The streaming platform for US Open Cup games makes the level of rigor for the usual breakdown and player ratings implausible (especially since it totally crashed during a pretty important part of the game), but I won’t leave you hanging after one of the biggest wins in Nashville SC history.
Here’s a more traditional 1-10 rating (plus community ratings!) for the big win. Also, US Soccer Federation, just use freakin’ Youtube, you buffoons.
Formation and tactics
Not a ton to read into here, but some interesting personnel choices. Nashville started in its typical 4-4-2, but with Lebo Moloto on the right win and Matt LaGrassa as the second striker. While he played a bit behind Brandon Allen for his time at the position, I don’t think it was in a true playmaker role or deep enough to collect the ball, etc., to consider it a 4-4-1-1. They were both up top.
After the half, Smith swapped Moloto and LaGrassa’s positions, putting a more typical lineup that we’ve come to expect out there. When Ish Jome (left wing) was replaced by Ryan James, the Canadian went to right wingback, and shifted London Woodberry to the middle centerback position in a five-man backline that saw Davis move out to left wingback (I believe the first time he’s played the wingback in a five-man line – at the beginning of the year he was the left CB – and this seemed like a better fit for a guy who likes to go forward). When Kosuke Kimura came on for LaGrassa, he went to right wingback, James move up to right central midfielder. (The third sub happened in between, and was a like-for-like replacement of Brandon Allen by Ropapa Mensah, which we’re used to seeing in one direction or the other).
The move to a 5-3-2 was obviously a defensive one once Nashville SC had the one-goal lead, and they sort of doubled down by making it even more conservative after Mensah’s set-piece goal made the lead effectively insurmountable against a hapless Rapids team. The flat midfield in the five-man backline – no attacking midfielder, which he’d previously seen in the 5-3-2 – was an indication of simply riding the game out, and letting the strikers make moments of brilliance on their own if they could.
Manager Gary Smith community rating: 9.45
Matt Pickens 10.0 (97 minutes) Community rating: 7.55
This one turns back a “divide by zero” error to me: Colorado had zero shots on goal, so there’s no real way to evaluate the keeper’s performance. Thus, I get to make something up, and I make up a 10.0 perfect game. In all seriousness, he did punch one cross away and had another clearance, and I’ll attribute the organization of that defense in large part to good communication from the keeper.
Justin Davis 9.0 (97 minutes) Community rating: 8.09
Davis was part of that defense that allowed zero shots on goal. He also defended a bunch of crosses, and none that were launched from the defense’s left side were completed. That’s a pretty nice day. Davis was also very comfortable going forward against the Rapids’s wingbacks, who got caught upfield trying to make something, anything happen for themselves offensively. His cross created the winning (own) goal, he completed over 80% of his passes despite not being a conservative passer, and was an asset all-around.
Bradley Bourgeois 8.5 (97 minutes) Community rating: 8.27
I really, really wanted Mensah’s headed goal to be Bourgeois (over whom Ropapa elevated to bang in the header), because he’s long overdue for one of these set pieces that he’s on the end of to actually find the back of the net. It’ll happen. Defensively, he was a stalwart in the middle, stellar-as-always with the head, despite not being a super-tall guy, and wasn’t responsible for any dangerous moments.
London Woodberry 8.5 (97 minutes) Community rating: 8.00
Woodberry has been miscast as a fullback a bit lately… and is probably starting to show that “miscast” is a misnomer anyway? He’s not going to be the offensive force going forward that Davis is, but he’s sound defensively, even if the communication with his right midfielders is still a work in progress after Woodberry had been sidelined for much of the year. He also showed his versatility shifting back inside to middle centerback, even though Colorado didn’t give us a chance to evaluate much there because they provided no dangerous moments late in the game.
Liam Doyle 8.0 (97 minutes) Community rating: 8.00
Doyle is a pretty solid defensive stalwart, a walking, talking headed clearance with solid positional play. He’s really firmed up the moment or two per game that his positional play suffers a brain fart, which has tied his game together. He plays the longball well. He’s still a little iffy at times with the ball at his feet, and made at least one backpass to Pickens that felt moderately dangerous. Still, I wouldn’t consider this a “weak link” performance in the least: a good outing just overshadowed by others.
Ryan James 8.0 (22 minutes) Community rating: 7.55
James came on and quietly locked down the right side defensively (he wasn’t needed to go forward, and didn’t really aside from a run or two that didn’t go rewarded – he returned the favor by failing to hit Kimura on runs when the latter came on to close out the game). There wasn’t much threat from Colorado offensively, but James deserves credit for that, too. His versatility was on display when he played a defensive midfield role, though I would have liked to see him hit Kimura on a through ball to maybe create a moment that threatened a sealing goal.
