Welcome to the Film Room, wherein I get all tactical with gifs and pictures and whatnot to explain a play from Nashville SC’s recent games. This one will not be fun!
Nashville and Indy have played a tense, cagey match. We’re nearly 15 minutes into the second half, and while there have been some OK opportunities, only one truly dangerous scoring chance that forced an impressive save (a twisting shot from NSC’s Daniel Ríos that Indy keeper Jordan Farr dove to get a hand on).
After one of the many interminable stoppages in play, Indy throws it in short. Left CB Neveal Hackshaw slides the ball centrally to defensive midfielder Tyler Gibson.
You know the ultimate result here, obviously: Indy Eleven sneaks in a goal, the only one in the match, and ends up victorious.
Gibson is given all sorts of time on the ball, where he finds a streaking Tyler Pasher, who has split left back Justin Davis and left centerback Forrest Lasso.
Pasher takes the ball on one short hop and half-volleys it around Matt Pickens. While the initial trajectory is wide, he gets just the right spin on it to tuck inside the left post (and, impressively, he’s already looking the other way and running to celebrate before it actually goes in. That’s some confidence).
Obviously Gibson’s feed and Pasher’s finish are impressive – reminiscent of Nashville’s game-winner against Tampa Bay – but Nashville had a few mistakes on the play, as well.
Why it happens
Let’s zoom out for a sec and take a look at the larger picture of the play:
The thing that jumps out is all that space Gibson is given in midfield. Nashville is sinking into a compact “four banks of two” scheme, with the backline focused on Pasher and Dane Kelly, while the midfield – CDMs Bolus Akinyode and Mat LaGrassa and wingers-turned-wide-mids Taylor Washington and Alan Winn – tasked with setting the line of confrontation.
From the time Gibson receives the ball – about five yards toward his own endline and a couple yards wide of the center circle – to the time he launches the pass from dead center of the pitch about five yards into Nashville’s side of midfield, there’s not even token pressure on him.
Regardless of how compact you intend to be, that amount of space is self-defeating for the Boys in Gold. Especially with a talented scorer like Pasher behind you (Pasher times his run perfectly to split the difference between Lasso and Davis), you have to either be in position to bother the feeder, or be on the other end of the pass, deflecting it before it can arrive, or bodying the player it’s intended for.
Standing halfway between isn’t helpful. This is probably more on LaGrassa, the more-mobile of NSC’s two central midfielders (though Akinyode’s weaknesses in positioning defensively are more consistent and probably not blameless, either).
As mentioned above, Pasher’s run is perfect, but it’s also helped by some ball-watching from Forrest Lasso. He begins the play in good position, and feels that Pasher is off his shoulder. However, his eyes are fixated on Gibson. By the time he’s able to spin about 200 degrees on his axis (with the ball already in the air), there’s no chance he’s catching Pasher.
As is almost always the case with a goal, there has to be some combination of great play from the scoring team and minor mistakes from the team conceding, and this play had it all (including a sort-of-weak save attempt from Pickens.
In this instance, it gave Indy the opportunity to advance, and become a heavy favorite to lift USL Cup.