Nashville SC had its biggest offensive game yet – at least in USL competition – and held off Penn FC with relative ease. Whose performances were crucial?
Quick note: my ratings are score-based after a film review, and on a scale that… there’s technically no range but anything over 15 is generally good and under 9 or so is bad for a full game worth of performance. Community ratings are on a traditional 1-10 scale.
Formation and tactics
Tampa Bay listed its formation as a 4-2-3-1 (sort of the formation de rigueur in USL), but actually played a bit more of a conventional 4-4-2. However, they used a diamond-type midfield for much of the game, with Martin Vingaard the lone central defensive midfielder (playing out more like a 4-1-3-2, I guess). They were a little tactically fluid in the middle, but were four-back, two-up pretty much the whole time.
Nashville played its usual two blocks of four 4-4-2, with Taylor Washington starting on the left side and Alan Winn on the right (Matt LaGrassa replaced Michael Reed in one of the middle spots, with Bolu Akinyode remaining at the other). In the 17th minutes, those wingers flipped. The backline was James-Doyle-Woodberry-Kimura from right to left. In Michael Reed’s absence (resting for the first time all year), Woodberry was the captain.
Jomes replaced Winn at halftime (Winn had taken a hard tackle, and of course isn’t at full game fitness after struggling with a minor injury in recent weeks), and played the left wing while Washington played on the right, though their positions between those two were a little more fluid with some swapping. Jome actually pushed to the top with Moloto a bit (or Moloto sunk to more of a left-wing position).
Bradley Bourgeois replaced Taylor Washington, and Nashville went to a five-man backline. London Woodberry played middle centerback, Bourgeois right centerback. There was a three-man midfield at that point, with Akinyode playing a pure defensive role, while Jome and LaGrassa were more offensive. Jome played up top a bit, too. Allen-for-Mensah was a like-for-like sub.
I actually thought Gary Smith’s tactics were quite a bit too conservative in the second half. There was less attacking support (presumably by design, partially because Jome had trouble finding the game), and the NSC defensive end was under heavy pressure. By the time Tampa Bay equalized, it had felt like an inevitability for a while, and I’d prefer to see the Boys in Gold push for a second before going into a bit more of a bunker.
Gary Smith community rating: 6.67
- “Smith bunkered for the win way too early and it cost him”
Ladies and gentlemen, your Man of the Match:
Matt Pickens 22.91 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 9.67
Pickens was blameless on the goal that was scored, and made a number of key saves and clearances with his fists. There’s still a moment or two per game where he’s going to misjudge a ball to his team’s major risk, but they didn’t bite the team in this one, and his distribution is a highly underrated asset.
Ropapa Mensah 16.31 (84 minutes) – Community rating: 7.33
I actually thought Mensah had a better performance on a re-watch than I’d believed live. He’s getting better at hold-up play, and is capable of a few moments of technical brilliance per contest. However, he’s still not consistent enough (particularly with field vision), and has developed a propensity for trying to take dives instead of using his strength to power through players and keep his feet for dangerous moments. His assist on Moloto’s goal was a relatively simple one, but it was nice.
Lebo Moloto 13.32 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 8.33
Moloto has got to be tired, man. He really struggled at times in the second half, but it’d be hard to fault him for feeling a little bit of fatigue. His run on the goal was nice… but he actually started that play by pressing a defender from behind (the poor pass was picked off by Akinyode). He was involved throughout the game, but there were some negatives (inaccurate passing, too much willingness to play over the top instead of to teammates’ feet) to drag the performance down a bit by the end. Still a great day.
Brandon Allen 0.91 (15 minutes) – Community rating: 6.00
Allen wasn’t bad – he just didn’t have much time to make an impact on the game. He was called offside one time – and there wasn’t a better camera angle provided, but it looked like it was probably a bad call.
Taylor Washington 14.28 (73 minutes) – Community rating: 7.33
Washington came off about midway through the second half, but I thought he was fantastic in the 73 minutes he did play. It seemed like there was a conscious effort (either by gameplan or just an understanding from him of how he’s most effective) to get upfield and provide sideline passing options. He overlapped with Ryan James and then Kosuke Kimura very well. He still seems to be hesitant about crossing the ball when he’s on the right – it’s one of his strength with the left foot when he’s on that side – but stretches the field vertically very nicely.
