Nashville SC waited until the last possible moment to find a winner, but they did. Without much trouble from NCFC, the trouble finding goals of their own was the only question mark for NSC.
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
Nashville and NCFC both came out in relatively standard 4-4-2 formations with two blocks of four. As usual, NSC’s central midfielders remained pretty defensive (with forays forward, especially late in the game, from Michael Reed). There was a slight twist with a return to stacked strikers – Lebo Moloto playing well underneath Brandon Allen – that was significant enough I’d almost characterize the formation as a 4-5-1 with the central midfield in a diamond.
Ish Jome and Matt LaGrassa were the wingers, and as has been the case when LaGrassa is nominally out wide, he tends to drift centrally and the field gets a little tilted toward the left side (we’ll see that Jome’s abilities make that… not a problem). The wingers stayed on their natural sides when Alan Winn entered in the 79th, but flipped in about the 88th minute, so both Winn (righty playing on the left) and Jome (lefty playing on the right) would be able to shoot with their strong foot from a slightly better angle.
NSC threw tons of numbers forward after this stretch, trying to find a late winner. While the winner did come on a set piece, it was Winn pushing forward that earned the free kick, so there was some value there.
For what it’s worth, this is one of just a couple games I can recall (and first in USL play) where Gary Smith didn’t use all three subs.
Gary Smith community rating: 8.13
- “Should have been a bigger win.”
I agree with that sentiment, though I think that was more finishing-related than coach-related (though I can only speculate that the commenter intended that to be a criticism of the coach, since the language is non-specific).
Ladies and gentlemen, your Man of the Match:
Ish Jome 23.40 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 8.38
I’m pretty surprised his community rating was so close to many of his teammates, because I (and the broadcasters, particularly Ronnie Woodard) thought he was head-and-shoulders ahead of the field. Maybe it’s a similar situation to Robin Shroot in the first Penn FC game – the poor finishing is more memorable than the great runs down the channel? He was a consistent threat down the side, stretched the opposing defense, and is underrated as a defender and ball-circulator. His relationship with Justin Davis is very nice, as well. With just a few weeks as a member of the squad, the sky is the limit here.
Michael Reed 17.78 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 7.75
Reed had a very nice game, and when he feels free enough to involve himself in the offense – as he did against a bad NCFC team – he can build up some comfort, take more confident touches, and really excel over the course of a game. He’s still prone to a heavy first touch, or trying some… ambitious… things (long shots, wild threading passes) that don’t work out. His steadiness as the team’s leader is underscored by how much less frantic this one felt than the Tampa Bay game a week earlier.
Matt LaGrassa 12.65 (81 minutes) – Community rating: 7.00
This was a second-straught rough outing for LaGrassa in my view, and quite frankly if he’d finished out the game, his score might have ended up lower than it is (I thought he had a worse performance than Akinyode per the eyeball test) because of negative events. It’s the tendency to make those negative things happen that is the problem, because he has no issue being highly involved in the contest (albeit from drifting inside when he’s supposed to maintain some width on the wing), it just doesn’t play out positively every time. He has a good touch and good weight on his passes, but gets it taken away and tries unwise passes a little too frequently. It’s easy to see why he’s been passed on the CDM depth chart, but it’s also easy to see the great flashes at times.
Bolu Akinyode 11.85 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 8.13
Akinyode’s reputation precedes him, and although he recovered very well in the second half, the fans voting him third-best player in the game behind Matt Pickens and Ish Jome is insane. He was pretty shaky in the opening frame, with a lot of defensive miscues – albeit ones that really didn’t get punished because NCFC is bad. From the opening whistle (we saw the now-patented “get run by, then show limited effort to catch up to your man-mark) to letting his mark free on a corner… let’s just say it was good he recovered and his confidence wasn’t shaken. Akinyode did show a bit of burst I didn’t think he had once he came into the game, and had some crunching tackles. Still, “completes a lot of his passes” is overrated rather consistently by the fans.
