EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Nashville SC earned its first-ever (unofficial) point of Indy Eleven, but neither team left the pitch satisfied after a nil-nil draw at Evansville University Saturday afternoon. The two favorites for the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference crown will have to wait until their first matchup May 25th to find a difference between the sides.
Nashville ran out a strong lineup, with MLS signings Daniel Ríos and Cameron Lancaster rotating through the forward and left wing positions with Lebo Moloto. While they found a few good chances (aided by Alan Winn on the right side), the chemistry is still a work in progress.
“First time we have seen Cameron and Daniel as a pair up front all preseason, so it was a slight shift in the shape that we have played,” head coach Gary Smith said. “There was some good adaption to that. On other occasions we found that there were some areas of the field that we struggled to deal with. Certainly food for thought as we move forward.”
As the game went along, Indy eventually created a higher volume of chances than the Boys in Gold, but it’d be fair to say none of them were as dangerous to keepers Connor Sparrow and Matt Pickens as Nashville’s were to Indy’s Evan Newton. While the total number of shots could be reduced, credit goes to the defenders for ensuring that no golden chances arose for the Eleven.
“Backline looked solid for the most part,” Smith said. “I thought there was a tremendous amount of endeavor from both teams in all fairness. I’ll say, we are going to see an Indy side that are not going to be very far away. They have made some good signings this offseason, and I think today’s game will reflect what you’ll see between these two sides this season.”
Lancaster missed a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box by only a couple feet in the 56th, and in the final dozen minutes of the game, Nashville managed to put more consistent pressure on the Indy goal. Kharlton Belmar had some solid runs down the right wing, but the final piece of service or finishing was never quite there. Likewise, aerial play to Tucker Hume and combination play through the middle were often just a step off.
One of the best chances came on a low cross from Belmar, but Moloto couldn’t connect first time on the edge of the six-yard box, and his lay-off pass to Hume was in too much traffic for anyone to get a shot on goal. It’s easy to dismiss that as preseason jitters that should be fine-tuned soon, but at the same time, Nashville fans know that the final piece of chemistry and finishing was elusive for this team last year.
“Chances were fairly balanced,” Smith said. “Neither team really took advantage of the few moments and sights of goal. Ultimately, we will walk away and think the competition we have faced this preseason will have set us up nicely for our opening game against Loudoun.”
The big question now will be the extent of some key injuries. Winger Alan Winn was banged up twice in the first half, including during stoppage time (the whistle blew before he was back up and on his feet), and captain Michael Reed came off in the 34th minute, ceding the armband to fullback Kosuke Kimura. It’s fair to say that caution is the name of the game in the final preseason friendly, but NSC’s gameplan for Saturday’s season opener will have to change if either is not back to full fitness.
The games get real this Saturday, when Nashville hosts USL Championship expansion side Loudoun United at First Tennessee Park. Given the relative expectations for Loudoun versus those for Indy (and Nashville, for that matter), it should be a step down in competition – and an indicator of whether NSC is ready to take care of business against the minnows in 2019.
- 18′ IND Substitution – On 27 Joshua Penn, off 4 Ayoze García Pérez
- 34′ NSH Substitution – On 30 Bolu Akinyode, off 17 Michael Reed
- 45’+2 Half time
- 46′ NSH Subsitution – On 11 Kharlton Belmar, off 19 Alan Winn
- 46′ IND Substitution – On 10 Thomas Enevoldsen, off 23 Tyler Pasher
- 61′ NSH Substitution – On 18 Matt Pickens, off 24 Connor Sparrow
- 66′ IND Substitution – On [Trialist], off 14 Ilija Ilic
- 72′ NSH Substitutions
- On 21 Darnell King, off 27 Kosuke Kimura
- On 2 Justin Davis, off 23 Taylor Washington
- On 12 Tucker Hume, off 14 Daniel Ríos
- On 7 Ramone Howell, off 9 Cameron Lancaster
- On 6 Ken Tribbett, off 5 Liam Doyle
- 76′ IND Substitution – On [Trialist], off 19 Kenney Walker
- 80′ NSH Substitution – On 61 Genki Miyachi (trialist), off 10 Lebo Moloto
- 90’+3 Full time