Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith sat down with the media at the conclusion of his team’s 2-1 loss to Atlanta United. Watch and read his full comments here.
Is it too early to define the identity of the team?
“No, I think we’re working towards what our identity will look like. You’ve seen, I think, snapshots of that tonight. Consistency is always going to be the most difficult thing for a brand new group. But I think what you’ve seen here tonight is a group that’s full of energy, positive where possible in their play. We have players in the group that want to make things happen, are quick to transition from defending to attack. Did we always make the right choices? No, but that’s part and parcel with the growing pains of a brand new team. With regards to the group in general, I think you can see a very good team ethic, and for me, there was a good balance to the game. We looked a threat, we, for the most part, defended very, very well, looked organized. Guys have taken on-ball roles and individual workloads very, very well. They had two shots at goal and scored two goals in the first half. That’s pretty disappointing for us. High quality from them, but disappointing for us.”
How do you adjust your defense to avoid giving up the type of goal you did to Ezequiel Barco?
“Well, the thing is this: they have three outstanding attacking players through the middle of the field, their shape is a very difficult one to deal with. I felt we coped with that for large portions of the game very well. The reality is that at some point, those talented guys are going to find some space. The disappointment was how it got there. In the end, yes we maybe could have got a little bit more pressure on the ball, but it’s a very, very good finish. If you give top-class players the opportunity to have a clear sight of goal, unfortunately that could well be the end result. To that point, 10 minutes into the game, I felt as though we were in a reasonable position. We looked, as I’ve said, competitive, well organized, difficult for them to break lines. But as soon as they did, there was a change in gears, and before you know it, blink of an eye, you’re one-nil down. And I think that’s what we have to take on the chin, and learn from it. There’s a lot of growth still to come in this group. Disappointment for me is that we haven’t been able to capitalize on one or two very decent moments to get something out of the game.”
How do you assess your team’s set piece performance, and did you feel like you might have deserved a couple more dead-ball opportunities?
“The delivery in the first half for the goal was a very decent one. Good reactions from Walker to put it in. I just honestly thought that we’ve worked at some of our dead balls well, and the guys have really appreciated what we’re trying to achieve from dead balls. The reality is, it’s about pace of delivery, hitting certain areas, and timing of runs. Beyond that, we probably weren’t quite where we needed to be. Whilst we have some very good targets in the group, we certainly didn’t make the most of it against this side; I thought that might be a little bit of an achilles heel of theirs. Looking back on it, we certainly should have been more efficient.
“There’s a couple of other things that went on in the game that we should have had. But I’m not going to… if the ref didn’t give it, then it didn’t matter.”
How do you guys get more service to Dom Badji?
“Connections are important. He’s playing as a lone striker – he has Hany working underneath him tirelessly. He’s got two very efficient wide players who have an attacking mentality. Finding that connection and that quick appreciation to combine, if you look at the other end of the field, they have in abundance: you can see that those guys have worked together for a good period of time, and they get an awful lot of joy from it. It’s something that we have to evolve to. In regards to Dominique, I was very very pleased with his output. Could he have been a little more efficient on the ball? Probably. Were there moments where he could have been more effective? For sure. But for his first outing for the group in a very tough game where he saw few touches, as you said, in the first half especially. I would say that he attacked it well, he stayed the course, and he could have easily checked out and said, ‘there’s not an awful lot going on here for me’ but he was a good team player, and in the end, there was a fabulous moment that could have been the difference in the game where he did ever-so-well down the left-hand side, and I think David Accam missed an opportunity by a whisker.”
How did the atmosphere live up to expectations? Did your team do enough to capitalize on some of the excitement of that atmosphere?
“Listen, when you lose, there’s always that deflating feeling. It tends to blunt some of the good things that have gone on. I need to go away and evaluate the group fully, as to really how we performed. I would say emotionally sitting here, that we gave a good account of ourselves. Should we have got something out of the game? I believe so, so that will always be disappointing. As far as the occasion goes, I don’t think we could have asked much more of the fans that turned up and supported us, the atmosphere that was created, the opportunity for the players to perform in front of such a great environment and crowd, I felt as though they rose to. It was a quick game, it was a competitive game, and there was some terrific football from both sides, I felt. If there was a way of creating that week-in and week-out, I’m sure it will be a massive asset for us.”
During preseason, you mentioned you wouldn’t know what you had until the games counted. Regardless of the final result, how do you feel about the group?
“Listen, I’m pleased, I am. Deep down, I’m pleased with the way that they’ve gone about their business. The passion that they’ve shown in front of a big crowd in a derby against a very good side. The discipline that they showed for large portions of the game against a very difficult side to play against. We had our moments where, in two very contrasting shapes, we were able to dictate possession pretty well. The downside, and some of the most difficult things to try and bring to the game, bring to the table, is creation. As I’ve said, and I keep going over it, I felt as though we had some nice moments that we didn’t make enough of. Against good sides, you’ve got to be a little bit more ruthless. There were too many moments where people snatched at opportunities, weren’t quite as tight with their techniques as they should have been, and in the end, it’s been the difference in the game. I felt that both sides gave a tremendous account of themselves. They’ve had a game mid-week as well, so I’m sure that there were some tired legs there, but for us, it was a good first outing that ended in disappointment.”