You may recall the original Lebo Golazo from the friendly match against Orlando City.
Nashville SC had its way with Penn FC Saturday evening, whether playing a direct style of ball or working it through the middle in the possession game. After a simple “cross, finish” goal to open the scoring in the first half, things were quite a bit more tiki-taka for the second.
Let’s break down how it happened.
NSC leads 1-0 shortly after halftime. Penn has made one halftime sub: taking out defensive midfielder Miguel Jaime and replacing him with Damn Metzger. In a game that featured a few different formation concepts from the City Islanders, they’re now in a fairly rigid 4-1-4-1 with centerback Ken Tribbett cast in the defensive midfielder role.
Nashville SC is in possession after a through-ball from Penn FC finds only the hands of keeper Matt Pickens. Where we pick up, midfielder Matt LaGrassa has the ball, and passes it wide to left fullback Justin Davis.
(I recommend watching once, reading the prose, then re-watching as many times as needed to put the words with the pictures).
The video has a bit of illustration here (still working to improve presentation with a mediocre chalkboard program, bear with me), but I’ll break it down verbally and embed the video again below.
The first key portion of the play comes from a solid moment of individual brilliance from Davis: he touches the ball around Aaron Dennis, Penn’s right midfielder, and beats him to the other side. This puts Davis and NSC left midfielder Ish Jome in a 2-on-2 with Dennis and right back Marco Franco, but Dennis is trailing both of them. When Jome pushes forward, CDM Ken Tribbett has to step up to prevent him from dribbling into space. That turns a major numbers advantage for Penn FC – six defenders for four NSC offensive players, one of whom is a fullback – into a bit more even a matchup. Even when Davis trips over Dennis’s leg, he’s occupying both Franco and Dennis, leaving Jome in easy position to find an opening around Tribbett to push the ball forward to Lebo Moloto.
Here’s where Tribbett’s playing out of position makes things tougher for Penn. He’s used to playing centerback, where if he gets passed around like that, the space is much more constricted. At his usual position, that pass from Jome is probably for naught, because either the keeper can come off hiss line to cut it out, or there’s not enough space inside the box for the eventual give-and-go. As a midfielder, he needs to work harder to either prevent Jome from comfortably completing that pass, or bother Moloto once the pass arrives so he can’t execute the give-and-go. Tribbett lacks either the mentality or the mobility for the assignment at this position.
Moloto receiving the ball in tons of space means that centerback Thiago Calvano has to step up, instead of playing a bit more conservative a technique (like he’d probably prefer). When Moloto passes the ball to Allen and immediately makes a run past Calvano, you can see why the CB would rather be a bit less aggressive: he’s caught moving in the wrong direction and Moloto easily runs past him for the return service.
I’d like to quickly pause and point out something else from the video here. I put checkmarks on both Richard Menjivar for Penn and Taylor Washington for Nashville, even though they were initially not involved in the play. Menjivar would work back defensively, but arrive too late to be of much service to Tribbett in helping contain Jome. Washington’s run, on the other hand, makes this play happen much more than he’ll get credit for (and I think I didn’t credit him in the player ratings, so… sorry, Taylor).
Washington makes a run down the sideline even though he knows he’s not getting the ball. This is something that’s so hard to teach to less experienced players (or, as the manager of an adult co-ed rec team, people who are older than Washington and have been playing their whole lives, not that I’m salty or anything). He knows that his movement is to create space for other players, rather than himself. With a free run down the sideline and nobody marking him even from a trail position, Washington draws some of the attention of left back Pedro Galvão, who would otherwise be man-marking Brandon Allen. With Washington coming down wide, Galvão can’t come up aggressively on Allen to either disrupt his receiving of Moloto’s initial pass, nor prevent Allen from taking a couple touches on the ball – he needs to be in position to sink onto Washington’s run if it becomes relevant. Without the ability to be more tightly marking Allen, NSC’s new signing has all the time in the world to take a couple touches to spring Moloto.
Of course, right centerback Kyle Venter is still in a spot where Moloto is his only mark (Jome is picked up by Franco when he continues his run after the initial pass to Moloto). However, he has to come from a wide position, and can’t arrive thanks to Moloto’s first-touch strike.
Of course, the striker itself deserves all sorts of credit: as much as this was an X-and-O bludgeoning by Nashville’s forwards and wide players, the simple technical brilliance of Moloto being able to take that shot first-time, place it perfectly and powerfully in the corner of the net, and do it all while seeming to not even think, just act… that makes the play. It’s a Jimmies-and-Joes win at the end of the day.
NSC would bunker-counter a bit with the lead, and thanks to a couple uncharacteristic goalkeeper gaffes, would let Penn pull one back in the 76th. However, it wouldn’t take long for Alan Winn to seal the game with a rebound goal five minutes later.
The Boys in Gold would enjoy a comfortable 3-1 victory.