Nashville SC

Postgame media: Dax McCarty, Dominique Badji, and Walker Zimmerman after Atlanta United loss

Three Nashville SC standouts met with the media after their team’s loss to Atlanta United. Watch or read their full comments here.

Dax McCarty

How did you guys manage to settle into the game after a rough start?

“I think we started the game a little bit nervy. I think we grew into the game, obviously. After their first goal – it was obviously an unfortunate goal to concede, it kind of came from nothing – but I thought we grew into the game, we fed off the energy in the crowd. We knew that Atlanta does some unique things when they attack. They’re a difficult team to deal with, and I thought we dealt with it relatively well. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but i’m pretty sure they had two shots on goal, and two goals. When that happens, you can think of it a few different ways. You can say, ‘wow, they were really efficient,’ or ‘we were just unlucky that their finishing was so good on the few chances that they did create.’ So obviously it’s disappointing to lose the game, but for me I look at it and think we can take some positives out of it, because both goals are preventable.”

Did you feel you created enough to win the game?

“Look, I think the attacking side of the ball is always going to be the last thing that really clicks when you’re putting a team together from scratch. I think we got ourselves into some really promising positions, and some really opportunities to get our dangerous attacking players in one-v-one positions, create chances and try to get some shots on goal. I think that we didn’t test [Brad] Guzan enough, and then I think when we got the ball in some promising positions out wide, maybe our service was just a little bit lacking in key moments. We talked about that: we talked that we’re going to have to get better and we’re going to have to get sharper. Defensively, it felt solid. Like I said, two shots on goal. One of them obviously it was a world-class finish, little bit of confusion on that one. But you lick your wounds and move on. So I think we’re going to be able to learn from it this week. We’ll watch video, and I think we’re going to keep growing as the season moves on.”

Did the official explain the situation on the second goal when the flag went up but play continued?

“Yeah it was unfortunate. The assistant referee raised her flag, and a lot of us paused for a split second, expecting a call of offside. She put her flag back down probably after two or three seconds, and then you’re kind of like scrambling, ‘oh crap, what’s going on right now?’ The ball bounces around, we clear it out, and look, Emerson Hyndman has a fantastic goal, right? But I think maybe if we don’t pause for two or three seconds, maybe we can eliminate that. So it’s disappointing, it’s a lesson to be learned for us because you have to play to the whistle.”

Did the center official give an explanation?

“He explained that the was sorry that the flag went up, it was a mistake, but ultimately that the guy was in an offside position, but the ball came off of one of our defensive players. That negates the offside, which, fair enough. Still doesn’t make it feel any better when the ball goes in the net. We have to learn from it.”

Did you feel the equalizer was coming when you were putting on pressure late in the game?

“We did, we did. We felt like the equalizer was coming the entire second half. But honestly, I don’t remember Joe having to make a save in the second half, I don’t really remember them being that dangerous in the second half. It’s just disappointing that we got back in the game, we got ourselves back in the game at 1-1, then to concede the second goal when I felt like we were just building a lot of momentum, we were feeding off the energy of the crowd, that was a punch to the gut. But we came back in the locker room at halftime, we regrouped, we made sure that we stayed positive and tried to bring energy in the second half. Like I said, I think we were the team on top of the game in the second half. Atlanta won’t care about that: they take three points and we don’t take any. ultimately, we can learn a lot from this game, that’s all we can do. I’m really positive about a lot of the performances of the guys on the field, and I think we’re going to go in a really positive direction here.”

Do you think your performance was the type that will bring the 59,000 fans to more games?

“I hope so. the crowd was fantastic. They were the best part of the evening. I think everyone can see that on a national stage, introducing Nashville to the world of MLS, they were top-notch. I give them an A+. I hope that they keep coming back out and supporting us, because if we get support like that every week, we’re going to be really, really good at home. I can promise you that.”

If we’re dishing out letter grades, what do you give your team?

“I don’t know yet. I’ll have to go back and watch the video. It felt like we could have done a lot of things better, but it also felt like for the first game against a really good team in MLS for us, that we tried to put our stamp on the game. I won’t give us a grade just yet, I’ll make sure I watch the video, but I’m definitely going to be positive about the way that we played and the way we performed, because other than the first 10 or 15 minutes where I think that they showed their experience and their quality, I felt like we were right in the game with them until the very end, and were maybe a little unlucky not to get an equalizer.”

