Breakdown and player ratings: Nashville SC 0-2 Indy Eleven

Nashville SC couldn’t get the job done against an Indy Eleven team that became the first to beat them in two league games. What went wrong on the pitch Tuesday evening? I went to the film to find out.

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NSC’s strikers couldn’t finish. Ryan Lassan Photography/For Club and Country

\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

Both teams primarily used a 4-4-1-1 with heavy smatterings of true side-by-side strikers in a 4-4-2. Once Indy got the lead, it went into an extreme bunker mode in defensive postures, with nine guys behind the ball immediately, and both strikers working back pretty hard. Nashville, on the other hand, tucked its wing midfielders in a bit and sent the fullbacks forward more, trying to create numbers advantages moving from midfield into the final third.

Ish Jome (left) and Matt LaGrassa (right) were the wingers to start the game for Nashville. Ryan James (left) and London Woodberry (right) were the fullbacks. Jome was replaced by Alan Winn at halftime, Woodberry by Taylor Washington in the 60th minute (Washington went to left fullback while the two-footed James flipped over to the right), and LaGrassa by Ropapa Mensah in the 68th.

The formation didn’t change too much despite putting on a third striker. Moloto sunk a bit deeper while both Mensah and Allen played high, with James playing as far upfield as he did all game with Moloto having a right-central orientation in a forward-ish midfield thing. It was a bit more amorphous formationally as NSC just three numbers forward, as you can tell. The easier change to spot was Gary Smith going with a single central defensive midfielder (Bolu Akinyode) at that time, while Michael Reed worked forward more than we’re used to seeing.

Gary Smith’s community rating, as you’re about to see, is not going to be good. I didn’t have a problem with it live, though, and aside from maaaaybe having a quicker trigger on subs for some guys who just weren’t having their best days, I still don’t have a problem with it after breaking down the broadcast.

Gary Smith community rating: 3.83

Community comments:

  • “Gary could have made changes sooner. Not his fault the players couldn’t finish though.”
  • “The team was slow in possession, predictable in the final third, and lacked creativity. Fourth game in a row this team has been sub-par.”
  • “Team didn’t come too win. They played sloppy.”

All fair comments, from my perspective.

Midfield

Ladies and gentlemen, your Man of the Match:

Michael Reed 12.61 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 5.58

A lot of Reed’s contributions tend to go unnoticed because they’re about being sound in positional defense and not turning it over… and they get slightly overshadowed by the fact that he doesn’t always have the prettiest style even when effective. However, he got more involved offensively in this one – even if a couple of his patented rocket shots were blocked far from goal – and had some nice defensive plays. I do think he was one of the players responsible for Indy’s second goal because he didn’t get out to pressure Ayoze, whose feed resulted in an assist, but that was one negative play (compounded by at least three other teammates’ errors) with a lot of positive to like.

Bolu Akinyode 10.60 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 5.08

On a night where nobody ended up with a good score in my system, this was actually a pretty nice night for Akinyode. He lost the ball in possession less frequently that we’ve come to expect (for a big, strong guy, he gets muscled off the ball a bit), and used his physical prowess to make some of those tackles. He’s still overly conservative in his passing – particularly for a deep-lying six whose team is chasing the game – but if he does other stuff well, he can compensate for that. HOWEVER, he did have one very bad piece of defense, being slow to get out on an early crosser (whose ball found the head of a teammate, forcing the save that led to the corner kick goal), and got chewed out on national television by Matt Pickens. The good outweighed the bad despite it.

Community comment: “Legend has it, Bolu Akinyode will make his first forward pass in the year 2020.”

Harsh but kinda fair.

Alan Winn 5.15 (50 minutes) – Community rating: 5.92

Winn played about half the game, and with a full 98 probably would have been in the range of the central defensive midfielders. He was an immediate change from Ish Jome (about whom more in a minute), with some pretty good ideas in possession of the ball, some incisive runs down the sideline – with endings other than lumping in a cross that gets blocked out – and continued to show that he wants to do well defensively, including getting elbowed in the teeth with no call. He should have had a headed goal on a set piece, but for an outstanding clearance off the line by Indy’s Ayoze. Winn did seem to struggle from a split-second of hesitation at the end of decent runs, but that’s pretty much fine in the situation (at least compared to his teammates).

Matt LaGrassa 2.54 (71 minutes) – Community rating: 5.75

Note: the community rating for LaGrassa was slightly inflated by a comedian who gave him two “10” votes, because of criticism of his game. Catch this act at Zanies all month.

LaGrassa – and his combination with London Woodberry – disappointed me live, and while Matt still did not have a great game, it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought. There’s a lack of continuity working the ball up the right wing, no doubt. LaGrassa also seems to be a little more uncomfortable defending, and (oddly) attacking in space. He’s more comfortable in tighter areas, and we saw him play better as a central defensive midfielder early in the year (and off-and-on since), which he should get more opportunities to do coming up. He was absolutely owned by his mark, Karl Ouimette, on the opening goal that changed the complexion of the game, which was his biggest negative. One thing I would point out as a positive is that he manages to be highly involved and putting in great effort even if all of those involvements aren’t universally positive.

