Transcript courtesy Nashville SC media relations
Nashville SC Head Coach Gary Smith
“Very pleased that we’ve got off the mark with a win. These first games as you open up the season are very difficult. You get a little bit of tension and anxiousness in play. I honestly thought for a good majority of the game, and the stats bear me out on that, we controlled a lot of the ball. We certainly got ourselves into some very good areas, but didn’t make the most of it. That was, I felt, a bit of a feature of the game for us. In the end, we found a way to score two more unconventional goals, the second one especially.
“But very pleased that we’ve been able to open our account with a set piece, which was something that we lacked last year, not enough cutting-edge from dead balls and to get ourselves in front from the set piece was very pleasing. But overall, just really pleased that we can bag three points, a decent performance and plenty to still work on in the week and move forward.”
Is this the type of performance you wanted from Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Ríos?
“If I look at the performances, I thought both of them have certainly more to offer. They both did very reasonably if you look at debuts full-stop for forwards. They’re looking to score goals, and I’m absolutely delighted that both of them have got off the mark. Otherwise, you can sometimes be looking and waiting for forwards to find their groove and a bit of confidence. So it’s pleasing to see both of them hit the back of the net straightaway. I hope that bodes well for the future.
Did halftime adjustments to the formation help open up the offense?
“Yeah, Cameron had a slightly freer reign anyways, not stereotypically through the middle of the field, but I do believe the pair of them, as was proved, an incredible goal threat. The stats tell us that. If we can, as a team, get them closer to goal and in good positions, they’ll more often than not find the back of the net. They’re capable individually of doing that as well. But as I said, I think you find that these opening games, and there’s sometimes some strange results, it was important that we found a way to win it. If you can play well, that’s great. If you can win handsomely, even better. But the most important thing is that you see some encouraging areas of our game that we can continue to really improve and work with. And the areas that we weren’t quite as fulfilling, areas that need a little bit of a touch-up as it were, we’ve got a victory to really try and reinforce that as we work in the week.”
What did you see that needs to be addressed going forward?
“I thought we possessed the ball well, we played out of the back well. It’s not necessarily been a feature of our game, something that we have looked at and tried to work on today, it was better than I’ve seen for certainly good portions of last year. I thought we showed some very good confidence throughout the game, and that looked like it grew understandably as the game went on. The only criticism I would have, as I said at the start, would be that we got in some very encouraging areas and just didn’t make the most of it, whether it was final cross, the choice to shoot instead of pass, I think Lebo [Moloto] tried instead of passing it in. There were just some strange choices in really dangerous areas. I think you see that, you get that. We’ve seen some strange results around the league today, teams that you wouldn’t expect to get beat. So players are trying to find their way. You’re never quite sure where they are at the end of preseason physically. We’ve obviously got some injuries, so we’ve had to deal with that and we needed to find a way to win the game, get off on a good footing and a good note and move forward.
How important is it to start the season with a win?
“Very important. You look at the schedule with two games at home, certainly the first game you want to make a bit of an impression. I think the weather kept a good portion of the crowd away again, which was really disappointing. But the fans that were here were great, and you want to do well for those fans. I certainly want to make this place a difficult place for other teams to play, to not look forward to coming here and hopefully, slowly but surely, we can make our home field a bit of a graveyard for other teams.
What went through your mind when Lebo Moloto missed an open net in the third minute?
“You don’t want to know. We started really brightly and that chance came in the opening exchanges. There had been some really purposeful play and it would have been great to have seen a goal at the end of that bright opening. It wasn’t to be, but what you find is you get a little bit more frustrated and anxious and the opportunities and the moments come and go and before you know it, you’re starting to worry that you’re not going to find the goal. The set piece goal that got us on our way was vital. The guys have worked hard on the training field. It’s not been a productive area for us in the past, so we’ll continue to nail down some of those important aspects of set pieces. It’s proved vital to us today.
Forward Cameron Lancaster
What’s the feeling of scoring your first goal for Nashville?
“It’s a big relief. As a striker, you always want to get off the mark as quickly as possible. It was a great ball by Lebo and thankfully I got a head on the end of it.”
Will this game kick-start the offense going forward?
“I hope so. I’m going to sort of knuckle down and work hard. I mean at the end of the day, if the team is winning that’s all that matters.”
Defender Liam Doyle
How would you evaluate the team’s defensive performance?
“I think we had a lot of the ball and we were dominant and when they got the ball it was hard for them. They were like one against two or one against three so we managed to pick up the ball quick and get the ball. It was good to be back at home and we’ve always been very good here and this year we can make it another fortress.”
Does it feel good to start the season with a clean sheet?
“Defenders, we love clean sheets, it gives us momentum and I think Gary likes clean sheets too. I think it’s good to start off like that. It gives us something to build on, two goals and a clean sheet.”
Forward Daniel Rios
How did it feel to get the first goal in a Nashville uniform?
“I’m happy to score my first goal. It was a great job for the team. Opened account.”
What did you see on the play that led to the goal?
“I was just inside the box waiting for the ball and the keeper just gave me a ball there and good finish and a goal.”
Does that first goal help build going into future games?
“It’s good for confidence for me like a striker to score goals, but best for the team to achieve what we want, that is three points and score goals.”
Was it special for you and Cameron to both score on your official debuts for the club?
“We have a good relationship with each other, and I’m happy for him because he celebrated with his new baby, so I’m happy for him. We will score more goals this year.”
Was there anything different in the second half that allowed you guys to get on the board?
“We scored the goals in the second half. We had chances in the first one, but we didn’t score.”
Goalkeeper Matt Pickens
Is it nice to open the season with a clean sheet?
“You take that all day. I think it’s important to set a good foundation your first game. Guys played well, possessed the ball really well, kept things away from the goal. When we had to defend, we defended and kept the clean sheet and three points.”
How did the back line play in front of you?
“I thought it was pretty good, yeah. Getting Ken [Tribbett] in and getting him introduced to the team and for the first game we did well. We just keep building from here.”
What’s different in this squad as compared to last year?
“We’re getting a little more confident on the ball. It’s something that we tried to do more this preseason. Instead of just going very direct, we’re trying to play out, use our midfield more, getting the wingers high and play that way. Today was a good test run for that. It’s a realistic game; it’s not a preseason game anymore. It was good to see that we applied that today and hopefully, that’s the case moving forward.”
Is there an adjustment period to playing from the back?
“It’s something we’ve been working on and guys know what we’re doing. When we can play out of the back, we will, and when we need to go long, we’ll go long. Just keep guys on their toes and keeping our game mixed up so we’re not so predictable.”
Was there anything different between the halves that led to the opening on the scoreboard?
“I think in the first half we did have chances. We did have chances to score. Lebo could have scored five minutes into the game. We just kept at it. We knew that the longer the
game goes on, that the team’s still in it, they’re going to get more confidence. They’re going to grow. So, it was good to get some goals and shut that down and see the game out.”