How do you get the ball to the strikers to get Dom Badji more involved in the game?

“Yeah, we have to have some more fluidity up top, and we have to have some more I think penetrating passes and movement in the midfield to be able to create our chances for our strikers. If we’re going to have our strikers score goals, they need to be in the box, and we need to be creating chances for them. It’s a team-wide effort: it’s not just one or two guys, it’s all 11 of us on the field. Trying to be a little bit sharper in the final third, trying to be a little bit more fluid in the attack: that’s something that will come with a little bit more time. I’ll use Atlanta as an example: you can see how dangerous Pity and Barco and Josef are when they’re in the final third, and how their movements are pretty choreographed and they know each other’s tendencies. The only way to get there is to play with each other, and that takes a little bit of time. I’m sure it’ll start to come together here sooner rather than later, but certainly yeah, you want to start converting on some chances and getting your strikers goals.”

Were you prepared for a crowd that big?

“Absolutely. Yeah. We knew the crowd was going to do their job. We’d heard all the rumors. Pulling into the stadium before the game was amazing: there were tailgates going on, fans walking around everywhere, scarves everywhere. You could really feel the energy two hours before the game started. We knew that it was going to be like that, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re always going to have nerves, you’re always going to have butterflies, no matter how it is and that’s on both sides. As we grow into the season, we’re going to start to form a little bit more of an identity, we’re going to start to be a little more sure of ourselves as we come out of the gates. Those first couple minutes of the game, obviously they had a lot of possession, but they weren’t really hurting us. The only time they really hurt us was when we conceded that goal there, the first goal in the first half. That was disappointing, but I thought we regrouped well and we fed off the energy of the crowd, and hopefully they’ll keep coming back and supporting us.”

What are you looking forward to in the Portland game?

“If I’m not mistaken we’ll be away in Portland. Tough venue, fantastic crowd, fantastic place to play, and Portland’s a really good team. We’ll start to focus more on Portland as the week moves on. Right now I’m just trying to process this game that we just played, and make sure that when the new week starts, we’ll be ready to go.”

Dominique Badji

Were you frustrated with some of the missed opportunities or lack of service?

“I wouldn’t say frustrated, but I know we can do better for sure. We showed it in practice, we showed glimpses of it in the game. I think there were moments when we could have tried to make a play where we kind of hesitated: we were hesitant today. But I know going forward, having discussed it at halftime and at the end of the game, we know what my strengths are, and it’d be nice to have more opportunities to be able to really show what I can do.”

What does it take for that to develop?

“More games. That’s all it takes. I’ll tell you after a couple more games, you’re really going see what we have to offer. You saw glimpses of it today, but we’ve got so much more to offer.”

How do you get consistency?

“Yeah, just reps. Getting familiar with the other players. The environment you practice in is a little bit different than the games: you can’t replicate a game environment, so we need games. The more games we get, the more we’re going to start clicking, and the more dynamic we’re going to be in the attacking third.”

Did the amount of support impress you?

“Oh yeah, the fans were great. Great atmosphere. Unreal, it really helps a lot. It really gives us that energy when we’re down and we need that little extra bit. Unfortunately, couldn’t get the result for them, but we appreciated all the fans coming out.”

How did you feel in your relationship with Hany Mukhtar both offensively and defensively?

“I felt we could have done a little better. Yes, it’s me and Hany up top, but the players behind us really dictate a lot of our movements. I’d say it’s about four or five of us that really need to be cued in, and I think a couple times we were kind of lacking, or sleeping, or kind of reacting versus being proactive. But you know, the atmosphere was loud and communication was hard. That’s something we can sharpen up.”

How do you feel you pressed Atlanta?

“Going forward, that’s going to be our game. The press: we’re going to be dangerous. We go all-out, when we can commit everyone to the press and not just one or two people, we’re going to nick some balls and get some easy goals that way. Just keep doing that and it’ll eventually come to fruition.”

Walker Zimmerman

How does it feel to be the historic first goal-scorer?

“It’s really special. Like you said, it’s history, it’s never going to be erased. Something that will stay in club lore forever. Obviously still disappointed with the result, I thought we deserved more out of the match, but certainly a really exciting moment for me.”

