Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and two of his players met the media after a 2-0 win over Indy Eleven. Watch and read their comments here.
“I always suspected it would be a very tough and difficult evening, and it proved to be that way. I’ve just said to the guys in there, if you want to beat the best teams and you want to be in a position to fight for silverware at the top of any table, then you’ve got to be able to create against a good, stout, and a very well-organized team. Somehow you’ve got to find a way for your most creative players to get in the game, and I felt we did that in the first period especially. And then, you’ve also got to hav the fortitude to prevent their more creative players – and they have plenty of them – from having an effect on the game, and I felt we did that in the second period when they started to get a little bit more of a stranglehold on the game.
“The two different shapes in the way we both played was always going to be a bit of a game of cat-and-mouse. I felt in the first half, we edged it, and our shape dictated. And I felt they dictated to us in the second half a little bit more, whether that was because there was something to hold onto – maybe one or two of the players had put an awful lot into that first period and just lot a bit of an edge. But either way, we showed all of the qualities necessary to not just win it, but to win it in a reasonably emphatic way.”
What did you see on Daniel’s 1-2 with Michael Reed for the opening goal?
“The first period as a whole, I felt offered some very good moments. There were some good interactions between Lebo and Alan – really the front four. There was a nice edge to it, there was a change of pace, there was some disguise, and I honestly thought that we did a very good job of pinning their wingbacks a bit deeper, and allowing Lebo to get into some more dangerous areas to link up. For both teams, when the ball is turned over and they could counter – we were no different – when we could counter with a little more pace and positivity, there were more gaps that were shown, and it was difficult for them to recover. And the goal came out of that. The one thing I would say about the goal, is it would have been easy for Michael to have had a touch when the ball went wide. The fact that he actually played it in first-time didn’t allow the defenders to recover. Fine lines: it was an excellent choice, brilliant execution, and a nice way to go in front and put ourselves in a good position.”
How did you evaluate your two new centerbacks in the game?
“I thought both of them were immense in that middle part of the field. There’s many different ways of obviously having players in there, and types of players that you can have. I think we’ve got some terrific defenders here, full-stop. But these two guys, I believe, bring more out of others. They have a presence, they’re ready to carry others on their shoulder when things are difficult, and it gives confidence to players in front of them. It’s a quality you can’t measure. At a professional level, you want more of those types of players than less. There are plenty of players that can show what they’re about, but they need others around them to lift them. These guys lift the group, and they did that tonight.”
Fan support, etc.
“Fabulous. I mean, it’s a wonderful stadium. To see the fans come out the way they have and support the group, I actually thought the atmosphere was terrific. There was, I think I said at the very outset of the group coming together some 18 months ago, this is a reciprocal relationship. We have to perform, and then I think the fans are in good enough voice to get behind us and give us that extra bit of momentum. There’s a wonderful relationship between the group and the fans. I think you’ve seen that again tonight.”
What did you see from Ken Tribbett on his return, and at a slightly different position than he’d played for you previously?
“Ken’s a top professional. He’s played in midfield before, and it’s really not – I say it’s not a midfield role; it is and it isn’t. They’d changed their shape slightly, we’d – I just felt – lost a little bit of edge in our play, and I’d asked him really to be a front screen, and if he needed to drop into the backline and make up the three – they were throwing caution to the wind a little bit, the last thing we needed was just extra numbers being a problem for us – and he’s an intelligent guy. He might be strong, he might be aggressive, but he’s got some quality about his play and he’s intelligent He picks up good areas, and again I think he lifts others when he’s on the field. He’s got that persona about him, he’s very vocal, he guides players well, and I know for sure if I was out there in front of him in that midfield and he comes onto the field, I’d be inspired by it. And that really was part of the move.”
What does a win against Indy do for the rest of the season?
