Nashville SC began its US Open Cup run last night with a win over USL League Two side South Georgia Tormenta FC 2. What did head coach Gary Smith and his players think of the battle? Watch or read here.
Coach Gary Smith
“Always pleased to advance in the Cup. It’s completely different to league play. You’ve got to get yourself in the winning column and you advance. I thought the application was terrific, attitude from the outset was spot-on, and in these games – that are always difficult against a young and fearless side that have come here and given everything they’ve got and have nothing to lose – I thought our guys maybe just missed out on extending their lead at good times. The only disappointment for me will be a bit of a freak goal – the first one – and then conceding from the set piece. Other than that, there were some really good performances. Delighted to get guys like Ropapa [Mensah] 90 or close to those sort of minutes. All in all, just delighted to be in the hat for the next round.”
What were the tense moments at the end like?
“We had numerous opportunities and moments to really put ourselves in an unassailable position. There was some very good play, some good creativity, there was some great possession on a really excellent and fast surface. I actually thought it was a really exciting game. They look a wonderful team, I’ve got to say. For an amateur group, they have performed at a magnificent level tonight, bearing in mind we’ve got what constitutes most of a first team group out there. All of those guys have seen the field in league play. So, it was a very, very tough task. However, I still felt that we played extremely well and we should never have been in a position where we’re on the edge of our seat at the end there – but that’s what the Cup is about: you’re going to see tonight teams go out to amateur groups, and you see it all around the world. I’ve seen it many, many times in England in the FA Cup where lower-league teams beat the bigger fish. It’s not because they’re necessarily more talented, but they’ve got bigger hearts on the day and their attitude has dragged them through. Maybe the talented players don’t quite get themselves up for the game, and tonight our players have gotten themselves up for the game.”
Do you find a balance between happiness over creating the chances and disappointment in not finishing them and putting the game away earlier?
“We can always be disappointed. We’ve scored three goals tonight, and as I’ve said, there were certainly other opportunities to extend that. I’m pleased Cameron [Lancaster] scored, Ropapa has got himself another goal, a terrific start, Alan [Winn] has scored again, that’s back-to-back games. So I couldn’t wish for any more from our attacking players to keep them in a nice, confident mood. Great to see Derrick [Jones] out there. I felt him and Bolu [Akinyode] were wonderful in the midfield. All in all, there was a real good attitude and feel about our group, and you’ve got to give credit to them. They stayed in the game, they made the most of the moments they had, and they’ve made it a real test and a challenge. It was a little bit nervy at the end, but otherwise the Cup competitions would just be straightforward, wouldn’t they? If we all knew that we were going to win five or six-nil, nobody would turn up: that’s why everyone loves the Cup and loves a scenario where you win and you’re in, you lose and you’re out. You go on”
Were you excited to get Derrick Jones on the field?
“I wanted him out on the field as quickly as possible. I think it’s good for him to see his new pals, I think it’s good for the team to see him out there and working. As you can see, he’s a big talent. It’s going to take him a little bit of time to settle into the group, but there’s no overlooking what he’s capable of: his athleticism, his ability on the ball. He’s not only a fabulous addition this year, but as I’ve said, he’s going to be a real future star I feel. I genuinely believe he’s been a great capture for us.”
Were you expecting it to be such an open game with both teams having moments to play past the opposing backline?
“I can’t speak for them, but I felt that we had plenty of athleticism, plenty of pace and energy up top, and that’s not easy to deal with. From our part, there were one or two occasions where we may have dealt with it slightly better, but I thought in the main, we dealt with most things pretty admirably in open play. Again, they threw a hell of a lot at it, and never gave up, either. Maybe the goals – as you can normally suspect – you score that second and it gives you a little bit of a lift and mentally you feel like: ‘Will it be our night? We’ve got to throw everything at it, otherwise we’re going home.’ I’m delighted. It’s been a good evening, it’s been an exciting evening. They’ve come and played out of their skin and been fantastic on the night, and I felt we attacked it in the right fashion and gotten the result we needed.”
What was your evaluation of Derrick’s first appearance for the club?
“I think from what I’ve seen of Derrick, we’ve really just touched the sides with him tonight. He looked to me – whilst his attitude was terrific and he applied himself well – there’s no doubt that as he settles into the group, he understands and appreciates the players around him and what we’re trying to achieve a little bit more, and of course you’ve got to remember he’s never been away from Philadelphia [Union]. He’s come through that group from a young player, been a Homegrown and an MLS player there; this is a new challenge for him. He’s got to settle into a new city, he’s trying to relocate. It may have been maybe a step too far for him tonight, but he’s a young man, and they want to play, and it’s the best way for him to express himself. I think tonight’s performance was really just the beginning of what you’re going to see from Derrick and I’m sure there’s plenty more to come. Once he feels good about himself, I’m sure we’ll see much more expression in his game.”
