Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and forward Tucker Hume met with the media before they take on Lipscomb University tomorrow. Here’s what they had to say.
Any positives you took from watching the NYC game that you might not have noticed live?
“I honestly thought there were plenty of positives to come out of there – I said if after the game. We’re in that building preseason phase, and you never ever get the full picture at this point. I felt we did some terrific things structurally. The guys are in really good shape. I honestly felt we kept a very very talented MLS side to limited opportunities. I even look back on the penalty – which I felt was very very harsh given the circumstances – but nevertheless, some really good things to come out of it. I think the one thing at this point in time that we can certainly improve upon – and it’ll be an ongoing focus throughout the season – is what do we look like as we build into the opponents’ half? How much control have we got over the game technically? Against a top side, who repressed ever-so-well when I looked at the video back again, it was a tough night on the ball. It won’t be the only tough night we encounter, and we’ll probably run into sides that are nowhere near as good as New York, and we’ll have some similar problems. We’re certainly moving in the right direction, and a lot of pleasing aspects.”
How do you assuage fans’ fears after a scoreless outing?
“I think the confidence has to come out of the other games that we’ve played. I’m not sure the benchmark is Montreal and New York City FC at this point. I think there is a tendency that people can get a little bit carried away. We’re a side that have added players, has that have strengthened the group. We’re second year into our history and franchise. There are some very very good foundations from last year that we’re building on, and slowly but surely I hope that we’re going to be a better side than last year. We’ve scored five goals against two USL sides, we’ve won two games against two USL sides. What does that mean? What does that matter in preseason? It gives us a little bit of a benchmark as to what we can achieve. It doesn’t count for any points; it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things because we have no idea where Louisville and Birmingham are at this point, and likewise ourselves. We’ll be sharper, we’ll be fitter, we’ll be in a better place come the start of the seaosn. We have another very big game this weekend, and in between we’ve got a game tomorrow night against a local side which I’m sure itself will be very competitive.
Going from NYC to Lipscomb
“I think every team in preseason that plays an amateur side, a local college or university, they run into the same problem, which is a lot of young, exuberant, energetic individuals that want to impress. The way that they play, they structure their groups, are normally a far throw from what we’re going to see come first day of the season, and it’s a completely different challenge. Like the MLS game was on Friday, we’ve got a completely different one. We have to focus on how we’re going to continually improve. There’ll be certain aspects of the game that we ‘d love to try and layer into the performance tomorrow night. Ultimately, it’s minutes for players, they take a step closer to where they need to be come March [ninth], and the good and bad we can evaluate.”
Approach to Indy game after naming them Eastern Conference favorite
“Look, nothing changes in my mind: if you look at how they’ve constructed their group – I know that some of our signings have been quite high profile – I’ve got to say that they, for me, are the team to beat at this point. Now, what that means on Saturday is that we have a really tough game. It actually doesn’t mean anything. There’s no points on the board: that adds an extra anxiety, it adds an extra passion and determination, desire, all of those things when there’s points on the line. There’s no points on the line. I don’t know what Martin Rennie has in store for his group, whether he’ll play – I would suspect – something close to what he might see the following week. Likewise us. But just because those guys roll out of the weekend doesn’t mean to say that they’ll play the following week against Loudoun, which will be a completely different picture and test. We’ll be at home, against a new franchise, and when we play here, there could be a different picture to what we see away from home. So it’ll be difficult, but they’re all challenges, and they’re all competitive matches that we can look at and try and break down, and say, ‘look, we’ve had some problems in this area, here’s how we can improve.'”
Are you starting to hone in on those Best XI lineup and gameday 18 groups?
“Of course. Again, that’s part of preseason. There’ll be some guys that are in a good physical condition but their form’s not quite at a level that you’d like, there’s some guys that need more minutes that’ve maybe had a slightly different offseason, there are individuals that I’m looking at already and saying, ‘OK, that’s somebody that we’ll be looking at for the start of the season,’ knowing who we’re playing and the fact that we’re at home. For me, there’s loads and loads of spots up for grabs. We’ve got not just a competitive group, but we’ve got at the moment a 19-man outfield group. Any 18 of those are going to be in the lineup anyway. At any point in time, any of those 18, 19 players could be on the field. It’s that strong a group. We’ve kept it tight, I’ve kept the squad and roster slightly more compact than last year, because I think overall we’ve got more experience, and we’ve got a better balance to the group. I want all of the players to be ready, I want them to have playing time regularly, so there may well be a reasonable rotation early on. I want them to be sharp and engaged, and I want the whole group to be competing towards what I believe to be a successful season. In success, it’s got to be chasing down and challenging for silverware. It has to be that.”
Forward additions in the offseason
“I expect to see a lot of competition number one. I firmly believe that those forward-going areas, the creative players on the field, the goal-scorers, they need to be kept on that knife’s edge. When they’re playing well and they’re scoring goals, they’re incredibly confident individuals, they thrive on that mindset and that thought process: when the goal looms up, there’s got to be ‘I’m going to score.’ There can’t be a doubt, it can’t be an issue for them when they get in front of the goal. To that degree, I think we’ve got some of the best forwards in the league. We’ve got plenty of dimension to that frontline, we’ve got individuals that are capable of different qualities and combinations. In the wide areas, we’ve got plenty of pace and invention. At any given time, we could look good in a front three, a front two – we can be any single flexible system that you want to think of. I can’t help but think that poses problems to other people.”
Second viewing on film
“I think after looking at the film and seeing some of the chances, I think it’s a little bit of the decision-making in the final third. It’s always nice to be able go back and see those moments and see where we can work on it, but we put that behind us and come back out here and keep working like we’ve been doing. We know that we’ve scored goals before and it’ll come again.”
How is chemistry with new guys?
“Obviously, the more games we play, the more chemistry we’re going to build with the new guys. They’ve been meshing well with the team. Obviously, coming back from last year with the same guys, it always nice to keep building those relationships.”
Pressing a pressing team
“They obviously pressed high up the field and made it very difficult for us. They like to play out of the back, so we took that as an opportunity to high-press them as well, and try to win closer to their goal and that way we can create more chances.”
Do you have to serve as an outlet when a team presses your backline?
“I don’t know if intimidating is the word, but they do make it very difficult for us, and so I do have to be an outlet for my team and for our centerbacks if we have to go longer and go over the top of the team.”
“I’ve been on that side on a college team, playing against a pro team. You’re hungry, you want to win, you want show the pros that you can play there. So they’re going to come out with a lot of energy. They only have a couple games in the Spring so they’re going to want to make the most of it. We just have to go out there and get minutes out of it, but still play our system and try things, and keep getting better for the season.”
What was that opportunity like as a college player at North Carolina?
“It was very enjoyable. We always loved playing against ex-Carolina players and guys that we know. We’d play against Wilmington Hammerheads and NCFC now, so we enjoyed those games a lot and we got up for them.”
New forward pieces
“Definitely playing with the new additions has been very nice. They’re very good goal-scorers, so when we link up, I’m always looking to find them and they’ll find me. We just want to score some goals for this team.”
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