The Graphical: Nashville SC 3-1 Penn FC

Welcome to The Graphical, in which I mine the Opta data for insights as to how Nashville SC’s most recent result came about. You can also see more conventional game coverage from the Charleston draw here at For Club and Country.

The big story

Penn FC coach Raoul Voss went out of his way to insult Nashville SC’s style of play (and by extension, the coach) by using “English” as a pejorative term referring to a team that can’t possess, and has to send in a bunch of long balls and hope a striker is home to put them away. Coach Gary Smith took exception to that both at his Friday press conference and after the game last night.

The German, uh, shouldn’t have cast any stones. That’s true not only because his team is objectively pretty bad, and if anything, he should look up the table for ideas on how to score goals and win games. It’s also because his team is the one that really didn’t have many moments created outside of crossing the ball:

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 11.16.21 AM
Penn FC offense on the left, Nashville SC offense on the right.

Which team looks like its gameplan was dependent on lumping it up to big, dumb Andy Carrolls? Not the english coach, that’s for sure.

The final possession stats look a little better in Penn FC’s favor:

  • Penn FC possessed 50.7% to Nashville SC’s 49.3%
  • Penn completed 80.2% of its passes compared to 77.2% for Nashville

…but there’s plenty of explanation for that, too. Both numbers were heavily tiled in NSC’s favor at the half (55.4-44.6% possession advantage, 79.3% passing to 76.2% for Penn), the Boys in Gold scored moments into the second half, and spent much of the rest of the game sitting back, letting Penn pass around as long as they didn’t penetrate, and trying to hit on the counter.

There are definitely areas for Nashville SC to improve its play – every team has some – but Voss’s comments seem… not “out of line,” really, but not an accurate representation of NSC. Probably why his team lost 3-1, tbqh.

Get in their heads

The second half felt pretty chippy (all three Penn FC yellow cards came after the break, for example), and the stats bear that out. The City Islanders committed just four fouls in the first half, and 10 – including the three deserving of a caution – after the break:

As you can see, the players committing the fouls also changed a bit. That’s three defenders (No. 12, left back Pedro Galvão, Nos. 4 and 6, centerbacks Kyle Venter and Ken Tribbett) and a defender midfielder (No. 9 Aaron Dennis) in the first half. Sure, those fouls are all right around midfield, but they’re committed by players you’re expecting to make physical tackles that might be a little unlucky and earn a foul.

The second half sees Tribbett and Galvão penalized again, with defensive midfielder (side question: does any USL team turn an accurate lineup in to Opta?) Thiago Calvano adding a couple and substitute defender Dan Metzger also joining the mix. However, wingers Frederick Opoku and Jerry Ortiz, striker Tommy Heinemann (twice), and attacking midfielder Richard Menjivar also drew discipline, with Ortiz’s, Opoku’s and Menjivar’s fouls serious enough to go into the book. With the way the game played out, there was clearly an element of frustration at play here.

Fox all over the field

With Brandon Allen’s reputation, would you expect his heat map to look like this?

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 11.45.40 AM.png

A guy who’s always in the box was… not only in the box in this one. That’s an element to his game that is an upgrade over expectation. It’s clear through three league games and a cup appearance that he’s got a more well-rounded game than he showed in Bethlehem to start the year.

He can be a goal-getter, poacher, fox-in-the-box type, but manages to get other things done all over the field. Here are his defensive map and passing chart side-by-side:

Yes, he’s in and around the box quite a bit, but he’s willing to do plenty more than that to help his team win. Other than three incomplete passes and a foul committed… that’s almost a perfect game for a striker when you take into account that one of those key passes (yellow) was an assist, and he also dunked in a goal.

The other new guy

I’m not intending to focus on the new guys at the expense of the players who have been here all year, but here we are: Ish Jome had a nice little game, too. (And of course, we already have a more robust picture of what the longtime guys are all about – and I’ll give some of them love in film room posts this week if there’s time).

Here are Jome’s passes and defensive actions: a heavily left-sided player, but consistent enough with his passing (even with some more-adventurous attempts) to be a major factor. He also didn’t give the ball away with it at his feet.

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 11.50.23 AM.png

I’m interested in taking a closer look at how having lefties on each wing with Jome on the left and Washington on the right (and then righties on each wing when Winn and LaGrassa went into those respective roles) affected play. There were a couple instances when Washington removed his speed as an asset because he wasn’t comfortable crossing with his right, and cut it back, letting a defender catch up to him. That’s another topic for film room.

Thanks as always for reading FCAC. Please feel free to share our social media posts with a friend who is interested in in-depth coverage of Nashville SC.

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