Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and striker Daniel Ríos met with the media in advance of their game against Charlotte Independence. See what they had to say here.
How was practicing with the team (specifically a cross you hit?
“Every now and then I have to remind myself that there’s still something left. There’s too many things that have left my body at this stage of my world. Every now and then, I like to just put myself under a little bit of pressure. Pleased to be able to come up with the goods.”
Do the guys give you any stick?
Do you have to shift mindset alternating between US Open Cup games and regular season games?
“I’ve always felt that if you can just maintain a very fluid motion for whatever the opponent is, there’s always going to be a team on paper that look far more difficult to play against than some others. But I think if I stress that too much then the players feel that too much. so there’s no game that’s any less important to win. No different this weekend. There’ll be some dynamics within the game that may affect the outcome – like Charlotte are a far more experienced side than Tormenta were in the week. They’ve got players that have been and played to a very good level in MLS. For whatever reason, things are not going their way at the moment. Why? When they’ll turn it around? Not for me to really discuss. What I do know is when I look at that group, they’re certainly not to be taken lightly. There’s a lot of talent in there, and if at some point they do start to find the right chemistry, they’re going to be very very difficult to play against. What we have to make sure is it’s not this weekend.”
Cameron Lancaster and Derrick Jones did not train today; what’s their status?
“Derrick’s got some relocation stuff to deal with. He should be back here tomorrow and will be available for the 18, Cam took a knock yesterday, and it’s unlikely that he’s going to be fit for tomorrow. We’ll reassess again towards Wednesday. I’m just bitterly disappointed for him. He player his first 90 minutes on Tuesday and looks like he’s getting back to somewhere near some sharpness – scores two goals in two games – and now he’s going to miss a game or two again, and that’s never good for any player. I’m really keen to try and have him around the group for obvious reasons, so I’m just frustrated for everyone, really, but most of all for Cameron.
How has Daniel Ríos gotten into the group and been able to be so productive at this point, and do you expect it to continue?
“Of course I hope so. When I look at what Daniel gives the team, and what he offers as an individual, it’s hard to pick out an area that he doesn’t tick boxes in. He’s a very good target man, he’s so strong and he’s tenacious to secure the ball. His link play and first tough are very good, and he’s intelligent – whether that’s with the choice of pass or timing of his movement. He works tirelessly. For a center forward – and we’ve seen plenty of them that do a great job in front of goal, and when the ball’s there to be creative – but Daniel’s very, very genuine, so he gives us something leading the line there. You’ve seen exactly what he’s about when the ball gets into dangerous areas. He deals with crosses, he finishes first-time off the floor, he’s capable of scoring on his own, he’s got a lot of qualities, he really has. At the age he’s at, I would think there’s only going to be more development in his game. Maybe not physically, good size and good physical stature [already], but I would say in terms of the way he plays, and maybe some of the experiences that he’s now going to run into, it can only enhance his game.”
What can you learn from last year’s matches against Charlotte for this game?
“There are a lot of changes, including the head coach, so you have to suspect that there’s been a different focus and thought process. However, there are still some very similar signs in the group,. When we played them at home last year, it was early on, and we took advantage of our home field and won two-nil. I have to say, the two away games were probably – aside the Toronto game when we lost away from home – two of the most disappointing displays that I’ve seen from our group. Now, that can sometimes be because of your opponent, and it can sometimes be because of your mindset. I felt that we didn’t attack the game anywhere near as vigorously as we should away have done from home on two occasions. They took six points off of us last year, which was in my mind, completely unacceptable. Now back at home again, we’ve seen some really really good signs out of the group. The games where we’ve fallen short, I think we’ve learned a lot from. The team and the players are in a good place, we have the opportunity to rotate whatever bodies we need to, we’ve got a very, very strong group, and we’ve also got players that are fully engaged and enthused, and obviously keen to impress at all opportunities. That in itself makes for a very good environment. As far as tomorrow’s game goes, I wouldn’t expect to see what I saw in Charlotte on two occasions.”
Does the team – especially you guys who didn’t feature in Wednesday’s game – have to switch mentalities between US Open Cup and regular-season games?
“Yes, I mean it’s a different tournament, so we have to have a different mindset. We’ll be prepared for Saturday. It’s a league game, and we will be prepared for the game.”
Do you feel fully part of the group by this point in the season?
I think 10 games. I’ve played a lot with my new team. I think I’ve adapted with my new teammates and we feel comfortable playing inside the field.
Has your quick start surprised you?
If I’m honest, I would take more goals, but yeah. My individual goal is always scoring goals. Before I came here or before every tournament or game, my goal is to score goals. First, help the team to achieve the three points, and then to score goals.
What do you remember about playing Charlotte last year?
Charlotte was the last game of my last season with North Carolina, and I scored two goals. That’s good [laughs]. One was a beautiful goal with a chip with my left foot. It’s a good, god feel for me. I have good memories. Also I think I played one of the first games [of the year] over there with Charlotte, and I also scored a goal, so I feel good.”
Are you ready to hit one of those left-footed chips this year?
“Yeah, I’m ready, I’m always ready. I’m ready to try it, you know. Obviously I want to score, so hopefully I can have a beautiful goal again.”
What has been Gary’s message in trying to capitalize on the momentum you’ve built?
“The message of the coach is that we need to stay focused. It’s not just about winning and losing: if we win, we are not the best, if we lose, we are not the worst. So stay focused and remain consistent.”