Ish Jome 0.31 (48 minutes) – Community rating: 4.92

A week (and a couple days) after being a runaway Man of the Match, Jome had his worst performance since joining Nashville SC. Watching live, I was surprised his performance was considered poor enough to be pulled at halftime, but on a re-watch, it was probably justified, especially when there are options like Winn on the bench. He gave up possession a ton, didn’t have a lot of ideas in the final third, and was sort of figured out by Indy, which knew he was going to scissor twice and push endline when he had the ball in a dangerous position. Probably a one-week blip, but what a stinker of a blip.

Forward

Lebo Moloto 12.05 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 5.67

Moloto wasn’t far from Reed as MOTM (though of course it’s worth noting that neither score was particularly high), even though he was far from blameless for the finishing issues. I gave him positive scores for his two shots on goal – because they were some of the best offense NSC mustered, unfortunately – but they were both pretty weak efforts. He did have some nice crosses both from the run of play and dead balls, and combined well with teammates (especially when Mensah came on). He puts in the effort defensively and is Nashville’s most technical dribbler. He’s not going to have terrible performances… basically ever, thanks to that skillset. This one was a bright spot (with some drawbacks) on a poor night.

Ropapa Mensah 6.48 (27 minutes) – Community rating: 5.75

Mensah immediately changed the game when he entered it. He is the epitome of a “tries shit” guy, to appropriate Bruce Arena’s description of Clint Dempsey, which can have its drawbacks (I continue to warn that fans begging to see more of him are going to be disappointed with a full 90 because of the mistakes that result), but used situationally, you have a chance to get all the good without much of the bad. He won loose balls in the box, played creative passes that got teammates into dangerous areas, and can make the first move to lose the heck out of a defender.

Brandon Allen 6.17 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 4.25

Allen was probably the player whose performance improved the most on a re-watch in my mind. While he was unable to find the back of the net, as a true No. 9 striker he’s very reliant on the service from his teammates. He did over-dribble or have poor decisions on a couple occasions, so I guess your mileage may vary in terms of how big a portion of his overall performance that is (probably more than my system can credit him for). A hesitance to pull the trigger on a shot is… sort of “old NSC” from the beginning of the year, which had seemed to be fixed when he arrived.

Defenders

Ryan James 7.70 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 5.00

I’ve read James coming in for some criticism in the aftermath of the game, and I don’t see that. He’s sound defensively, capable of getting forward (though he didn’t too much until Mensah came on and Moloto tucked inside), and sends in some nice crosses. He couldn’t combine with Jome in the first half – but how much of that was Jome having an off night rather than a problem that James was responsible for? – so it’s not like he was perfect, but the versatility to flip to the opposite side of the backline is such an added bonus in my eyes.

London Woodberry 6.62 (63 minutes) – Community rating: 5.42

Woodberry joins LaGrassa (perhaps not coincidentally, they played on the same side of the field together) as the player whose performance improved the most on a re-watch. A natural centerback, he’s not particularly comfortable getting all the way forward, but he’s plenty athletic to do it and still track back safely. He fell asleep with a runner coming in behind him a couple times (though both were bailed out by a poor pass to that runner), and his crosses have room for improvement. Still, not as bad a day as it felt live.

Bradley Bourgeois 5.09 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 5.50

The centerbacks are both going to have low scores here, mostly because there wasn’t much for them to do (and unlike a typical game, Bourgeois didn’t make up for it by being super-dangerous on several set pieces – though he did have one header that just missed the back post, and was slightly too high for Ryan James to dunk it home). Of course, one of the things they did do was let a forward in behind them for Indy’s second goal against the run of play. I dinged them both equally, though Gary Smith implied Liam Doyle might have been slightly more culpable.

Liam Doyle 4.56 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 4.83

Same as the above: low score because there wasn’t a ton for them to do, and one of the things they did do was put Matt Pickens in position to give up a soft goal. Other than that, actually a nice day. Indy packed it in when they got the second goal and the centerbacks weren’t challenged.

Taylor Washington 2.37 (35 minutes) – Community rating: 5.67

I thought Washington provided a lot when he came on. His combination with Alan Winn on the left side works really well for me (the lefty Washington/righty Winn cutback combo is particularly useful given what both want to do). He puts nice pressure on players as the ball enters his defensive third, and his speed up the wing can make a difference. He was more comfortable crossing with his right foot after pulling back, as well. I wonder if there’s a bigger role for him as a left back at times, though he’s mostly moved to midfield.

Goalkeeper

Matt Pickens 6.16 (98 minutes) – Community rating: 4.42

So: Pickens had his single worst play (by an extremely wide margin) in this game. Other than that though, he was either completely unchallenged, or pretty darn good. I also fault him slightly for the corner-kick goal: while LaGrassa losing his mark (both spatially and then in a physical battle) was the primary culprit, Pickens had put himself in too good a position to have no attempt on the ball. Other than that, he came off his line well and sparked offense with his distribution and probably could have taken a nap for the entire second half.

Thanks for participating in the community ratings. Check back after each USL game for your opportunity to participate!

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