Since last night’s game will be re-played, no extensive coverage of it – though there’s a chance I want to Film Room some stuff after a re-watch of the first half – so it’s back to the grind of writing about Ottawa. Don’t forget to submit your votes for the community player ratings.
On the offensive
Nashville SC was not the team controlling the ball in the first half (though they had plenty of dangerous chances and Ottawa’s lone goal came against the run of play), with only 41.8% of possession before the break. They flipped the script in a major way coming out of the locker room, dominant enough to actually end up with the majority (51.7%) for the whole game.
More importantly, look where the possession shifted to. It was played mostly in midfield in the first half, slightly on Nashville’s side but nothing significant in terms of dangerous scoring positions. In the second, the game was played entirely on Ottawa’s side of the field, and generally pretty close to their goal:
Nashville attacking left-to-right
That’s a totally different game. In part, Nashville was relying on the counter to create scoring chances in the first half (long diagonal balls to Ropapa Mensah, especially), whereas they spent much of the second half at even game-states or with a deficit: meaning they couldn’t rely on Ottawa to be stretched out, opening up those counter opportunities.
By the time Ottawa leveled the score with just over 10 minutes to play, the Fury were content to leave with a draw, forcing Nashville to be more methodical working the ball up the field.
The shift didn’t change much about Nashville’s offensive production, but it did allow them to be more defensively effective (which only adds to the frustration that one second-half Ottawa goal was a worldie by Christiano François and the other was inexcusably poor defense by a unit that sort of fell asleep without much to do in the second half).
that’s 10 in the first half and nine in the second for Nashville, and 11 in the first half but just four in the second for Ottawa. Volume of shots is – quite obviously – not what wins you games, but it’s pretty easy to see how this one happened and consider it a bit of an anomaly or a bad beat, to borrow a gambling term.
Concentration for Ottawa
It’s also worth noting that the Fury’s shots all came from similar areas. Here’s the full-game shot-chart for the Canadian side:
A lot outside the box (good for NSC, obviously), but strongly biased toward the offense’s right side, too. Other than Fall’s goal (the blue-circled No. 5), which came on a cut from left to right, almost everything they did came over yonder.
Is that a fear of Kosuke Kimura and Darnell King as opposed to Justin Davis and Taylor Washington? Is it something inherent to Ottawa’s style? Perhaps a bit of both (especially since former forward Carl Haworth is playing right back), but it’s worth noting that left winger Kévin Oliveira took all three of his shots from the right side, too. There was a focus – whether intentional or not – on shooting from that side of the goal.
I’m having a hard time sussing out of the stats whether there was much tangible difference between Liam Doyle and Bradley Bourgeois. While the former had far more defensive involvement, that’s probably also because of the shift in strategy for both teams that saw Ottawa possess less overall in the second half (and therefore fewer opportunities, particularly in the defensive end, to make any of those plays).
That’s seven defensive involvements for Doyle, and just one for Bourgeois in the entire second half. A less involved style of play, or less work available to find out there?
Ottawa had 11 passes intended for a recipient inside the box (three of which were corner kicks) in the first half, completing three of them. They had just six in the second half, completing only two of them. Additionally, they had a ton less of the ball near the top of Nashville SC’s penalty area, whether passing into “Zone 14” or passing from that key area just outside the center of the box.
It’s hard to say whether any difference between what the centerbacks did statistically – at least on defense – came from the shifting flow of the game, the individuals’ performances, or something else.
Bourgeois was better in possession, but again, there’s a stylistic difference there: Nashville was playing a more possession-oriented game (and maybe his short passing ability is part of what allowed that in comparison to Doyle) in the second half, with only one long pass attempted from the Texan versus nearly a third of those from the foot of the Manx intended for recipients farther away – Bourgeois also only had three passes going forward rather than side-to-side, whereas about (I have to estimate because Opta doesn’t break that down on an individual-game basis) seven of Doyle’s were.
Largely, I don’t quite know if the stats explain (or are explained by) what Gary Smith called a “purely tactical” decision to make that sub. Certainly Bourgeois is a little fleeter of foot, and it’s possible his positioning defensively made it so that Ottawa didn’t even test him.
Either way, there were basically two different games here.