Nashville SC will try to continue its trend of getting revenge against opponents against whom it’s previously lost or drawn when it welcomes Indy Eleven into First Tennessee Park tomorrow evening. Head coach Gary Smith and midfielder Matt LaGrassa look forward to the game.
What the team learned from the first Indy game
“It’s not just what we learned from the game, it’s what I’ve seen since. My mindset and my feelings about Indy haven’t changed a tremendous amount. I think I might have said at that point that we played them over two months ago that there’s a good likelihood that they’re going to be a playoff team. I’ve not changed my tack on that. I think we’re seeing all the qualities that represent a playoff team. Spirited side, individuals that are capable of changing a gamer in an instant, and consistency. They’ve won two of their most recent games, so they’ll be in a reasonably confident mood, and I thin ka little bit like us, they had a bundle of new players at the start of the season, and you’re just now starting to see maybe a team that Martin Rennie sees as his starting group or his first-choice players, and a group of players that are building a bit more continuity, not unlike us.”
How NSC has prevented every opponent since last time around against Indy from scoring multiple goals
“Time together, time on the training field, confidence in actualyl getting results in difficult circumstances. All of those experiences that we just didn’t have at the start of the season. The team is slowly but surely finding their way through, and tiptoeing through a tough period of time. In tough, I mean getting to know one another, seeing through rough waters away from home against good teams, against different teams in different environments, and they’re all experiences. I think those experiences are serving us well now, and just as much so the relationships that have built in the side.”
Pressure of an 11-game unbeaten streak gone?
“The 11 games in all competitions, we’re still eight I believe unbeaten in the league, and that’s something I would love to keep intact – I know the guys would. To be honest, any team that are on a decent run see that as an opportunity to, in dark moments, just hang onto. The reality is that, at the end of a very tough run of away games, we always looked to four home games and thought, ‘what can we get out of these games to really push us on now?’ So we’ve started that off well with a win against Carolina. This one tomorrow night will be an extremely difficult test, and I do believe against a fellow playoff group. I class us in that as well. Maintaining parity, so at the very least we don’t get beat, and of course if we can, we edge the game, and we give ourselves a little bit of a cushion from this Indy group, which is standing in a really nice spot. They’re two points behind us, they’ve got two games in hand – as we have – on most teams, and they’ll certainly be looking at it much the same way as I am, which is ‘if we can squeeze a result out of this, we’re in a fabulous position to push on.’ So big challenge.”
Does the Open Cup loss reduce pressure on roster and fitness with fewer mid-week games?
“I never really look at it that way. I always look at it that Louisville are a good side, and if we can beat them then it gives us confidence and certainly pushes us in the right direction. I think I’ve got a strong enough group that if we have extra games – and I know for sure that the players would have loved to have another MLS game – so that’s not the case at all. We gave it everything, and on the night we just fell slightly short. The fact that we now have a league campaign to focus on, we’re in a good position to move on from, and we’ve got some good games at home that we can really try and take advantage of. It tells me that there’s a great opportunity for us to really strengthen the position we’re in.”
What have you seen from Indy since the first game?
“I think we’ve spent a lot of time studying the film and their tendencies individually and as a group. I think they’re a side that we rate highly and they’re going to be difficult. With our record, we’re expecting a lot, especially at home.”
“I think the fans have been a really big piece. The way they’ve gotten behind the team and the energy that they bring – you’ve seen some late goals from us, and I think it really drives the group, especially in the later stages.”
What NSC has learned about itself since the beginning of the year
“I think the group, we’ve come together and started to play more as a unit, and obviously grown as a group. I think also their home surface is very different to First Tennessee Park. We find First Tennessee Park to be a place that we can play and enjoy our football and be more expressive. Their pitch is turf and it’s just a different surface that you have to deal with.”
Busy schedule alleviated with no midweek Open Cup games
“I think the quick turnarounds from a Wednesday to a Saturday game can be really challenging. Obviously we’d love to still be in the Cup, but with that out of the way, it does give us a little more time and energy to focus toward the league. I think that helps us.”
League streak still going
“I don’t think the group puts too much thought into it. If you get on a long enough streak, I think it can add a little bit of pressure to the environment in the locker room and stuff, knowing that you’ve been so long since you’ve taken a loss. Maybe get to hit the reset button a little bit and move forward in the league.”
Keep an eye on the standings?
“I think we do. We know how it affected our standing, and you try not to get too caught up in what can happen in the next couple games, and jut take each one day-by-day, but we’ve obviously put ourselves in a good spot now with this home streak coming up.