Press conference video and transcript: Gary Smith, Kharlton Belmar, and Alan Winn post-Swope Park Rangers

Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and some of his players addressed the eedia after their team’s 5-1 win over Swope Park Rangers. Watch and read what they had to say here.

Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith

How do you evaluate the offensive performance?

“From the very outset, it was a very positive, bright and purposeful start. To be perfectly honest, after Wednesday night, it couldn’t have been a more productive 15 minutes at the start of the game. The wide areas: Alan [Winn] and Kharlton [Belmar] were very productive. Daniel [Ríos] was clinical in front of goal. To be three goals to the good inside 15 minutes, I think really settled a lot of concerns maybe, a bit of apprehension coming into the game because when all is said and done, these are still very talented sides. There’s a very young side, but we’ve run into groups like this before who have taken control of games and made life difficult, and it causes a lot of anguish within the group and maybe some edginess in our play.

“The first 15 minutes really set the tone for the game. We got a complete grip of proceedings, and I’m just delighted that we’ve gone on and won handsomely and given two or three of the guys a real boost. Daniel’s two goals [statline] is great, but Cameron [Lancaster] coming off the bench gets his second for the group after having some frustrating injuries. Kharlton Belmar gets his first for the team – and we’ve been searching for that one for all of his endeavors and hard work. Alan has been
very, very professional in his work and diligent weekly and waiting for his chance, and he gets back on the sheet, makes a real difference for the group. I think it just re-emphasizes again the strength of the squad as well.”

Were you happy to see Kharlton Belmar finally score for the club?

“I’m delighted for him. He put so much into his game. He’s a very genuine guy. All of the physical attributes are there for everyone to see, but he’s certainly taken onboard a lot of information in a new group, and he’s adapted very well. The one area of his game that has just deserted him for the moment has been that final ball on a more consistent basis and of course, goal scoring. His record tells us that he’s more than capable, and hopefully it gives him a shot in the arm and a real confidence boost to push on.”

Can you build on momentum gained in a 5-1 win?

“I mean, I hope so. It’s certainly not been easy in terms of trying to find the connections and relationships. Our goal scoring-record has improved from last year – there’s no doubt about that – but I think we should expect that it would, given the players that we’ve added to the group. What can be difficult – as I’ve said before – is consistently finding good link play, good relationships, and creative combinations. Tonight, I think we saw much more of that. I thought Lebo [Moloto] was instrumental in that. He proved to be a wonderful creative link for a lot of the attacking group – and I include, obviously, include the wide players in that. There were some really encouraging signs there. That has got to be a more consistent feature with individuals as well as a group. Of course again, against
opposition that may be slightly more experienced or stronger than the group that we’ve run into today, but you can only achieve and play against the opponent in front of
you on the night. Tonight, the guys have done a great job.”

Can some of the output be carried over to Charlotte next Saturday?

“I think a lot of those attacking relationships, some of the combination play, some of
the wide play. The first half especially, I thought the two wide players were very bright,
very purposeful. Not just when they got on the ball and needed to make a difference
against their opposing defender, but Alan and Kharlton got themselves into really good spots to either keep the pressure on or end up in a finishing situation – as Alan did – and get himself on the score sheet. It looked more natural: the players, once they got themselves in a good place, looked far more comfortable in possession. There were some lovely passages of play. I thought there was a very good feel about it, but you’ve got to remember: the goals were scored at good times. It’s all about getting off the mark and
making a difference and settling the nerves and making sure that you’re playing from a
position of strength. The players did a good job of reinforcing that tonight.”

How do you feel at the ten-game checkpoint?

