Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and two of his players met with the media after their team’s 1-1 draw against the Charlotte Independence. Watch or read what they had to say here.
Coach Gary Smith
“I was actually delighted with the first half. I thought we looked very bright, got ourselves into some extremely encouraging areas. Two wide players [Kharlton Belmar and Alan Winn] really forced the game and caused problems. The goal that they scored, I think, was the first sight of goal that they had, certainly more to be done in the buildup to that, but the reaction, I felt, was very good. We got ourselves back on level terms quickly, and in all honesty, I felt we should have made more of the first period. Final ball, final choice, you know, the areas that we got into were extremely encouraging, and as history will tell us now, the first half passed us by; we didn’t make enough of it. The second half was just not at the same sort of level: there was a lack of sharpness, there was a lack of real passion about the lads’ play. I don’t know whether that’s a bit of fatigue in certain areas – it’s quite possible – but the expectation for the group, all of us in that locker room, believe that we should certainly be making more of the second period, and there were just too many times that we allowed them to get off of the hook and to relieve the pressure without really asking a question. That I felt was the biggest problem. Some good opportunities, some good areas, some good moments, but just not enough quality in vital moments.”
Were the winger substitutions fatigue-related, matchup-related?
“It’s a big dimension to the group, as you saw in the first period. I thought Alan was terrific in the first half. He was very bright, likewise Kharlton. Got in some very good areas, was involved in the goal, and the second period, both of those guys for one reason or another were nowhere near as productive. I felt Ropapa [Mensah] might be able to give us something on the left-hand side. I looked at their group and the midfield players I didn’t feel were doing anywhere near a good enough job to get across and to stop the wide players coming inside. Unfortunately, because of that lack of balance on the left, he ended up staying inside a little bit too long, but what he gave us was another attacking option and he certainly came into the game with a real bright and purposeful attitude, which I felt we were lacking in the second half. We just didn’t come out of the locker room with the same sort of mentality as we’d finish the game. That has to be down to attitude and maybe a little bit of fatigue, as I said. Some bodies that – for the most part, those guys have had a rest in the week, though – I would expect that they’re able to maintain the sort of level and pressure that we’d seen in the first period, but we have to give Charlotte some credit: I thought they managed the ball much better in the second period, and they always had a little bit of a threat with the front lads who were very bright and pacey. So that’s always in the back of everyone’s mind, and to be perfectly honest though, we should be taking care of business here and that’s the biggest disappointment: that we just didn’t ask enough questions in that second half.”
Is there consolation in coming back from a losing position to at least get the one point, or is it overshadowed by the disappointment of being unable to find a winner?
“I honestly felt, having got back on level terms that quickly, that this would be the moment. There were really encouraging signs. When you think about some of the opportunities and the positive play that we saw in the first period, there’s no reason to believe that this shouldn’t be the day that we’re going to recover and win a game from a goal down. It just didn’t work out that way in the second half. We’re still searching for that moment. I don’t think it’s for a lack of effort. There’s never any question: I’ve mentioned that before. The foundation of the group is based on good attitude, great effort, and lots of determination. The thing that’s let us down this evening is a second period that, in the most part, looked a bit flat, and lacking the ideas that we saw in the first half. There were some really nice dimensions to our play, some good give-and-go’s, some nice third-man runs, some great individualism. In the second period, that deserted our play. There’s no reason for me to believe other than guys lost a bit of focus, maybe just got lulled into a false sense of security with some good territorial possession. But possession doesn’t equate to points. You’ve got to make something of it.”
Did Charlotte’s gameplan change to make things more difficult in the second half?
“Listen, they made one change. The lad [Hugh] Roberts that came on the right-sided center back, I can only imagine that the lad [Hassan] Ndam was either injured or the manager was unhappy with his performance. That’s normally the two reasons. We’d had a lot of joy down that left hand side, did that make a difference to us being as tepid as we were in the second half? I can’t believe that one player, maybe the manager was able to look at one or two areas of their performance and stick a little bit of a flea in their ear about their first half display, and they came out looking slightly brighter. In fairness, if they hadn’t, then they may well have fallen foul, so credit to them, but the game at home is really about us. We have to force the issue: it’s down to us to make things happen and ask questions and constantly put an opposing backline under pressure. I did honestly think in the first half when we were able to ask questions, good crosses, balls served into areas or played in behind for third-man runs, I didn’t think they dealt with it great. Against teams that have conceded goals – and they have – and against teams like Charlotte who haven’t been in good form, you’ve got to keep asking questions. Because the more questions you ask, the likelier it is, the more chance you’ve got of them not being able to find the right answer. And we didn’t do it in the second half. Simple as that, we didn’t do it.”