Alan Winn 2.48 (16 minutes) – Community rating: 7.75
Winn didn’t have a ton of time on the field, but what little time he did spend was very effective. Nashville’s late-game plan (offense offense offense) was well-suited to his game, of course, but he did track back defensively a couple of times. His speed on the left earned the free kick that led to the game-winner, as well.
Lebo Moloto 16.64 (97 minutes) – Community rating: 7.88
Moloto played underneath Brandon Allen, dropping for the ball, and that seemed to fit his skillset. He tends to overuse the same idea or two in a game (this time, it was the flick behind himself to a runner when he was posted up), and defenses catch on a bit. He also gets into a little bit of trouble because defenses converge, knowing he’s the most important player to the offense. He needs more help from his strikers (more on that in a moment, obviously). Moloto is getting a bit of a Justin Davis or Matt LaGrassa “has plenty of negative plays, but just has a ton of plays overall to run up a score,” albeit with much more on the positive side. Also: it’s unconscionable that this penalty was not given. That’s terrible officiating:
Brandon Allen 10.91 (70 minutes) – Community rating: 5.75
I thought this was Allen’s first truly poor game in a Nashville SC uniform. There would have been little to complain about if his yellow card was a straight red (he barreled into a player away from the ball, then stuck out a foot to try to trip him), and he probably deserved a second yellow for a shove early in the second half. There’s something to be said for the “mercurial striker” archetype, but he has to keep his composure. He was decent-not-great in the actual run of play, unable to find much space in the box or drop deeper to force his team to involve him. He seems to do better with side-by-side strike partners.
Ropapa Mensah 4.44 (25 minutes) – Community rating: 8.50
Mensah’s going to get overrated because he’s the goal-scorer, even though he didn’t do a whole lot before that. On the other hand, dude’s job is to get goals and win games, and he did just that. NCFC was really compact to try to bunker and escape with the point by the time Mensah came on, so being unable to turn on the ball and get shots off is not worrisome to me.
Bradley Bourgeois 16.32 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 8.13
The defense was very solid – indeed, there was little for them to do in this game – and against a sputtering NCFC offense, much of the scoring for the backline actually comes from their offensive contributions. You know the deal here: Bourgeois finally got at least an assist on a set piece, and he’s able to play up on various types of dead-ball situations and also track back quickly.
Justin Davis 15.56 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 7.63
Davis was very comfortable pushing forward with the ball in this one, in large part because there wasn’t much to worry about tracking back. He still had some of his nice full-speed slide-tackles, but this was more about crossing and interplay with Jome (his teammate with Minnesota United last year) than anything on D.
Kosuke Kimura 12.27 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 6.88
With little defending needed, Kimura was able to push higher up the pitch than we’ve seen… probably since Nashville switched to the 4-4-2 formation? He whipped in some decent crosses, even took a couple shots (whiffing one on the backside when service got through the box), and was able to dribble in traffic and recycle laterally to his teammates. He was no defensive liability in that time, so nice.
Liam Doyle 10.97 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 7.25
Again, not much to do defensively, so don’t read a whole lot into a pedestrian score here. Doyle’s contributions included a number of inch-perfect long balls from the left foot (as we’ve seen all year), primarily on cross-field service, which unfortunately meant that LaGrassa fumbled a couple of them. He did have a couple sketchy moments including a poor mark on the only NCFC threat on goal (a header on the run), and heading the ball onto a runner in the box on accident, but given the output from North Carolina FC, not much to worry about.
Matt Pickens 10.46 (95 minutes) – Community rating: 8.50
I think Pickens’s community rating is slightly overrated on account of keeping the clean sheet, but there simply wasn’t a whole lot for him to do. Even the saves he made were relatively simple efforts, and NCFC just couldn’t trouble him because they don’t have the horses to be an offensive threat against a defense like Nashville’s. Pickens didn’t do anything wrong, of course, but he didn’t personally impact the match enough to be named Man of It.
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