“I just think all-in-all, we’re not firing on all cylinders at the moment. I think there’s been some really good performances, and some really encouraging displays – both individually and as a team – but I think as a group, the consistency factor is important of course. To get everyone working in the same direction really sort of – that sparkle about the group and that confidence within the team – I feel like tonight’s performance goes a long way to maybe infusing that type of mindset. Listen, I’m pleased with where we’re at. Certainly, there’s a couple of games that of course I would like to have not been on the receiving end in one-nil defeats. All-in-all, I think there’s a lot of good things going on, players are in a good place, there’s a great feel about the group, there’s a very genuine vein that runs through everyone in the locker room. when things are not going quite so well, that character within the locker room tends to give you the edge in games that are a little bit tighter. We certainly have the ability and the quality to take advantage of situations like tonight, where we’ve started well. There’s a lot more experience in our group, and I thought that told tonight.”

Did scoring with the early start make the rest of the game less stressful?

“Of course it does. You can look at the game in a slightly different fashion. More so, it just takes the edge off of the proceedings. What I would say is: each game presents very different challenges. The challenge for the group today was to come out in the second half being three-nil up and attack the game in the same fashion, and to not allow Swope to get back in the game and give them an incentive to feel as though there’s as was out of that. The fourth goal did that. There’s always things that you can work on, and be thoughtful about, but I think getting that fourth goal really just re-emphasized that we’re not going to rest on our laurels. The game’s still there to be won, and I thought our attitude towards the second period was a good one. Two goals – yes, there were some spells that they threw caution to the wind a little bit and got themselves on the sheet, but all-in-all, it was a very good performance.”

Were you worried about their goal?

“Listen, I never want to concede goals, I don’t think any coach does, at any point. I’d’ve loved to have kept a clean sheet. But I’m certainly happier that we’ve scored five. We’ve still been very professional in the way that we’ve played. The players were not flippant about their roles and the amount of energy that they put into the game. I don’t have a major concern. Matt said that the ball moved and it was a difficult one to deal with. Listen: he struck it very well. Certainly, [there are] guys in their group that are very very capable. I think it just highlights the fact that if you allow them to get into good areas, and too consistently, you’ve got a problem. They’ve beaten Louisville in the week, who – in different circumstances, but they’re certainly no pushover as a group, champions, very experienced outfit. This had the potential to be a bit of a difficult affair. Third game in a week, but the guys have dealt with it very well.”

How important has Matt LaGrassa been to this team?

“Matt’s a talented guy. He’s got a great opportunity to maybe push on to the next level, as have many of the guys. In fact, everyone in the group, they’re all in a position where the way they perform and their attitude towards their work daily is an audition for the next level. At the moment, Matt’s taking it by the scruff of the neck and saying, ‘I want to be there.’ Everyone has that chance: everyone has the chance to take it by the scruff of the neck and say, ‘don’t look beyond me.’ There’s a lot of them that are doing that. I certainly feel as though there’s some that can do more. It’s a long, difficult season, and I’ve said to the guys: it’s really about quality rather than quantity. If you prove when you’re in the side that what you can achieve is enough to take you to the next level, that could be 18, 20, 24, 25 – however many games it is, it doesn’t have to be 34 – you’ve just got to prove you’re good enough. We’ve got a very strong group, there’ll be rotation within it – you’ve seen it again today – so players are not dropped because they’re poor, players are rotated just purely because we have a strong group that should not drop the standards or quality when I bring other players in. Everyone’s there, everyone’s in a good spot, it’s really for them to step forward and say, ‘I’m your man.'”

Winger Kharlton Belmar

On scoring and getting an assist

“This one’s been a long time coming. 10 games in and I was just eager to finally get home and included on the score sheet, so that was a big relief just to get my name on the stat sheet as well was very good. So I’m very happy about that.”

Was it frustrating to come close but not get onto the scoresheet in the previous games?

“It’s one of those things that happens in football, so you know, you’ve got to just get on with it and keep playing. If you get too frustrated then the performances start dipping. It was one of those things where the guys around me have been galvanizing me and lifting me up, so it’s been good just to have that support behind me and just keep pushing. I knew it would come eventually, and it finally did. No better way and no better team to get it against. So I’m happy.”

How did it feel to have this performance against your former club?

