Nashville SC managed to boss the first half against Indy Eleven before sitting back and absorbing pressure after the break. How did the back-breaker happen?
Nashville SC has a 1-0 lead on a nice give-and-go play between Daniel Ríos and Michael Reed in the 24th minute. The Boys in Gold have also dominated much of the possession in the contest (and certainly the meaningful possession, with Indy’s only shots coming on the counter, and only one of them bothering Matt Pickens).
We reach the 41st minute, and Nashville SC has a throw-in just over midfield along the left sideline.
LB Taylor Washington looks for targets in the offensive zone, and not finding any, goes with a long throw back to centerback Forrest Lasso.
Lasso moves the ball forward to central midfielder Michael Reed. Reed carries backward between his centerbacks, pulling forward Thomas Enevoldsen with him. He cuts back to find a lane to move the ball forward to Lebo Moloto, who traps, and barely hesitates before sending it up the right wing to Alan Winn.
Winn runs onto the ball behind left wingback Ayoze, cuts across middle centerback Mitchell Osmond to get the ball on his left foot, and buries it near-post to give Nashville SC the 2-0 lead.
The Boys in Gold would go on to comfortably win the game by that margin, with only a couple serious opportunities for Indy to pressure their goal by the time the whistle sounded to end the contest.
Why it happened
Reed’s touch is very important to the play. It may not be intentional to play the ball backward (it wouldn’t be out-of-character to take a slightly heavy touch inadvertently), but it forces all three members of Indy’s front line to step forward. An Eleven team that was hoping to play relatively conservatively and absorb Nashville’s pressure coming into its own end suddenly gets its lines stretched.
When Enevoldsen puts in minimal (a word here meaning “no”) effort to prevent Reed from getting his head up and finding a recipient for the pass. Since the lines are already stretched, and central defensive midfielder Kenney Walker is the living embodiment of this emoji 😧, doing absolutely nothing defensively, left centerback Neveal Hackshaw is forced to step to Moloto.
Hackshaw doesn’t close him down quickly (he’s used to defending in a very different context, particularly in this team, that values sitting back and preventing goals by packing the box – man-marking three yards away from the midfield line is not something he’s done in a while), so Moloto has time to take a touch and bang the ball up the wing to Winn.
Moloto knows what’s going to happen, so he doesn’t need to hesitate on the ball: Winn is going to get behind offensive-minded wingback Ayoze García Pérez, and from there, it’s just the individual talent of Winn to beat the final defender and finish.
That he has a couple really good passing options (Kharlton Belmar and Reed) in the box – that he ultimately doesn’t take – speaks further to the way Reed and Moloto’s line-breaking passes created massive openings.
Pressing is hard, and that’s why not a lot of teams in the USL want to do it. Indy wasn’t trying to, but Nashville’s ability to play quickly through the middle (and an individual mistake from Gibson, it seems) opened up the passing lanes to get the ball up the wing.
Ayoze and Lucas Farias are both fairly poor defensive wingbacks, with plenty of offensive talent, so Nashville knew that was the matchup to exploit – either keep those guys pinned back to they can’t play offense, or punish them by getting in behind.
Nashville has the individual talent to do either of those things, and a fully healthy Alan Winn is going to be able to make a lot of teams pay.