for him. I think he helped the team out./ Moving forward, maybe he can get the second goal.”
FCAC: With all the momentum, did you think you’d find the equalizer?
“I think so, I think we had our chances, we just weren’t able to capitalize. Pressing from behind, big one for the second half was our centerbacks were winning the balls, our fullbacks were winning the balls and then getting the scraps, and then challenging them, putting then on the back foot. That was kind of the challenge, and I thought we did a good enough job of it. But if we get a second goal, it’s a different game. Just unlucky.”
FCAC: You were pressing high for a lot of the game, did that lead to getting beaten over the top on the field goal?
“I think it’s a difficult one to say, I’d have to look at the goal again. We felt confident in pressing. It’s not like they broke us down many times. Whether it’s the airball, or getting more pressure on the longball, we’re going to have to take a look and really analyze what happened in that. I think we have to play to our strengths, and that’s some of our strengths, and maybe we got unlucky. Moving forward, we’ve just gotta change small things, and then put it in the goal.”
FCAC: The second goal was something of a wonderstrike. Do you just have to tip your hat and move on after that one?
“You know, looking at that goal, I think there’s a lot that can change. Obviously, if you don’t foul then they don’t have that opportunity. Whether the wall’s stepping to get pressure, or whether it’s a reaction, I think it was a lapse in the defensive end, I think as a tesm. I think it was a decent strike – I’m not going to say a wonderstrike – but he hit it well enough to where he got it on frame. Give credit to him, but I think our goalies are good enough and our defenders are good enough to get pressure and stop that.”
FCAC: This was a physical game, will the long layoff before the next game help with recovery?
“The guys are fit, we’re fit, we’re ready to go. 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.”
You had the assist just before halftime, what were your thoughts at that point?
“I mean, going back into the locker room, the whole team, we thought we had the momentum. We thought we were going to come back. And then hopefully, hopefully win the game. I don’t know, I guess it was just not meant to be today. I thought we gave a good effort.”
What does Ropapa Mensah’s emergence say about this side?
“I’ve always told people that I think we’ve got good 25, 26 players on the team. Whoever comes up top, I think we’ve – Michael Cox said it last week – we’ve got a really good relationship with him, and Ropapa same thing. I think we’re always just gotta keep on building those relationships.”
FCAC: Did you think you guys were going to get the equalizer?
“I thought we had them. I thought second half, they didn’t create as many chances, and two of their 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.”
FCAC: Does it change your style knowing that their scores both came against run of play, to a degree?
“I think for me personally, I’ve been playing for a while. You can always get the feeling that you know they’re a good side. I thought we could score a goal. Ropapa had a chance in the final minute of the first half, and if he scores that one it’s 2-2. Going back into the locker room, we said ‘hey, we can win the game.’ But like I said, tough weekend in the office. We’ll come back next week, and come back strong.”