The Wrap(s): Nashville SC gets four points from Birmingham and Pittsburgh

Welcome to The Wrap, wherein I recap the content from recent Nashville SC game(s). The Boys in Gold handled business midweek and then faltered slightly over the weekend.

Nashville SC 1-0 Birmingham Legion

Game photos from FCAC photographer Ryan Lassan. Hafltime reset and the game story:

A Matt LaGrassa shot in the first minute of second-half stoppage time was deflected and struck the left post, and it looked for all the world that the Boys in Gold would suffer a disappointing draw – in a situation where all points matter as NSC attempts to position itself for a home game in the USL Championship playoffs.

However, Ockford played the hero at the conclusion of a corner kick earned by Nashville striker Ropapa Mensah, who has plenty of dangerous moments in the waning moments (particularly impressive for a player who hasn’t had 90-minute fitness among his assets at times this year).

Postgame press conference and the game column with quotes therefrom:

1-0 Nashville, and the cardiac kids live on.

“Let me tell you: it does nothing for my stress levels, the inner anguish that you feel on the touchline,” said NSC head coach Gary Smith. “The delight and the sheer exhilaration of scoring that late, knowing that you’ve pretty much won the game, is amazing. But I had 90-odd minutes of tension and turmoil sitting on that bench.

The voting post for your community ratings, and here are the results (don’t forget to vote each game!):

  • Man of the match: D Jimmy Ockford: 8.33 (tie with Pickens; it’s my blog so I cast the tiebreaking vote).
  • GK Matt Pickens: 8.33
  • D Darnell King: 7.80
  • D Forrest Lasso: 7.69
  • D Justin Davis: 7.01
  • M Bolu Akinyode: 7.65
  • M Alan Winn: 7.30
  • M Matt LaGrassa: 7.04
  • M Kenn Tribbett: 6.77
  • F Ropapa Mensah: 7.07
  • F Kharlton Belmar: 6.70
  • M Taylor Washington (65′ sub): 7.70
  • F Daniel Ríos (74′ sub): 7.00 Community comment
    • “He didn’t get a ton of time, but you could see the difference in class between him and anyone else.”
  • F Tucker Hume (84′ sub): 6.40
  • Head coach Gary Smith: 7.68
  • Overall team rating: 7.29

The Graphical:

It should come as no surprise given the above that Nashville sort of bossed this game. There wasn’t a huge possession advantage (which coincidentally happened to by the duel-win percentage as well, so I included that for a nice bit of symmetry):

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 12.28.43 PM

…but there was when it came to meaningful possession, and particularly generating shots:

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 12.27.06 PM.png

The film room looked at how Birmingham was able to prevent Nashville’s offensive personnel from getting into truly dangerous spots:

This play actually serves as an example of a way that Nashville tried to beat the Birmingham press: overload one side of the field, switch the point of attack from one side of the field to the other quickly, and find space on what had been the weakside.

Screen Shot 2019-09-25 at 9.56.35 AM.png

There are eight Birmingham players on the ballside at the point that Matt LaGrassa makes the big switch to fullback Darnell King (the ninth player, midfielder Eric Avila, doesn’t have a number there, since he’s on what is about to become the strongside). The only Birmingham field player out-of-frame is left fullback Kyle Culbertson, who slides outside to man-mark King.

The GIFening.

Elsewhere… NSC official site recap and story. Nashville Post story on Matt Pickens’s 100th shutoutSpeedway gamer and player ratings. The local paper in Birmingham covers the game. Must be nice 😕.

Nashville SC 0-0 Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Once again, game photos from Ryan Lassan.

Halftime reset and the game story:

Nashville earned the man advantage in the 40th, when Riverhounds centerback Tobi Adewole executed a dangerous sliding tackle on Ken Tribbett. He arrived after the ball was long-gone from Tribbett’s foot, and took out the opponent with his follow-through. A slightly harsh red? Perhaps, but it certainly wasn’t one that you’d call unfair, either.

It was all for naught, though, as Nashville managed only three shots on target – all after the 80th minute of play – with the advantage, and Morton was game for all of them.

The visitors, meanwhile, didn’t put a single shot on Matt Pickens’s frame, and a strong defensive performance from Nashville was only enough to earn the draw.

And with quotes from the postgame press conference, the game column:

With nearly an hour of 11-on-10 soccer (including seven minutes of stoppage time across the two halves), Nashville SC was unable to put one past Kyle Morton.

“A combination of good defending, discipline and determination, and a lack of real quality on our part,” explained Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “But we had enough chances, no one’s surely going to deny that. The goalkeeper, 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.”

Over the course of the game, Nashville SC managed only 10 total shots, and put only four of them on Morton’s goal – with the young keeper able to stop all four of them.

The voting post for your community ratings, and here are the results (don’t forget to vote each game!):

  • Man of the match: GK Matt Pickens: 8.12
  • D Darnell King: 8.00
  • D Jimmy Ockford: 7.62
  • D Bradley Bourgeois: 7.03
  • D Justin Davis: 6.96
  • M Bolu Akinyode: 7.94
  • M Matt LaGrassa: 7.61
  • M Ken Tribbett: 7.10
  • M Lebo Moloto: 6.53
  • F Daniel Ríos: 7.08
  • F Kharlton Belmar: 6.08
  • M Alan Winn (HT sub): 7.22
  • F Tucker Hume (72′ sub): 6.87
  • F TCameron Lancaster (76′ sub): 6.76
  • Head coach Gary Smith: 7.00
  • Overall team rating: 7.00

The Graphical:

It’s no insult to Pittsburgh or head coach Bob Lilley to say that, by the time centerback Tobi Adewole was sent off, they were ready to sit back and play for the draw. Take a look at the passmaps for Pittsburgh before and after the red card:

Attacking right-to-left

They had much, much more possession (and more successful possession) in the opening 39 minutes or so than they did in the subsequent 58. They were very clearly, even in possession, just trying to make sure the ball got out of their own end.

Some GIFs. I’ll say it: the red card was harsh but fair. USL refs are god-awful, but USL fans are worse.

Elsewhere… NSC official site recap and game story. Speedway game story and chalkboard. Justin Davis made USL team of the week after a two-shutout stretch.

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