Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and midfielder Matt LaGrassa met with the media after their team’s 0-0 draw against Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Watch or read their full comments here.
Head coach Gary Smith
“I don’t think you could have gotten a bet before the game on 0-0 with these two teams. The strange part about it was how that actually unfolded. The game was exactly as I thought it would be in the opening 40 minutes. They were very, very difficult to try and penetrate. As always, a sense of building pressure, controlling the game, trying to get ourselves in a particular groove. I thought they did a very good job of disrupting that, and I thought it was quite a choppy game in the first 30 or 40 minutes. The one really clear moment was Daniel [Ríos]’s opportunity that the goalkeeper makes a great save on. And then of course once the centerback got sent off, it completely changes the dynamic of the game. I mean, from where I was sitting, it looked 100% a sending-off. I can only give you my opinion on that. And then we have another fabulous chance just before the break when I honestly thought Darnell [King] really should have taken the opportunity himself rather than offering it up to someone else. Beyond that, I tried everything to get the most aggressive group on the field. Daniel, who has been out for a good while now, I pushed the envelope on keeping him out there for 75 [minutes] instead of the hour I’d really sort of penciled in for him. I honestly felt as though we had enough moments to win the game. There weren’t loads, but enough clear cut opportunities to have converted, which I’m sure would have been enough.”
Keeping a clean sheet without even a shot on goal allowed?
“In the first period when we’re all square with players, I thought we did a really good job. It was – I thought our shape looked a little bit more dominant than theirs. We found some decent areas. I was a tad disappointed in some of the quality early on. We didn’t make enough of certain moments. But in terms of how we got after the game, we affected the game, I was pleased. It was different once the centerback gets sent off. They rarely got out of their half, and I have to give them bundles of credit for the type of determination and the discipline that they showed in that second half. I begrudgingly – given I obviously wanted to win the game – look at the way that they defended, with a positive mindset, it’s not easy to do that. They showed a lot of quality there, certainly character-wise. But as I’ve said, I still felt as though there were enough moments to have got ourselves in front. It really was a case of how well we can build pressure and find that opportunity. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough quality to really pepper their goal and put them in a position where they felt as though if they didn’t get out of their half that they were going to concede. Credit to them and maybe a little bit of disappointment on our part.”
Did Lebo’s return give you more midfield creativity?
“He’s involved in an awful lot. There’s some nice invention: some of it comes off, some of it doesn’t. But if you’re a creator, you’ve got to take chances. He has license to do that, especially in and around their penalty area. A combination of good defending, discipline and determination, and a lack of real quality on our part. But we had enough chances, no one’s surely going to deny that. The goalkeeper [Todd Morton] I had as Man of the Match. It’s an opportunity missed, there’s no two ways about it. Someone, somewhere, somehow should have converted, and we didn’t.”
Was Alan’s tracking run late in the game surprising, given he’s more an offense-focused player?
“I know for sure Alan has been frustrated with the fact that he started, then he’s out of the team, there were reasons for that. I honestly thought he would be a good inclusion coming into the game when it maybe stretched out a little bit and the majority of the energy went out of the game. He’s not noted for his great defending, but he showed tremendous desire and determination from a moment that honestly I’m a little bit flummoxed that it actually occurred. But nevertheless, from a dominating position, he showed great character. It’s really, in that one moment alone, has earned us the point. But as I said before, we really should be sitting here talking about three. On this occasion, we’ve been unable to break the deadlock.”
Do you feel like this is a missed opportunity to move up the table?
“It’s not going to cause any lasting damage. Coming into this game it was one that we could not afford to lose for sure. It would have put Pittsburgh in a commanding position for the top four. They still have destiny in their hands with a couple of games in hand, but what we’ve seen is – over the past week – that things don’t go according to plan. There’s going to be some results that we don’t expect. There’s a little bit of pressure attached to some of the games that are going to be played now – especially some of the top games. We’ve just looked obviously at the table: there’s one point that separates four teams. Of course with Indy having two games in hand and they probably were the biggest winners today after losing last night in the way that the games went, but they themselves have got a tough schedule. They’ve got extra games, they’ve got midweek games at the end of a long, hard season. My disappointment is that we’ve been unable to convert, beat a Pittsburgh side that was always going to be tough to beat but on tonight’s showing, one goal would have done it and I’ve said numerous times, I’ve seen us find that goal. I’ve seen us out of nothing win a game and we had more than enough moments to have got that done and we’re going to rue that missed opportunity, no two ways about it. For the third time of asking, we’ve failed to reach the summit of this division and that in itself is a little bit exasperating.”
Midfielder Matt LaGrassa
What did you think about the way the game played out once you had the man advantage?
“I think we knew from the get-go that they’ve always kind of prided themselves on being a tough nut to crack. They were exactly that I think from the outset. They got a lot of numbers behind the ball before they lost a man. When they lost a man I think in some ways it maybe even got worse because it’s harder to pull them out, but frustrating for sure.”
What was your plan for dealing with the stout Pittsburgh defense, especially with the man advantage?
“I think we just tried to overload certain areas, tried to commit some more numbers forward and we felt a little more comfortable doing that because they weren’t leaving guys high really. Like I said, their coach obviously has a reputation of keeping really tight lines, being defensive-minded. The last two years, at least since I’ve been in the Eastern Conference, their goalkeeper is always a Golden Glove candidate because of it and I think they were able to find some success doing that.”
Did you feel like there were enough chances created, or a finishing issue?
“I think if you were to look at this game and some of the chances that we created, maybe even if you look at Tuesday, I think maybe we created more tonight, clear cut chances. I think when guys go back and look at it we’ll be disappointed that we didn’t finish some of those chances, especially some of them that came early in the first half and stuff. I think we created enough to get the job done, and you’re never going to create a ton against a team like that so you’ve got to capitalize when you do.”
Is the result more a “point earned” or “two points dropped” feeling?
“I think two points dropped. Obviously there’s disappointment in the locker room, especially when you have an opportunity to go to the top of the table. We knew what was on the line in this game and I don’t think it was a lack of effort from the guys. I don’t think we did the wrong things. It’s just one of those nights, sometimes they just don’t fall your way. I think we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to be a bit more clinical, especially as we go closer to the playoffs, the games are just going to get tighter and tighter like that and those chances are going to be vital for us.”
What needs to happen to break out of a mini-rut on offense?
“I think, like I said, when we’re creating chances, I’m not as disappointed, especially against a team like that. I think there were moments when we created well with guys that have finished for us all year long that missed chances or didn’t get the job done. I don’t know about it exactly going stagnant. I’m not as worried. We’ve had to rotate some bodies through there. We’ve had injuries. I believe in what we’re doing, I believe in the guys, it’s just a matter of being in a rhythm and scoring when we get to playoff time.”