Kosuke Kimura 7.0 (10 minutes) Community rating: 7.36
Kimura replaced James at right wingback, shifting the youngster up to right midfield (where he was playing in a strict defensive posture nonetheless). He got off one “unsuccessful cross” that was actually just a dribble into the corner and bang it off the defender to earn a throw in the time-wasting phase of the game. He also intercepted one pass, so Colorado’s inability to muster an attack in the desperate stages of the game does deserve some credit for the defenders.
I’m going to include Lebo Moloto with strikers because he played most of the game up top, and that makes the sections a little more even).
Matt LaGrassa 8.5 (87 minutes) Community rating 8.09
LaGrassa played striker to start the game, with a bit of a playmaking bent to his game. He sent a few through-balls to fellow striker Brandon Allen that probably should have been rewarded a bit more handsomely. Despite playing half the game as a striker or at the very least a playmaking No. 10 midfielder, though, he didn’t muster any shots or even key passes. That’s not super-great. When he went back to various midfield roles (right-sided in a four-man block, right-sided in a three-man central midfield), he was stout defensively while still providing some good service going forward. A nice display of versatility.
Ish Jome 8.5 (75 minutes) Community rating: 7.91
I mentioned before the game that Jome is surprisingly strong, given his slim build, but the furthest thing from a speedster. I should have held my tongue on the second part, because he made a couple really impressive runs down the left side, dusting MLS-caliber players (in the strictest sense of the word, I guess). He made some dangerous passes into the box, took a shot that was blocked, and was otherwise dangerous. Given that his reputation was mostly defensive when he signed, that’s really nice.
Bolu Akinyode 8.0 (97 minutes) Community rating: 7.45
Akinyode completed a bunch of his passes, yes, but he remains a hyper-conservative passer of the ball, which inflates those numbers to a degree. A deep-lying midfielder needs to be more willing to take chances: a long-ball that doesn’t quite come off provides more positive than “incomplete pass on the statsheet” brings on the negative end… and of course, the hope is that the pass doesn’t end up incomplete, anyway. I thought Akinyode had his best defensive game in a long time, with less of the heavy-footed squaring up that allows a player to get by him and far less of the leisurely jogging back to cover his own defensive third (in part because Colorado rarely got there in the run of play, especially as the game dragged on).
Michael Reed 7.5 (97 minutes) Community rating: 7.54
Reed’s weaknesses – an unsteady first-touch, occasional major mistakes in decision-making – are tailor-made to be amplified by playing a team from a higher division, and while some of them reared their heads, they were more muted than I was expecting. His style on the ball is almost the opposite of Akinyode – does he take too many risks in the passing game to make up for a conservative player next to him? A hybrid of the two – Akinyode’s touch and physical nature, Reed’s willingness to be daring at times – would be a heck of a combo.
Your Man of the Match:
Lebo Moloto 9.5 (97 minutes) Community rating: 8.91
Community comment: “Moloto was the best player on the pitch. For either side. He looked like he could do whatever he wanted.”
Semi-whimsical rating for Matt Pickens aside, Moloto was easily the man of the match to me. He played multiple positions, and actually looked just as good in the one that isn’t his usual spot as he did after moving up to the second striker position. He created a ton of dangerous moments, whether through service (some of which didn’t result in completed passes, but again, being daring going forward is an asset in itself) or shooting. He has a tendency to be a little ambitious with long shots and first-touch strikes, but the old “tries shit” description of Clint Dempsey applies, in my eyes.
Ropapa Mensah 8.5 (20 minutes) Community rating: 8.82
If Mensah had more time on the pitch, he might have ended up the MOTM… but on the other hand, when he spends more time on the pitch, the inconsistency that he’s known for showing tends to crop up. Super-sub appearances are a really good fit for him with Allen now on the team, and he’ll still have the opportunity to start games, maybe even occasionally go 90 in league play. His headed goal – on the first touch after entering the game – sealed the deal, and his ability to trouble backlines and keepers with loping solo runs onto attempted through balls can eliminate any chance of an opponent coming back.
Brandon Allen 8.0 (77 minutes) Community rating: 8.00
Allen is really, really good as a pressing forward (ironic, given that an unwillingness to involve himself defensively is one of the major problems Bethlehem Steel fans had with him prior to his transfer). He’s also a threat to score from basically any position in the opponents’ third. On this day, he was unable to run down some of the long service intended for him, and wasn’t always quite on the same page with his supporting players to hold-up and distribute to them. The longball-oriented gameplan against a Colorado team that was really pushing high after giving up the opening goal doesn’t suit Allen’s skills, and there’s no shame in that: he’ll have other games to be The Man.
Thanks for reading, and as always, thanks for participating in the community ratings! Check back after each game to participate.