Postgame presser: Gary Smith, Liam Doyle, Taylor Washington after loss to Saint Louis FC

Nashville SC didn’t achieve the desired result against Saint Louis FC last night. Here’s what the gaffer and two of his defenders had to say after the contest. Comments courtesy Nashville SC media relations.

Gary Smith

“Of course, bitterly disappointed. I think any defeat at home would put us in a very similar mindset. I actually thought the first half, they looked more threatening without really controlling the game. They certainly looked more of a goal threat than we did, which was concerning. A lot of good possession, but really with little end product. The second period, with just a couple of little changes and tweaks, I thought we were the better team and had a much better territorial advantage. We started to mount some much better pressure and actually had a couple of good sights of goal, but were beaten with one of very few opportunities that they had in the second period to get a ball into our penalty area. In the end, I know that they’ll be absolutely delighted that they’ve come here and defended well and they looked very organized, had a good plan and are a rugged team. But when you look at the stats in the second half, 75% possession to their 25%, we should be making more of that. And therein lies the problem. Possession is worthless unless it’s actually productive. Tonight, we certainly weren’t productive enough.”

What happened on Saint Louis’s late goal?

“I’ve just had a look back at it, and I think it was a long free kick that they picked up, a second- phase ball, which I honestly thought, not for the first time, should have been better dealt with by us. But then, from a couple of challenges and scuffles, their wide right player ends up looking for an effort at goal and it ricocheted off of Taylor. Now, once you get to that point, all set pieces are the same. There’s an opportunity to deliver the ball into a dangerous area, and we have to be more sturdy, more resilient, better than we were. It’s a good ball into a good area, but it’s routine. Straightforward delivery, there’s just determination in their play and that in the end was the difference between them winning and not.”

What adjustments did you make at the half?

“I honestly thought we had some issues in the first half. We couldn’t get enough concerted pressure in the final third. So I wanted to get Cameron [Lancaster] up with Daniel [Rios]. We then suffered in a couple of other areas, so at halftime we went through a bit of a job description, a role description for one or two of the players. I think just more importantly, we had plenty of opportunities to get down the side of their group. We turned it down too often in the first half, it was too easy to play backwards and bring their forwards back into a defensive group. And in the second half, there was just a little bit more inspiration in our play. It was more positive. There was a more upbeat tempo to the work that we were involved in. I still think that our final pass, our final ball into dangerous areas is just not clinical enough. There were two or three moments where players get to the dead ball line or are in a good crossing position with players loaded in the box, and we over hit it, we under hit it, it’s played in with no pace. It’s just worked into an area with no real feeling or belief.

We all know the season is not won and lost in the second game, but there are some things that our group have to improve at, and quickly, to make the most of the quality players in goal-scoring areas that we have. There’s a lot of good things going on. We have shifted, I believe, from a group that were in our first year, just really determined and showed some very nice signs, to a team that’s controlling the game a lot more. But controlling the game is not enough if you can’t get sights of goal. We’ve got to find ways to be more productive, and if that’s not the 15th time that I’ve said that, then it’s probably the 100th , and it will be a lot of times this week. We have to do more. We are
under pressure here to make the game, we’re under pressure to be positive. It’s our field. If I’m them, maybe I would have set up exactly the same and they did a very professional job. When we go away from home, maybe there’s a slightly different mindset. The home team, wherever we go, they’re under pressure to make the game. But there’s too much talent in this group to be coming out of that game with one effort on target. That’s just not good enough.”

What did you see in Matt LaGrassa’s 81st-minute headed chance?

“It’s one of the best moves of the game. A nice combination play down the flanks, a ball played with some nice feeling into a good area and a midfield player arriving late. I do believe it was from some concerted pressure, which enabled Matt to be in a much better position. But, in all honesty, and every team is the same, if our guys are not confident that the ball is going to be delivered into a good area, or that we can go and attack it, then it doesn’t inspire midfield players or forwards to attack dangerous zones in the penalty area. It becomes matter of fact, and I do believe that we’ve become a bit ‘okay, there you go. It hasn’t found the right area, I’m pleased I didn’t make that run.’ But then when it does find the right area, the forwards are on their heels because they’re not ready for it. So it’s a Catch-22, but it certainly starts with a better delivery that the forwards and the midfield players believe that they can actually score from.”

Is chemistry still a work in progress?

“I think so. I really do. If you look at two thirds of the field for us, from our defensive area to the attacking third of the field, the vast majority of our play in the last two games has been decent. Where we’ve struggled is probably with our three newest players. All three of them are extremely talented guys. It’s not just them getting on the same page as each other, it’s them and our midfield, defenders, whoever is supplying, getting on the same page and understanding what they’re about as well. It’s not an excuse, we’ve been beat tonight, and it won’t feel any better, but there are still some very good things going on in the group. However, one of the biggest challenges that we have right now is being more creative and finding more sights of goal.”

Defender Liam Doyle

“I think the first half, they caused us some trouble, and Matt (Pickens) made that unbelievable save. Second half, I don’t really think they were in it, and we had so many set pieces. We nearly scored off a few, and then they have one and they scored off it. I guess that’s soccer in a nutshell. “

What did you see on Saint Louis’s goal?

“We run man for man in two zones and I think it was just over the first zone and then he just comes steaming in out of nowhere. It was a good ball, good run, and he managed to get his head on it.”

How has team chemistry developed?

“I think we dominated the play for the most part, but we didn’t really create too much. It was more set plays. Obviously, teams are going to look at the power we have going forward and they are going to come here and respect that and sit. It’s going to be hard to break teams down. We need to find a way to do that.”

Is Saint Louis FC a particularly hard defense to break down?

“Yeah, I mean they’re well drilled, competitive, strong, fit, well drilled. They didn’t give us much, but we need to make more.”

Defender Taylor Washington

How did you feel after the adjustments at halftime?

“I think we went out there and did was we normally do. The first half they were coming at us with a lot of energy and in the second half we were able to slow the game down and play our type of soccer. We worked the ball around, got a few chances, and also got some corners. It is unfortunate that we didn’t get the ball in the back of the net and they did.”

Preparation for New York Red Bulls II

“New York is a different team. They like to high press and run their players down one side of the field. The game plan may be a little different, but we have to make sure we keep at our game.”

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