Matt LaGrassa 11.52 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 5.67
I actually thought LaGrassa was having a howler through about 2/3 of the game, so it surprises me that he finished second-highest rated among midfielders. He was a half-step slow with his reactions, his passing wasn’t accurate, and he seemed to be culpable for plenty of Tampa Bay’s possession in the offensive end. He did recover late, but his performance combined with Akinyode’s to show the importance of Captain Reed (even though he’s not the most skilled of the three).
Bolu Akinyode 11.12 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.33
I thought Akinyode was somewhat similar to LaGrassa (again, even if they’re the most talented two of the three who play regularly in central midfield, Reed’s importance in leadership and directing the team is apparent), but a little less defined chronologically in terms of “start poorly, recover late.” He had the smooth second-assist on Moloto’s goal, which was a nice forward push from him, and didn’t do as many actively mistaken things as LaGrassa, but still remains a step slow when covering defensively, which is an important aspect of his position.
Alan Winn 6.73 (48 minutes) – Community rating: 6.00
Winn was not quite on all day, and took a hard foul right before half. For a guy trying to work back to full health and fitness, the substitution makes a lot of sense (though it did put two left-footed wingers on the field when Jome replaced him). It is worth noting that, while he didn’t make much impact on offense, his defensive improvement is noticeable and steady.
Ish Jome 3.46 (51 minutes) – Community rating: 6.67
Jomes had a hard time finding the game, and while he’s OK defensively and makes some smart runs, there just wasn’t a ton of work offensively, whether that’s his fault or because of others. He wasn’t bad, he just a an extremely low number of notable events to rack up a score.
Ryan James 13.76 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.00
I almost feel bad for James that he hasn’t gotten regular minutes since early in the season, because he’s pretty darn good. He’s sound defensively (if not as active as Kosuke Kimura on the other side when the ball is in their own end), he’s willing and able to get forward on overlapping runs, and is solid distributing out of the back. He had some failed clearances because he didn’t get enough height on the ball and it was blocked by offensive players, but that’s hardly the greatest sin. In a game where NSC had trouble getting out of its own end, though, it’s notable.
Kosuke Kimura 13.26 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 7.67
Kimura has continued his excellent play (leading me to believe he wasn’t healthy at the very beginning of the year, when he struggled a bit). He’s very active in his own end, covering players tightly and blocking crosses. He’s also one of the better communicators on the defensive end of the field, and executes switches well with his centerbacks and wing midfielders.
London Woodberry 11.18 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 6.33
Woodberry had plenty of negatively-scored moments, which I guess is unsurprising given the amount of time the ball was at Nashville’s end of the pitch… but he also had some really positive moments, blocking shots, making long runs in defensive recovery, and man-marking well in the middle. I do think he was one of the more culpable players on the Tampa Bay goal – while it was a scramble in front of net, he was man-marking the player who found the loose ball and banged it into the net. He also single-handedly created a super-dangerous moment for Tampa with a really poor pass to Liam Doyle, which was intercepted but the final shot (a chip over Matt Pickens) was inaccurate.
Liam Doyle 8.98 (99 minutes) – Community rating: 6.67
Doyle was the player most responsible for the Tampa Bay goal, from my perspective. He tried to head the initial cross clear, and completely whiffed it, letting Tampa Bay have possession in a dangerous area at the top of the box. Then, he was slow to recover, giving some space, which ultimately resulted in the blocked shot (to his credit, he was the one who blocked it), which was finished on the rebound. Despite that, he’s generally a good headed clear and longball waiting to happen. He lost a few man-marks in this one too, making him the lowest-rated among the four defenders who went the distance.
Bradley Bourgeois 2.20 (26 minutes) – Community rating: 7.00
Bourgeois played right centerback (Woodberry slid to the center) in a five-man backline when he entered the game. There wasn’t a ton for him to do: he forced a couple players in crossing position into banging it off him for a corner kick, and he had one nice headed clearance that was a crafty pass to Kimura. Just not a ton of action on his side of the field (Tampa seemed to be focusing on the right-central portions of their offensive attack – where they had their better personnel) to rack up big scoring.
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