INDIANAPOLIS – Neither team seemed too interested in risking a defensive breakdown to muster a whole lot of offense, and Nashville SC played Indy Eleven to a draw in Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday evening.
The Boys in Gold possessed only 37.4% of the ball as both teams operated in defense-first formations, and each had only a couple legitimate scoring opportunities. Visiting one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, there’s no shame in earning a draw, and Nashville remains No. 2 in the table by picking up a point.
“I thought the team conducted themselves in a wonderful fashion,” Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith said. “This is a very, very difficult place to come and play. I don’t think the surface or the environment lends itself to great soccer. They’re a very good side, and I would hazard to guess that their form here is going to be pretty good all year. We did a terrific job in the first half of being a decent enough threat and had one excellent chance with Tucker [Hume] and two really good set piece opportunities that we were unable to convert. All in all, I think that the overall attitude of the players, the rotation of guys that came in and just pick up the bat straight away and slot in, it was seamless. The guys performed to a wonderful level.”
NSC played with a back three and a rotated lineup – Ropapa Mensah and Derrick Jones earned their first respective starts of the year, while Tucker Hume also picked up his first in seven games.
While the combinations up front especially had some nice moments, but Mensah and Hume couldn’t quite beat the last man or find that special moment to create a goal on the counter-attack. The attack mustered just two shots on-target, but the defense kept Indy to only three of their own despite the possession advantage. Both keepers kept their nets clean, and the sides split the points.
“I thought we battled extremely well,” defender Taylor Washington said. “There’s a reason why these guys are unbeaten at home. A great defensive showing from us, I think some of the only shots they had on target were from long range. So proud of the boys, especially after so many games we’ve had back-to-back.”
The plan was clearly to concede possession, while being defensively stout enough to prevent Indy from scoring on the counter. Meanwhile, Nashville played Hume and Mensah as counter-attackers (Mensah was often withdrawn as a winger, with Lebo Moloto on the other side) to try to nick a winner of their own.
“I’ve been out of the team for a few games and stuff, but that’s just kind of what we have going here,” he said. “A lot of guys can step in at any moment and play. Having depth like that is nice, and it’s going to be important in these hot summer months, especially with the Open Cup games going as well.”
The US Open Cup factor is not an insignificant one: the Boys in Gold will wrap up a stretch of eight games in 26 days Wednesday with their second game in the competition. After beating USL League Two side South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 in the opener two weeks ago, Nashville will have an opportunity for its first revenge game of the year when Charleston Battery comes to Dean Hayes Stadium in Murfreesboro for the game.
The Battery beat NSC in Charleston in USL play April 20, and will travel to Nashville for a league game Aug. 24. The 7:30 p.m. US Open Cup game Wednesday will set the stage for the teams’ 2019 battle.