Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith, defender Walker Zimmerman, and midfielder Derrick Jones spoke with the media after Nashville SC’s 1-1 preseason draw against DC United Wednesday evening. Read their full comments here.
“[Early in the game DC] got into some good positions, and we found it very, very difficult to make any headway. I think there was only one decent opportunity, which Abu just pulled wide of the left-hand post as he went through on the right-hand side. It meant that there were particular qualities that we had to show, and I’m very pleased that maybe that was part of the challenge, because things are not gonna be straightforward, and we saw both side of the coin today.”
What did you learn during the early stretch of the game that you struggled in?
“I think there’s lessons to be learned. The first one is: slowly-but-surely, we want to try and create – certainly for ourselves – a little bit of the blueprint of what we want to achieve during those early exchanges, and there was a lot of energy, a lot of impetus in our play. Were we always successful pressing high? No. Did we create many chances? Not really, not any clear-cut ones, to my recollection. But the attitude and the way that the guys went about their work is very, very important at this stage. We’re dying to sow some seeds on how we want to try and enter this game. So that was good.
“I think what can be noted is that teams – certainly at this level – are going to take advantage of the mistakes, and the goal came from a poor choice or poor clearance from Daniel Lovitz, he’s experienced-enough and high-enough-caliber player to know that anything that works inside that’s not got any distance on it has a chance of being cut out, and they made the most of it. At that point, eight minutes in – because I looked up at the clock – honestly, I felt a little bit deflated, because the guys started well, albeit against a younger and less-experienced side. But sometimes those games can be more difficult. We saw it against Cincinnati: they may have taken our lesser-experienced side a little too lightly, and we took advantage of that. I was very, very pleased to see the attitude, but obviously was disappointed to see a goal conceded.
“The response was great. I think almost from that point on, without being able to talk us through every single action beyond that eight minutes, I felt as though we controlled it. We created some very, very good chances, Derrick earned a decent penalty, which was dispatched nicely, and as I’ve said, honestly if we’d have gone in at the break three or four to the good, I don’t think anyone would have complained. So I think the only criticism in that first period would be: did we manage that first 10 minutes well enough? To a degree yes. Did we create and were we positive enough? Absolutely. Were we clinical enough? Certainly not.”
Do you find that you’re still working on chemistry between midfields and forwards, and that maybe the forwards are still finding form?
“I think we’re going to see that in all departments around the team at certain points in these early stages. There were moments when I felt as though we should have been more efficient breaking lines and building out of the back, and we gave the ball away a little bit cheaply. There were moments where, instead of taking advantage of a positive moment, we came back out and maintained possession rather than being a little more forceful, and that’s part of the growing pains of a brand new group. But if you think about the fact that we’ve been together five weeks, and you look out on the field – in the last three games for sure – there’s been a nice foundation to the group, there’s been a good template for them to work from with and without the ball. Form for all players within that template is vitally important, and of course the choices they make. But overall, I’m looking at a group that are showing lots of appetite, plenty of energy. I think their understanding and appreciation of one another is getting better every day. The forward line is always going to be under the microscope because everyone wants to see goals, and if we’d have come off the field tonight and we’d have won the game 5-1, and done ever-sowell in the last 30 minutes against a much more experienced DC group, then everyone would have been waxing lyrical, I’m sure. The reality was, we created some wonderful opportunities against a younger group, and quite frankly other than a little blip in the first 10 minutes, completely overpowered them for 45 minutes. So to that degree, I’m very, very pleased.
“We, I do believe at this point, need the sort of test that we’re going to see in that last 30 minutes. We’ve got six players through 90 minutes of soccer there, they’ve had to dig in deep, they’ve had to endure some pressure, they’ve had to clear their lines – we’ve not had a lot of the ball – they could have easily buckled, they showed an awful lot of spirit, especially when they should have been winning by quite a large margin. There’s loads and loads of good things to come out of tonight. Plenty to take into the Atlanta game: for sure we can improve, and I’m sure that will be the case for the next 2-3-4 months, anyway.”
Is there anything you don’t feel like you got accomplished in any of the scrimmages this preseason?
“I don’t think so. I’ve tried and looked at pretty much everyone we’ve got. I think everyone’s had a good opportunity. We looked at Hany out wide today, and Derrick Jones has been very decent in preseason, earned a penalty again today. I think everyone’s had a great opportunity, they’re in good shape, touchward, we’re in a nice healthy state. The boys are buoyant, we’re unbeaten in four games – for what that’s worth in preseason, and for a brand new team that’s worth quite a bit in my book, so I think we’re in a nice place. I’ll tell you something though: a result against Atlanta would go a lot further than winning or being unbeaten in four preseason games though.”
Centerback Walker Zimmerman
How did you feel after 82 minutes?
“It was good. Just some light cramps, truth be told that’s part of the game. Not trying to be a hero. I made a long run back, felt some cramps a little bit: it makes sense with the weather and humidity, a crazy week I’ve had, so all-in-all it was decent. Great to get out there finally with the guys in a game-like setting and environment, and finally get my first taste of what we’re going to look like.”
What was your chemistry like with Dave Romney?
“It was really, really good. I told Dave as soon as I got traded. I sent him a message and I was like: ‘look, I’ve always been a huge Romney fan. I felt you’ve been underrated in your career. I can’t wait to work with you so we can create something special.’ He said, ‘dude, I was so pumped when I heard you got traded to us too.’ I’ve known Dave a little bit, obviously a great guy. Wherever he’s willing to be put him on the field. I thought it was very smooth, with a lot of good communication going on throughout the game, and I was happy with it.”
Schematically, do you immediately notice differences between this and LAFC or Dallas?
“There’s certainly always going to be different pictures, mental images that you’re going to see based on formations that you’re playing, ideas that you have as a team, what the opponent’s doing. So each team that I’ve been on has tried to play a little bit different. Here, it takes me back a little bit to Dallas days, in terms of having two defensive mids right in front of me with Dax and godoy. It offers up a lot of ways to break down the opponent with some short passes. I’d also say the encouragement to break the opponent with some longer balls, especially diagonals right into the channel. That’s been nice as well, to try and open up the range of passing a little bit in the first few days of training and then obviously in the game.”
How did the team bounce back from the early goal?
“I felt even within those first eight minutes, they didn’t have many chances that first half. We kind of self-inflicted a little bit on the first goal. Lesson learned, for sure: coming off of our throw-in in our half. But I mean we know we can – that’s something that we can fix. It’s not like we’re getting broken down. That was an easy fix, and something that we talked about at the half. Obviously we’d like to clean that up so we can get a zero on the scoreboard. All in all, first half we definitely created a few chances, had a few really, really good opportunities in front of goal, and then definitely limited their opportunities in the first half.”
Midfielder Derrick Jones
Coming in as a USL guy (with Nashville SC), how has the transition to MLS been?
“Yeah, it’s been very kind of tough for me. I got injured and I’m still finding my way back in. It was a good experience for me to start the game, trying to get my way back and just keep going. It was a good game.”
You’ve played different roles – are you now concentrating on being a more attack-minded position?
“Right now, I’m concentrating on playing where I’m playing right now. Wherever Gary puts me, that’s what I’m going to do and that’s what’s going to help the team. I’m going to do what’s best for the team and me.”
Have you talked to Gary about transition and progress with the team?
“To be honest, I never really sat there and had a conversation about it. But we have small talks where he’s just telling me he likes what I’ve been doing, and I’ll stick with that. I think that’s what is the best thing for the team, and that’s what I’m trying to focus on.”
Derrick Jones photo from file. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country