Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and defender Kosuke Kimura met with For Club and Country before their team’s roadtrips to Birmingham Legion and Indy Eleven this week. Watch or read what they had to say here.
Head coach Gary Smith
How did a film review affect your view of the Charlotte draw?
“Looking back it at, we spent some time looking at some of the first-half clips and trying to compare them to some of the work in the second period, the noticeable differences were that they sat slightly deeper, and maybe had taken stock of what had happened in the first half. I thought they were very aggressive in the way that they played in tat 3-5-2. That certainly had an impact. On the back of that, the guys that were instrumental for us in the first half just looked a little bit flat. Not quite as bright and as effective. It’s oin those stages that they’ve got to dig deep and they’ve got to find the right type of solution to the equation that’s thrown in front of us. It’s an ongoing process, and my hope is that, as we move through this season – certainly getting into the halfway point, which we’re not far from, we’ve got the answer to all the questions that are all thrown at us. Frustrations of course at the weekend, but there were lots and lots of things to be very encouraged by in the first half. I really think, looking back at it, that we missed the opportunity in the first half. We really should have given the very encouraging areas that we got in, and one or two really moments, should have taken advantage of it. We didn’t, and in the end, they certainly adapted and found a couple of moments themselves, as well.
Birmingham changed since preseason?
“Of course. They’ve had time to find a little bit of understanding; they’ve been around each other a little while now. It does look like there’s been some rotation of bodies. Maybe Tommy’s looking to find the right group and the right connections. They’ve got a few additions from that preseason period, and that’s to be expected. I think they were very early in their preparations when we played them, so I expect fully to see a team that, at home, are going to be right up for the game. I think the players they have play that field well. They’ve got some talented boys, some nice technicians. It’s a big and very decent surface there. Their mantra is to try and make the most of that, and of course ours will be to disrupt that as much as we can and really show some of the signs that we have over the last four or five weeks. Albeit maybe in spells, we’ve got to try and make that more consistent throughout the 90 minutes.”
Do you approach a shorter roadtrip differently than one that requires a flight?
“Nothing changes really in terms of how the team needs to adapt to an away game. The one big difference is that we can train this morning here at our own facility, and we get an extra morning to work after a weekend. If it was a flight, it might be a bit tougher to do some of the stuff we have this morning. To be perfectly honest, when you’ve hot so many games, it’s really about making sure the guys are recovering well, that they’re getting enough work to keep them stimulated and lively, and their bodies are active rather than too much rest, when they can get a bit lethargic. Not enough, and of course on the matchday you tend to find that they’re running out of gas pretty quickly. So I think we’re getting it just about right, and there’s enough bodies to be bringing into the group and keeping it fresh, so we’re in a pretty good place.”
What is Cameron Lancaster’s recovery status for the next couple games?
“He won’t be with us for this game. Maybe at the weekend – might be a push – but my hope is we get through Wednesday, we’ve got a very quick turnaround again, so it’ll be touch and go for Cameron at the weekend. Fingers crossed that we can have him involved. We’ve limited training time in between – it’s hard to get him out and get that work done. We’ll have to see.”
What have you seen change in Indy since your preseason match in Evansville?
“They’re in a really good spot in the league. I think they’ve shown all of the credentials that you might expect. Very difficult side to play against. A lot of experience. That 3-4-3 shape I think has served them well, and their home field is not the easiest place, and not the best suyrface to go and play on. It won’t be the first time I’ll be saying that – or the last time – so it takes a certain mentality on the road anyway for all teams. We’ve got four on the spin again. We’re fortunate to have a home Cup game in between, but four league games are not going to be easy. We’ve got to adapt to that: I’ve got to make sure the right players are going out to get the job done, but I stick by my assessment of Indy with their recruitment. They’re going to be the team to beat. Maybe Tampa are showing some serious credentials in that manner and aspect, but I still think Indy won’t be far away from being in that certainly top two spots. The game will be tough, like all games. We certainly need to, ourselves, keep a reasonable run going, and show some more consistency. That’s really our main focus.”
Is it too early in the season to view the Indy game as a six-pointer near the top of the table?
