Nashville SC’s US Open Cup journey begins today. The Boys in Gold head just down I-24 to host South Georgia Tormenta 2 at Middle Tennessee State’s Dean Hayes Stadium.
Opponent: South Georgia Tormenta FC 2
Time, Location: Tuesday, May 14 7:30 p.m. CDT • Dean Hayes Stadium
Weather: 66ºF, 3% chance of rain, 54% humidity, No wind
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Tailgate: With the BoRoadies at Middle Tennessee State
Tormenta FC 2
Despite having had just a couple days of practice prior to last weekend’s match, Tormenta 2 thrashed League One opposition Chattanooga Red Wolves. You may assume, based on that lack of practice time, that they relied on athleticism over tactical nuance, and you’d be right!
“I watched all of the game against Chattanooga, and they were worthy winners on the night,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “Tormenta 2 looked very accomplished for a young group that had only come together 4-5 days before. Then, they went on and won handsomely on the weekend.
“This is a group that I am sure will want to impress on the night. They are confident. They’ll also be pretty fearless in the way that they play. These are great opportunities for young players to make a mark against an experienced team, which we are. We will have a strong team out after having a run last year at the Cup, because we know this will be a stern challenge.”
Left winger Adrian Billhardt and central midfielder Luca Mayr were too much for the Red Wolves to handle, with each scoring a goal (and assisting on the other’s tally. How sweet!). They’re a couple European guys, with Billhardt hailing from Germany and Mayr from Austria. They play their college soccer at USF and South Carolina, respectively. Right winger Jarvion Wigfall, a hometown guy at Georgia Southern, was assisted by striker James Meehan for the opening tally in the 3-0 win. Meehan is a big, physically intimidating target/holdup striker from England who plays his college ball at Florida Southern .
In the win over Chattanooga, Tormenta rolled with a 4-1-4-1 formation, though they’d sometimes slide into a bit of a double-pivot at the central defensive midfield role with Kobe Perez sometimes sliding into a more conservative role. Given they were able to athletically overwhelm Red Wolves (and will be less likely to be able to do so against Nashville SC), I wonder if they’ll be a little more conservative with a couple defensive midfielders on a more consistent basis. Having had the additional week of practice (and a League Two game under their belts) could give them a little bit more opportunity to install some tactics.
The defense is solid, with keeper Tor Saunders unscored upon in this young season (SGTFC2 shut out Peachtree City MOBA 4-0 in their League Two opener). He’s a depth player for national powerhouse Akron, so he was almost certainly a top recruit out of Washington State, but has struggled to see the field for the Zips. Centerback Jordan Skelton is the team’s captain another Brit, playing his college ball at D-2 Lander University. Fullbacks Maxwell Edwards and Juan Pablo Pulema are also key pieces of the defensive unit.
The Boys in Gold
Nashville SC doesn’t have the type of squad depth that it did last year (by design), so there aren’t many guys on the roster whose entire contribution to the season will be their minutes in the Open Cup. However, there are a few who have limited or no playing time thus far, and I would expect we’ll see some of them.
Midfielder Ramone Howell was an Open Cup standout last year, and parlayed that time into some late-season minutes in high-leverage situations. He has just one minute so far in 2019. Fellow midfielder Vinnie Vermeer started the New York Red Bulls II regular-season game, but went down with injury on a tackle just 29 minutes into that contest. I would expect we’ll see both this evening, in an effort to get them minutes and/or work back to health.
Third-string keeper Danny Vitiello is the only player to be on the roster for a game but not see any action. Hopefully, we’ll see him this evening, because he’s better than being a zero-minute player all season, and he may not have many more opportunities going forward. The balance between feeling comfortable enough with the talent level on the field to ensure a win and getting him some time may be a tricky one.
The only other guy who hasn’t played this season only joined the squad Sunday, had his first practice day yesterday, and probably isn’t ready for a significant run-out. However, if Nashville SC feels comfortable with its standing in the game, I would bet we get the first glimpse of new MLS signing Derrick Jones, to prepare the midfielder for a longer appearance in this weekend’s game against Charlotte Independence (as well as the rest of the season).
Others who should/could see time and haven’t been regulars just yet:
- Striker Cameron Lancaster can certainly use this game to work his way back into form after recovering from a couple minor injuries at the start of the year
- Right back Darnell King has been the No. 2 man in a rotation at his position, and could try to work toward the top of the depth chart with a strong performance
- Striker Tucker Hume has seen less time as they year has gone on, but was an Open Cup star last year
- winger Alan Winn has gotten more playing time in recent weeks, but is still working his way back to fitness after missing the beginning of the year with a concussion. A long workout here (he got his first full 90 on Saturday) could help get him in game shape.
- He may not be in the starting lineup due to the other players listed above (and because he’s still working to 90-minute fitness), but a longer appearance from forward/winger Ropapa Mensah could help him see more time in regular-season games.
There’s not as much squad to rotate, but there are certainly plenty of guys who could benefit from time on the pitch.
With that said, my projected lineups:
Keys to the game
- Get control of the game early. An early tally or two not only makes games easier in general, but against a team competing two levels up the US Soccer pyramid, it can be important to not let them get belief that they have a real chance to win the game.
- Take them seriously. As I finish saying “everybody plays!” (of course with the caveat that there aren’t scrubs on this lineup at all), it’s important to come into the game confident, but not with an attitude that the game is already won. SGTFC2 not only beat Chattanooga Red Wolves, they were the better team for basically every one of the game’s 90 minutes last week. They may be young, but they’re legit.
- Let stars be stars. Under any other circumstances, I wouldn’t project Lancaster to see time in this game. Because he needs to re-find his form and health, NSC should have a player in the lineup who otherwise wouldn’t be available. He should be able to get the job done, and if he does indeed play, needs to be given the opportunities to do so. Even if he’s not in the squad, that means somebody else who has little business playing against a PDL side will be in there instead.
I really like this South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 team (even though their name is a real mouthful). However, against professionals both veteran and young/sprightly, they shouldn’t be able to compete.
- Lancaster bags a first-half brace and is replaced at halftime.
- Ropapa assists Hume on a crossed ball into the box.
- Bolu Akinyode gets on the scoresheet.
Nashville SC wins 4-0.