Is there a common thread to good starts that see the team fade a bit in the middle of the game?
“Well actually we didn’t get off to a good start, did we? Because we went one down. Over the last four or five games, I think a feature has been that we’ve looked very purposeful in those opening exchanges. There’s been a much better format to our play. It’s the first time, I believe, we’ve conceded in that opening period for a good while. I don’t have the answers or the reasons why the guys looked a little bit flat in the second period. I thought the recovery was good, as I’ve said. I honestly felt that the first half performance was as bright as we’ve seen. It certainly was as exciting as we’ve seen. Did we get enough clear sights of goal? It was probably down to poor choices and poor execution than anything else. The second half was completely different.”
Was Lebo Moloto’s goal (rebound, offside) just like you drew it up?
“I’m really pleased that we were able to get ourselves back in the game quickly. I had certainly felt as though our play deserved to be at least on level terms. The one thing that is a tad disturbing for me, as I sit here and I have to be careful about the way that I talk about defending because too many people are critical that my style is just about defending – which, everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course. I am concerned that teams are not making bundles of chances against us. In the first real clear-cut moment that Charlotte have, they score. That’s disappointing. We have to hold ourselves to better standards than that. If you’re not under serious pressure as a backline, or as a defensive group, we have to deal with those moments in a far better fashion. Today, one goal would have been good enough to beat Charlotte. I know there were a couple of maybe hairy scary moments in that second period where they broke well, but the reality is they didn’t actually threaten our goal to any serious degree. To concede in the fashion that we did at that point, that’s another disappointing area for me. Don’t tell too many people though, because they’ll be picking it up in the press that’s all I’m worried about.”
Defenders Justin Davis and Darnell King
Gary just talked about how your backline doesn’t give up a ton of chances, but it seems opponents have had one big chance with too much frequency. How can you fix that?
Davis: “I think they’re taking advantage of that chance: the game against Tampa and then in this one as well. I think we’ve just got to be a little bit smarter. I think when we’re not leading, we start pushing a little bit and leave ourselves a little exposed back there, and it’s pretty obvious with the chance they had at the end. Just realizing that if it’s not
going your way, just don’t go so all out where you’re going to leave yourself exposed back there.”
You got off to a good start, how can you keep the momentum going for 90 minutes?
Davis: “Our start was all right. I don’t think we were great: I think we were a little loose with some of our touches, so it wasn’t as clean as we needed it to be. I think when you look at the Sporting game – Swope Park – we put them away in 20 minutes, and we need to start doing that with teams here and not even giving them a chance because against the run of play, anything can happen, like tonight. I was really proud of the effort to get right back in it right away and we just… our final ball really wasn’t there tonight. That happens, but we’ve just got to clean that up and we’ll be okay.
King: “I think it’s important to get the second goal right away and just put your foot on their throat because it really puts a different perspective on the game especially for the other team: they start doing things out of character for themselves, and they leave
themselves exposed a ton. I think just based off of what he said, just kill the game in that aspect.”
This was the first we’ve seen of you as an offensive winger for this team. How did that work out for you?
King: “I played there in my early career, so in my head, I’ve never lost it. It felt somewhat natural. Obviously, like you said, I’ve been playing right back for a while now, but my job was to come in and just attack as much as I could: just get behind the defense and try and create something. That’s what your job is when you come of the bench that late in the game and it’s a 1-1 tie, you hope to kind of get something. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, but yeah I felt fine in that position tonight.
What did you see on your headed chance that was the only shot on goal in the second half?
Davis: “I just tried to get something on it. I think Tucker [Hume] was up there at the time so you’d bet on him to win it, but it just kind of went over his head and landed there. I thought I did everything I could, kept it down, kept it back across the face and probably a foot or more to the outside and it goes in, so it’s just kind of unfortunate. It was a great ball by Matt [LaGrassa]. Kind of at that point in the game, we were just trying to get stuff in there and see what can happen.”
You led the team with five chances created. What went into your involvement on offense?
Davis: “The way they set up against our formation just kind of led to that space being out there for me, and I found myself in some good spots. I’m pretty upset with the quality of my service. Even though it created some chances, I think I’ve got to be better and give Danny [Ríos] some better service in there because he’ll put ’em away if he gets a sniff at it. I don’t know what the percentage was, but I’ve got to be 75 percent accuracy on those, and I wasn’t there tonight.”