Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and two of his players met with the media this afternoon in advance of their team’s US Open Cup match against Charleston Battery. Watch or read what they had to say here.
Head coach Gary Smith
Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to fixture congestion, and finally a chance to fully recover after the game?
“I think everyone will be pleased. I think I’ve probably said it before: when you’re in a decent run, which we are, you tend to look forward to the games more. The body recovers a little bit easier and you’ve certainly got a little bit more appetite, and you look forward to it. When you’re not in a very good run, and maybe on the receiving end of a couple poor results, the next game can be a bit problematic. So we’re in a very good place. I feel a lot of confidence in the group. I think being able to rotate the group as well las we have been able to this year has kept a very strong and united roster. Players have got great camaraderie. I think everyone’s just looking forward to it. They know that there’s a wonderful chance of maybe getting an MLS club in the next round, and that is the beauty of the Cup.”
Do you have to switch mindsets going from regular-season to Cup play?
“It’s a slightly different mindset, but I think the guys understand and appreciate that. Some of the things that I might do from the line – whereas we were away in Indy, as an example, at the weekend – and after 75 minutes of tough, physical activity and maybe having missed one or two opportunities, I felt it was important that we came away with something, rather than nothing. Whereas tomorrow, it is either something or nothing: you’re either in or you’re out. So somebody’s gotta step forward into the next round. What we’re grateful for is that we’re at home. We haven’t got to travel in this tough schedule. Of course, we’ll have a much better insight into the field and the surroundings than they will. That has to be a bonus.”
Playing an MLS club a distraction for Round 3?
Well it should be an inspiration. It should be something that excites them, offers a massive opportunity – not just for them to really test themselves against a top-level side, but to also show what they’re about. That’s really what this season’s about for all of these guys, and there will be no better opportunity than to play an MLS team, and pick your wits against your opposing number. They know that: I don’t have to present any sort of picture for them. They’re fully aware that they’re at home, they’re against a side that we certainly need to show our true colors against, having been beaten in their place, with the opportunity of playing a really good side in the next round?”
Do you take a revenge factor into account after the 3-1 loss in Charleston?
“‘Revenge’ is always a very strong word. I do certainly feel as though we weren’t able to show through their play and maybe through some of ours – what we are about. I think there’ve been a lot of lessons learned, probably for both teams since then. But it’s certainly a game that I’d like to correct, if that’s the right way of putting it.”
Do you have to bring up that 3-1 result to them over the past couple days?
“No, again, they don’t need reminding that it’s been one of three defeats, and the most-difficult defeat. I would imagine that just about everyone in the team is keen to set that record straight. I believe that if you talk too negatively about any situation or group, then you tend to find that negativity comes out. That the way we’ve prepared is very positive. We’re playing well, we’re in a good mental and physical place. The players are bright, sharp, and lively. Looking forward to it because of the rotation in the group, and the side that goes out there will be more than capable of getting us in the next round.”
Was some of the rotation against Indy done with an eye toward having the best available personnel a little more rested for the cup game?
“I want to win every game, and I do think I’ve got a group that should be able to do that. We’re obviously not going to, but there’s no reason to be thinking that any eleven that goes out on the field is not capable of beating an opponent in USL. We have a very good squad. The way that the side set up at the weekend meant that there were certain individuals that probably weren’t going to get in that group anyway, because we played with three centerbacks and wingbacks: the wide players were pretty much on the outside looking in on that one. They probably needed a rest as well. I’ll keep my cards close to my chest about tomorrow night, but I’ve always felt that the back three that Charleston played is a difficult one to play against. It does present something very unique in a game, with wingbacks. We suffered at their place because of it: if I remember rightly, their left wingback scored the opener. So we’ll certainly be better prepared for that, and hopefully we can take advantage of whatever comes our way.”
Does having a game in the books against Charleston make them easier to prepare for versus watching them on film to see what they do?
“I think so, yeah. The big difference will be that they’re not on their home soil:” they do play their home field very well. They’ve got a great record there not just this year or last, but going back a while, it’s a very tough place to go. I think most teams have to try and adapt when they go away. It’s not easy; there’s a lot of things that impact the group when you travel. But yeah, certainly I think running into that group individually, my players will appreciate what their group are about a little bit more, they’ve been reminded of some players that they probably competed against last year. They’ve been able to see how tough they are: this is not an easy game, no two ways about it. I don’t expect there to be a lot in it, but what I do expect is that whatever there is in it comes our way.”
Striker Daniel Ríos
Do you have to change mindsets in a win-or-go-home game?
“We know how to play the Cup. Our mindset is winning the game tomorrow: go out and win the game.”
How do you go about doing that?
“We’ve prepared again today, our mindset is ready, so we know we will win the game.”
Are you anxious to get back against Charleston after the previous loss to them?
“Yes, we are ready. It is an Open Cup, we want to win this game. We know how Charleston play, so we are ready for the game.”
What do you remember most from the previous game?
“It was a tough day for the group. We didn’t perform the way we need to, but tomorrow will be a new game, a new rematch for us. Hopefully we will win the game.”
Your team’s scoring output hasn’t maintained the high level it was at early in the year, what needs to happen to get back to that form?
“I think it’s the first minutes. The first 10 minutes we will try to score goals. One, two goals, and then we can manage the game, and try to score more goals. I think the first 10 minutes are important in the game.”
How do you stay level-headed when a scoring drought hits?
“I mean, we are pros, so we are used to having these types of games. It’s about mental control, try to deal with it. Focus on knowing what you have to do inside of you.”
What makes the three-back so difficult to score against and how do you solve it?
“That line of three makes defensively a line of five, with two or three midfielders, so it’s hard to break that defensive shape. That’s why it’s sometimes hard for us to score against that type of shape.”
With the heavy run of games coming to a close, do you enjoy getting back in action that quickly each time?
“It has been busy weeks with a lot of games. But the team is ready. We are ready physically and mentally to play the best way we can tomorrow.”
Are you ready to get some of that rest though?
“Yes of course. It will be good for us having some rest after this.”
Defender Ken Tribbett
Does this long run of tight games back-to-back make you excited for a chance to rest a little bit after tomorrow’s game?
“I mean, it’s important to recover, to get the body right. We actually have a lot of services here that we use: cryo, we’ve got lots of massage things that we use. We’re able to recover well, but it’s nice: there’s nothing like time. Time always is much-needed at this point.”
How do you switch gears from regular-season play to knockout cup play?
“Open Cup, it’s more fun I guess, in a sense, that it’s survive and advance in a way. We’re gonna go out and we’ve got to perform. If it takes 90 minutes, perfect. If we go to overtime or penalties, we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do. So survive and advance.”
Is the opportunity to face an MLS team something that give you guys a little extra juice going into the Charleston match?
“That’s the goal. We’re all obviously, all of us personally want to get to in our careers. With this club going there next year, it’s just a chance for us to show that we belong there.”
What would the opportunity be like to play an MLS team?
“I mean, it’s a chance for all of us to prove ourselves individually. A couple guys are signed already for next year, but a lot of us aren’t, so it’s a chance to showcase ourselves and try to get ourselves on the team next year.”
What do you remember watching the previous Charleston game as an unused sub?
“I mean, they were very sound defensively. It was at their home, so I think they’ll play a little bit differently now that it’s at their place. We’ve just gotta go out and so what we do, and continue our run of good form.”