What can you take forward from this game?
“I can take a win, and that’s two on a bounce. I think – and I’ve seen it before – teams take the Cup lightly. Not necessarily this one, but I’ve seen it in England, teams not put their strongest teams out and end up being beaten. It affects the players a little bit mentally. We’re on a little bit of a run, it’s nice, it’s always nice to win games. Honestly, I don’t care what games they are, as long as you’re winning them, and you move forward. It gives confidence, it gives the players more belief. That’s eight goals in two games – against varying levels of opponent, but I’ve got to say on the night, was the game any less competitive tonight than Saturday? So there you go – two very good games and we scored eight goals. That’s a pleasing aspect, so we’ll take that forward. We’ve got a lot of players that have got many minutes under their belt tonight that haven’t necessarily been starting regularly. Another excellent performance from Alan, Cameron Lancaster gets his first 90, which is wonderful and scores again, so that’s great. We’ve already spoken about Derrick, Ramone [Howell] gets on the field and looked very lively, looked very bright for the 10 or 12 minutes that he was on, and it’s never easy coming into game at that point. At 3-2, you know, you make a mistake and everyone is staring at you. He even gets a chance to kill the game off, so lots and lots of positives. We look forward to watching the game tomorrow night: Charleston and Greenville, and we get the winners of those at home. We’ll be back here, we look forward to coming back here, they’ve really looked after us, the field was magnificent, an absolute carpet. So yeah, lots.”
Midfielder Derrick Jones
What was the quick turnaround between joining Nashville SC and getting into your first game like?
“I’ve always been ready to get the next challenge. When I came to training, I talked to Coach and he told me I was going to play. I was happy to get going again. We start everything over, and just keep going.
“Soccer is soccer, but I have to get adjusted to it. Then I just do whatever it takes to help the team. Yeah, I just need to know the players more: how they play. I’ll talk to Coach about it and just keep going.”
Did you have to kick off some rust for the game?
“I’m a little tired. I haven’t been training a lot [in the past week since being traded from Philadelphia to Nashville], but I want to keep going. I was just kind of anxious to get on the field. I haven’t played in a little while so I couldn’t wait to get out there.”
Was having a familiar face in Bolu Akinyode helpful?
“I played with him back with Bethlehem Steel, so I know how he plays. That helped me a lot and he helped me tonight, too.”
What can you build on from your first performance for the team?
“We are just going to build on this and keep going. It doesn’t matter what team we play: we play our game and push hard all the time. I am just going to keep working on my game and just keep going: get fit as we have a lot of games.”
What was your reaction to finding out you’d have a new club?
“I was happy because I want to play more, and this is where I can start and just keep playing. Hopefully also when we get to MLS next year.”
Winger Alan Winn
Are you finding a run of good form with two goals and two assists in the past four days?
“I feel like I scored two goals in two games, that’s it. I’ve just got to wait for the next game and hopefully I can score again. My job is to score and to give assists, so my form is to do that every game.”
Does that mean it’s ‘job done’ on the night?
“In a sense, that’s a goal completed. Every step – especially of Open Cup – it’s challenging. So it’s just a goal completed and now the next goal is to win the next game. And then hopefully the next goal is to go as far as possible and hopefully win it. Those are the goals.”
What were your first impressions of your new teammate, Derrick Jones?
“He played very well. He is a very smart player: he works off people with the ball and he knows what he is doing. He is experienced and he is what, 22 years old? He’s my age. I’m even a little bit older, but I’m not more experienced [laughs]. He is very smart on the ball and it is really fun to play with him.”
How is it to play with a player like Cameron Lancaster, who has a very productive history at striker?
“It’s fun; it’s enjoyable. It’s obviously unfortunate he gets his injuries, but when he comes on the field, its automatic. He knows what he is doing, and he knows exactly what to do with the ball and with his runs off the ball. That makes it easier for me to provide for him, like tonight where I could have given him three goals, but I slipped up a couple times. When you talk about form, I should have had two, three, four, to five assists tonight: and he was in the corner every time.”
Are you developing that chemistry to avoid the slip-ups?
“I definitely don’t want to peak right, right? I don’t really want that top chemistry right now. Right now I still want those little nicks and bruises, because I still think that we have an opportunity to be at the pinnacle of what our relationship all about. It’s getting there and that’s all I can say right now.”