“I think so. You see the way that the games are unfolding. There is so much parity in the league. The teams that are just starting to edge a little bit – Tampa are obviously on an unbeaten run, New York have been on a really good run themselves, but I think they’ve had a lot of home games, so we’ll have to see how they adapt to their away games – but aside that, you’ve got a lot of competitive groups capable of winning on any given day. It really is about staying the distance, sticking to what you’re about and the identity of the group, and making sure that the squad stays healthy, you stay sharp and you stay ready. No occasion’s more so than the run we’re in now.
Did you see tweaks you can make from Saturday’s game to improve going forward?
“Definitely. I don’t want to say too much, but I think we’ve fatigued a bit playing all the games, and we haven’t been training in the heat. In the mornings when we train there’s still a breeze and all that, it’s still heating up, so I think we are not accustomed to the heat and humidity. I think I can say that, but we’re going to get used to it. In the end, any teams you play, if they have five in the back, it’s not easy. It’s not as easy as if you just take one-v-one and just dribble somebody and pass by everybody. Maybe we are a little faster than them, but it’s not like we’re way faster. It’s still adult sports and everybody’s a decent athlete and all that. To cancel that and be more effective, we have to be more constructive. How we carry the ball has to be more plan to it. We have to keep practicing, but at the same time, we have so many games this month, and we don’t have much time to train. Obviously we’ve got to keep working on it. It’s just an ongoing process the entire season. We’ve got to keep building, and building, and building. We watch the videos and Gary explains to everybody what kind of option we should have when we play against five. He was talking about a little bit: when we get in the moment, we don’t have many people committing to the dangerous area. Which we need to have more, especially if they have three in the back in the middle, three centerbacks, big guys. We can keep crossing the ball, but at the same time we need the numbers in the middle. If something happens, if the ball pops out or something, even if they win it, that second ball we can get and we can score from it. Keep asking questions: I think we didn’t do enough of that. But at the same time, I said it’s not just a cross, it’s about combination play, knowing where your player’s going to be. We need to practice that more against five in the back. Just like I said: everyone struggles against that formation; it’s not easy. So definitely we’ll keep working on it.
Can the heat become an advantage as a Southern team once you’re adapted to it?
“Yeah, but at the same time, you play against Atlanta, you play against North Carolina, Charleston, Tampa – everybody’s coming from humidity. Wee’ve just got to get used to it right away. We’ve got to get used to it soon – I think there’s no problem with that – it’s just time. At the same time, it’s mental, as well: of course they’re going to be hot too, but can you get more, squeeze out something. As long as we get used to it right away, I think we can take advantage of that.”
What do you remember from the preseason game against Birmingham?
“They are a brand new team, just like we were last year. They’ve got some decent players from MLS – that used to play there – and they have experienced coaches on the staff and at GM and all that. I’m pretty sure they worked hard to get some decent players. They can pass the ball, they can move the ball, but at the same time, I think we can unlock them being more positive going forward, one-v-ones, I think we have more athleticism and we can break that down. I think we showed that in the preseason. I think we were more committed in the transition. I think if we can catch them on the counter-attack.”
Do they have a similar trajectory to you last year, where they’re a new team coming together and they get more comfortable as the year goes along?
“It’s not easy: you try to figure it out. We’ve been scouting their team and I saw they’ve changed formation, and then the lineup. They had one of their defensive midfielders, he got a red card last game, and they’ve got to change that out as well. All sorts of things come into play. Always, it’s not easy coming in as a first-year team – even though they have good players – it’s all about chemistry within a group.”
What have you seen out of Indy so far, and is this a team that you want to show doesn’t have your number after two losses last year?
“Definitely they have an experienced group. They have players that they added this year from Cincy who can play – I know them personally. Their coach is experienced, and they’ve been playing a certain formation for a while now this season. I think it suits them better with the players they have, and even with the field they have, a narrow field on turf, and it’s going to be difficult just like we had against Pittsburgh. We know that already going there: it’s a battle, mental, one-v-one battles everywhere. At the same time, I do think we have enough players to compete and match their intensity. When it comes down to it, it’s going to be individual moments, can you make it.”