“It was interesting. A lot of those kids I’ve been playing with for the past two years, so that was good to see those guys and also just kind of knowing how they operate makes it a little bit easier. It was good, a good experience.”

Did you dwell on some of those missed chances through the first nine games?

“I think after Wednesday as well, kind of missing that header that I had, that one kind of
played on my head a little bit. I was going to make sure I turned it around and made the
most of the chances that I got tonight. That was definitely a big focus. It was one of
those things again: you can’t dwell on it too much and you can only try and turn it
into a positive thing. It was just a learning experience and you get on with it, you know?”

Did you get excited when Matt LaGrassa played the long ball that resulted in your goal?

“It definitely set up that way. Kind of watching it develop, and it kind of looked like
it was going to be on, and finally we made eye contact and the ball finally came. I was
like ‘Finally, a chance: I’ve just got to finish this one’ and lucky enough, it went in. I’m just happy for that to happen.”

Did missing previous chances this season make you nervous about finishing it?

“That played in my head a bit, but I was like ‘This iss about time. It’s about time to just put this one away.’ I just got a good connection with it and got on the end of it and put it away.”

Does a five-goal game help build chemistry on the front line?

“I think in the first 10 games we’ve had a lot of good moments. I feel like you can
definitely look and see that the chemistry is growing, whether it’s between me and
Daniel, or me, Daniel, and Lebo [Moloto], whoever is up there. It’s getting better and
we’re starting to understand each other better. I think especially on the second goal, me
and Daniel have talked about that one as well. I get around the corner and he just
makes sure to get to that near post and there he was to finish it. It’s growing, it’s coming
along and I think 10 games in, we’ve got a good amount of goals. We’re only going to try
and build on that and hopefully get a lot more.”

When you’re serving the ball to Daniel Ríos for his goal, what’s your aiming point?

“It’s more of a spot. I think when I’m running that fast, it’s kind of hard to get a look up
and get my head back down and try and play a pinpoint ball. Like I said, me and Daniel
have kind of talked about that one and he knows that I’m trying to put that ball there
for him and more than likely I’m going to be looking for him to get on the end of things
since he’s the finisher in there. We’re building that rapport slowly.”

Winger Alan Winn

What’s the first-start first-goal feeling like?

“It feels good. It’s obviously been eight, nine games in, and it’s good to get a start under my belt. Obviously I’ve been coming in and out of games throughout the beginning of the season and doing my part in that scenario. Now I’m taking a different role. When it comes to starting, when it comes to not starting, it’s good to get the first start and first goal.”

Did Lebo Moloto give you grief for stealing his goal?

“No, he just smiled. I said sorry about 17 times before, but he was excited for me, so it
was good, fun times.”

Can tonight help build chemistry with the forwards?

“You’ll just have to see next game. I can’t tell you whether it’s a springboard or not. We
just want to stick to what we know and what we’re trying to achieve, and not trying to see patterns or trying to do anything like that. Just trying to stick to what we know as a team and try to get that chemistry as the first thing.”

Is there a different curve to building chemistry for the new guys versus you and the other returning players?

“Yeah, it’s always molding, so we want to – every day, we try to get the chemistry, try to figure out how we’re playing together and that takes time. But we’ve got to get it. Before we know it, it becomes the end of the season and we want to get a playoff spot and hopefully be at the top of the table during that time. We’ve got to get that chemistry as soon as possible and I think we’re molding it every single day.”

Forward Daniel Rios

Quotes courtesy of NSC media relations

(On how it feels to find the back of the net)

“It feels good. Me trying to help the team scoring goals feels good for the team and for
me. It was definitely nice to score two goals.”

(On helping his teammates on the field)

“When we are talking, it’s not only about me scoring goals, it’s about me creating
chances for everyone else. When we make chances, we will score.”

(On how this game helps momentum moving forward)

“In soccer there are always rematches. There are games every week, but we feel more
confident now for Tuesday and even Saturday. If we lose a game, we have another
chance to win the next one. That’s how soccer is.”

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