Since there’s no beat-coverage (at least that I could find) of Mississippi Brilla FC, and I haven’t heard back from the club itself about an interview to learn more about the team, I took matters into my own hands: watched them play.
They’ve gone with mostly the same lineup in their games to date (no two the exact same, but both regular-season games and the Cup lineup for the Indy Eleven game featuring plenty of consistency), and I expect we’ll see more of the same tomorrow evening.
They line up in a 4-4-1-1, have a couple capable goalies, and manage to generate plenty of chances. I’ll note that the game I did most of the scouting from is a PDL game (I only watched highlights of the Indy contest), so the way they approach a USL team might be a little different, though again, the lineup has been fairly consistent, so perhaps not a lot of surprises here.
- Keepers Jordan Bell (1) and Brendan Ledgeway (26). Bell went the distance in the game above, though against Indy Eleven, Ledgeway got the start and came on at halftime. Bell is willing to come off his line to play the ball, but his ball skills and his accuracy with longer passes are questionable.
- Left back Richard Bryan (15). He was opportunistic in the box for one of Brilla’s goals, cleaning up a loose ball on a ricochet. His first touch can be a little iffy at times.
- Centerbacks Koray Easterling (18) and Jordan Skelton (22). There wasn’t a whole lot to see out of these guys – I noted that Easterling is very solid with the ball at his feet (he also scored the game-winner against Indy in the mid-week), and Skelton is a high-effort guy in chasing back when opponents get on the run, but doesn’t necessarily have the speed to get it done naturally.
- Rightback Guillarme Campos (21). He played some really nice switch-balls across the field – putting some of them deep to wingers in dangerous crossing positions. He (like Bryan) tended to be a little conservative in his forward runs, though those runs did still happen at times.
- Left midfielder Bastien Oberli (13). While he could cross the ball a bit, he showed a strong preference for trying to cut inside and involve himself more directly in the attack. He has some nice skill on the ball justifying it (and one of those crosses led to a goal), so he’s a very important piece here.
- Defensive midfielder Kaelon Fox (17). The more defensively-oriented of the two central midfielders for Brilla (though both were pretty defensive). He does have the ability to get forward with the ball, and stepped through a tackle nicely to eventually lead to the second Brilla goal (he dished to Oberli for the above-mentioned cross). He shows good energy in the high press on the occasion it’s used, as well.
- Defensive midfielder Oliver Brock (12). Brock will press a little higher than Fox, though he’s similarly active in getting into the passing lanes when he’s up there. He’s looking to involve himself in the offense and get forward, as well.
- Right midfielder Napo Matsoso (11). He’s capable to pinch inside when the right back makes a run, and appears to be more comfortable there than on the flank when he doesn’t have the ball. That (combined with the skills on the left side), seemed to make this a service-from-the-left offense against Memphis City. Christian Kirchhoff played against Indy, but I don’t have a good feel for his game.
- Attacking midfielder/second striker Thibaut Bourrier (10). Shows decent athleticism at the PDL level, not sure how it will hold up against USL. He’s capable of getting forward, especially when he doesn’t have the ball (with it, he’s more oriented toward distributing it), putting him side-by-side with the striker for more of a pure 4-4-2 look. He doesn’t sink a whole lot into the defensive formation.
- Striker Javen Palmer (7). Didn’t have the chance to make a huge impact in this one, mostly because there were numbers forward for Brilla and a lot of different folks shared the offensive load. He’s a physically imposing guy at about 6-0 and 200 pounds, though.
- Creative midfielders for Memphis City were able to find space between the CDMs and the centerbacks with regularity. A team like Nashville – very comfortable working up through its own central midfielders to a false-nine striker – should be able to exploit that space. Playing the wing midfielders wide might not be the moce with Brilla very comfortable sinking its own edge players into the defensive formation.
- In possession, the team liked to play long from the CDMs to the wings, then have those players cut in or cross it. This is not exactly a great secret to unlock in football, of course. This is just a team that isn’t trying to possess, possess, possess while working spacing to find lanes up the middle with regularity.
- There was a bit of a high press used at times, but they were more trying to muck up lanes than put pressure on the ball. They would drop out of the press pretty quickly: the right winger (Matsoso in this one, Christian Kirchhoff played the role against Indy) would sink and effectively shift the backline into a five-back. With a team like Nashville that presumably plays out of the back better than a PDL side, look for the flip quickly.
- Not as directly on-field related, but this is a heavily foreign team. That makes sense, given that overseas college players want to remain in the States over the Summer rather than making a bunch of flights across the Atlantic to go home, return to school if they need anything, etc. (and of course Summer ball in Europe is… non-existent, probably? I don’t even know what the situation is like at amateur levels during what is the off-season there). Eight Americans, seven from England, five players from France, four Canadians, and one from each of Denmark, Greece, Lesotho, Scotland, Spain, and Switzerland.
This appears to me to be a pretty good PDL team (as is Inter Nashville FC), but one that NSC should be able to beat if they put out a legitimate lineup, rather than a bunch of backups. Indy went with a bit of a hybrid approach – Seth Moses got his first significant playing time of the year, Juan Guerra and Benjamin Speas had previously been little-used, and Frederick Amankona made his debut for the Eleven – and given that their offense was what struggled (and was the backup-heavy part of the lineup), it bit them. The Eleven had 59% possession, took eight shots on target to Brilla’s five, and managed to lose a 1-0 decision because of bad marking on a set piece.
More in the preview tomorrow, but I expect Nashville SC to be a little more ambitious with its lineup thanks to new depth – and know NSC is a little more stout defensively than Indy – and not overlooking Brilla is a big step on the way toward earning a victory.