“I mean, the win’s important, full-stop. Against your close competitors, it becomes even more important. You throw into the equation that the top two teams have played a couple more games than us now, and that gap is certainly one we’ve got to re-up. This is a very, very important statement: not just three points, the style of the victory, to win here at Nissan as well. I was told on the way in here and reminded, that’s three clean sheets we have here – long may that continue, by the way – two clean sheets on the spin in the league, and it’s the first time we’ve scored goals here, as well. I have to say, the field itself was immaculate, the support I’ve already spoken about, the guys raised their game today.
“There’s always that concern, you’re never quite sure emotionally how people will deal with a big occasion – and it is a big occasion coming here, it’s very different to the normal home games we play – and there’s an attachment to MLS. As much as you might want to say, ‘well it’s a USL game,’ we’re playing here next year. Those guys that are on the field, no doubt in the back of their mind, saw this as a bit of a dress rehearsal, and that can affect people in different ways. You can focus and be strong and go and attack the game and get the most out of it, or you can end up being a bit of a shrinking violet, and the game passes you by. I have to say, from the very outset, the players showed the mentality that was necessary to win the game. We were never going to outplay this team for 90 minutes. I felt there were some great portions of play, I saw wonderful creation, some terrific individual displays, and when we needed to, as I’ve said, we showed the type of unity, determination, and overall structure that’s necessary to do well at the top of any division.”
Martin Rennie was sent off at halftime with no explanation. Did you see what happened there?
“No idea. Just glad it’s not me.”
Ken Tribbett and Alan Winn
Alan, what did you see on your goal?
Winn: “That’s just it: I saw a great throughball from Michael Reed. He gave the ball to Lebo in a great pocket, and I was out on the wing. I was waiting for my time out there, because I knew Lebo was going to look up to see where I was. There was a lot of space in behind, and he played a wonderful ball through, and from there, it’s my job to do what I do and score. So it was really very fun.”
How did it feel to be back on the field after almost two months out?
Tribbett: “It’s wonderful. I mean, this is what we live to do. Being able to get back on the field and help the team get a shutout – back-to-back shutouts for our team – so it’s important.”
What was your take on the Nissan Stadium atmosphere and attendance?
Winn: “I mean it’s exciting. Playing in a crowd like that, you get hyped up a little bit more, regardless of what you think. Obviously, if there’s four people or there’s 13,000, you want to have the same mentality. But it does give a little motivation, and it’s crazy to see how Nashville’s grown, and how committed they are to soccer in these past two years. We’re trying out and hoping to make it, because it’s a beautiful thing to see.”
How does it feel to grab that first win (and player of the game) at Nissan Stadium?
Winn: “It’s just good to get a win, to be honest. Whether it was Nissan or First Tennessee, it’s still a league play game. Especially against Indy, they’re in the top half of the table, so we need as many points as possible. Like I said, regardless of if it’s at Nissan, or it’s away, or it’s at First Tennessee, it’s great to get a win.”
You and Kharlton Belmar switched wings, what went into that flip?
Winn: “I think we were transitioning in from a corner kick, and he made a great defensive play and ran, and he covered for me. He said, ‘hey, just stay out there, don’t run your legs out.’ I was like, ‘yeah, sure, we’ll just switch.’ We’re very interchangeable, we can play right or left, and it was a good thing I switch to the right, because that’s where I got my goal. It all worked out in the end.”
Ken, you played ahead of the backline as a midfielder, how was that transition?
Tribbett: “It’s a little bit of a different role for me on this team, but it’s something I’ve done before: all through my college career and youth career, I played the six before. Even professionally, I’ve played a number of games at that position. The coach knew that, and he just slotted me in to kind of help protect the backline, and we were able to get the shutout.”
Do you feel the importance of the win a bit more when it’s against a team ahead of you in the table?
Tribbett: “It’s very important, especially – we count every point. We’re coming down, not quite down the stretch, but we’re over halfway through now. We’re playing catch-up to some teams, and we want to get in that top position: top one or two. So to be able to win tonight and catch them a little bit was very important.”