Talk us through the goal

“We had a set piece, Hany has some really good service. I just wanted to be really aggressive with the near-post run. I got up with Martinez, and then we both kind of headed it off each other. It fell down, and just tried to instinctively get a foot on it, and toe-poke it past Brad.”

How big was the rush of scoring especially in front of such a big crowd?

“It’s funny. I almost – I freak out every time I score. I always think before the game happens of having some kind of pre-conceived celebration or a thing. Normally I just scream and run around and stare at my teammates, and it never goes as planned.”

What did you see on Barco’s goal?

“It was a long-ball, a switch, Eric was pinching inside but still kind of worried about the guy in behind. Just a moment of a 50/50, unfortunate for him to go by. Then it was kind of scramble mode. As we’re dropping as a line, I’m kind of ready to take the runner. Eric’s thinking the same thing. He takes that touch inside and hits a really good finish from outside the box. Normally we’re going to take shots from 20 yards and live with that. Probably could have been a little tighter or a little closer from either one of us to give Joe a better chance to put Barco under pressure, but yeah, tough first goal.

“Second goal, sometime’s you’ve gotta tip your hat. I know the thing with the linesman and the flag and all that. But we’ve got to keep playing til the whistle blows. I think even just immediate reactions, as soon as Godoy heads it: can we get closer to where he can’t have time to chest and get a shot of. But again, top-class goal, world-class finish, and sometimes you’ve got to live with those.

How was the back line’s communication?

“It was really good. Again, I think – I don’t know how many shots on-goal that they had that Joe actually had to save. I know he came out well for a few crosses, but look at shots on goal, and it’s not like we were under pressure. We conceded some possession in the middle and their defensive third. But sometimes it’s OK. They’re not creating anything, it’s meaningless possession, and that’s fine. We can sit tight, stay organized, and I thought from that standpoint we were. Limited their chances, and then obviously turned them over in some good spots to have some counterattacks that we probably should have been a little bit more efficient with.”

Did the nerves settle coming out of halftime?

“We expected it to be a little hectic first 10-15 minutes just with the energy, the atmosphere, and the environment. We knew it was going to be like that a little bit. But certainly you could see us grow into the game. The way that we had a little bit more composure when we had the ball later in the second half, and even just stepping up a little bit higher whenever it went back to Guzan. Just to make sure we weren’t so, so deep – we got a little deep in the first half. First game, got through it, really proud of the effort from everyone. We fought hard; I’m sure fans are going to be proud of the effort that we put in, because we can’t fault that.”

Which is more frustrating, a goal from a mistake at the back or one that has a bit of controversy with the flag up?

“It’s always frustrating when there’s a few amount of shots and – say there’s two shots on goal and two goals – that’s always frustrating as a defense and a back line. First goal’s something, just be committed one way or the other, be committed in what we’re doing. Improve the communication a little bit. I take some responsibility for that as well. Whether it’s telling Eric to slide, or telling him to stay with the man, that’s obviously something we can talk about and work through.

“Second goal, I mean, top-class finish. Reactions could be a little bit better, but I think the game was in our hands and we had a chance to go out there and tie it and even win it.”

Did you build confidence by going toe-to-toe with Atlanta?

“I think we should gain a lot of confidence from this, because Atlanta is a good team. They’re a team that’s always competing for trophies, they’re in the playoffs every year. We’re a team that everyone’s kind of writing off, like ‘oh, Nashville’s not expected to finish high in the Western Conference,’ and we don’t listen to that in this locker room. I ghope that everyone can see from today that we’re a team that’s going to compete, a team that’s going to be strong and aggressive, and difficult to play against. I know for that Atlanta team, they’re probably happy to be walking off that field, because I think we threw a lot of things at them that frankly I don’t think they could handle that well. Sure they got the result this time around, but I thought we made it difficult for them, and had a chance to get something out of the game.”

What’s it like playing an MLS game between two Southern teams, as a kid from the South?

“It’s bizarre. You’re right, because even growing up, I wasn’t watching MLS too much because there wasn’t any games to go to. You’re just watching the Galaxy on TV because Beckham’s there. The league’s certainly change, the landscape’s changed. We’re getting a lot of star power coming into the league. The overall quality of a bottom-of-the-roster player now is way higher than it was 10 years ago, and certainly competitive. So to have Nashville v. Atlanta in 2020 and get 60,000, I mean that’s an amazing accomplishment, achievement, and something I’m happy to be a part of.”


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