Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I run through some links of interest in the world of Nashville SC, US Soccer, and anything else that comes across the ol’ desktop. As always, if you find something that you think would fit here, let mw know in the comments or on the various social channels.
Data don’t lie
According to the expected goals (xG) outcomes, Nashville SC has the best defense in Major League Soccer thus far:
That… got me to thinkin’. To what degree has Nashville been good-but-unlucky on each side of the ball, and are they just not good on the one you’re thinking of? Perhaps I’ll spin this off into a separate post later, but for now:
We can see that the defense has been both extremely good and a little lucky, while the defense has been pretty poor, but also pretty unlucky. The defense has been nothing short of elite (and when you take into account NSC will be the only team to get Atlanta with Josef Martinez, it’ll be more impressive in hindsight, assuming the season ever gets played, as well).
Burgundy Wave noted Hany Mukhtar as one of the impressive newcomers to the league so far
Despite Nashville SC losing their first two matches, midfielder Hany Mukhtar has been a bright spot in this winless season so far. Mukhtar joined from IF Brondby in Denmark as the club’s first Designated Player. Mukhtar began his career in Germany, with Hertha Berlin before signing as a young prospect for Benfica. He was loaned to Red Bull Salzburg and Brondby, where, just like the first inclusion in our list, things didn’t quite work out.
Since making his move to MLS, Mukhtar has been an effective playmaker for Nashville. He’s created tons of chances, but, unfortunately, his teammates have wasted those chances. If Nashville can solve their goal-scoring woes, the assists will start to pile up for Mukhtar.
That’s a positive: I said Mukhtar has disappointed relative to expectations, and if that disappointment is still among the top newcomers in the league, there’s a lot of upside.
A crazy Everton story
Cody Arnoux and Anton Peterlin were college boys playing semi-professional football when they were recommended to Moyes by the coach of Californian club Ventura County Fusion, and former West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper, Graham Smith.
Two four-year college soccer players recommended by a PDL coach going immediately to a Premier League club is wild. Not getting guys into your system as 18-year olds, not pulling the elites-of-the-elite out of college soccer. Seeing two guys who graduated and are playing PDL ball go on trial with an EPL team. Wild.
Since it doesn’t really fit anywhere else, more NCAA stuff: how college soccer coaches are dealing with the Covid-19 situation.
Jesse Marsch, to me, is good
Former US International and NYRB coach and current Red Bull Salzburg coach Jesse Marsch has been on a major US media tour with his season in Austria on hold. He recently joined both ExtraTime and Grant Wahl’s Planet Futbol. The money quote from the ExtraTime interview has already been well-circulated:
“I’d much rather go to Liverpool and lose that match 4-3 than sit back for 90 minutes and maybe try to catch them on the counter,” Marsch said. “I just enjoy this way of living. And I also believe it breeds success. We went through this with New York. When I inherited the New York team it was a very passive team, they would sit a little bit deeper and then they would give the ball to Thierry Henry and they would catch you on the counter. I had to change the whole mentality of how we thought about things and how we played.”
He was very diplomatic in discussing his long-term career goals, but certainly fans are going to include him among those they’re clamoring for when the next USMNT head coach opening comes around.
I believe it was Matt Doyle on an episode of ExtraTime last Summer (maybe even 2018) who said that a cohesive identity for the USMNT – spanning coaches, generations, etc. – that makes the most sense would be Red Bulls-style with the high press and some quick counter-attack action, and given the qualities of the American player – stereotypically athletic, hard-working, a little less technical (though obviously that doesn’t apply to everyone) – Marsch’s philosophy would certainly be a good fit.
A very enlightening review of the tactics from the Atlanta United match.
The below image shows Atlanta’s ball rotation across the backline in action. Nashville stay narrow and release their full-backs to pressure the ball when it’s played wide. Also, notice how narrow Nashville’s wingers are when their team is out of possession. Their central positioning allowed Nashville to prevent passes through their lines and also helped to counter Atlanta’s ‘box’ in the middle of the pitch.
Much much more there.
A more 10,000-foot, macro view from MLSSoccer.com columnist emeritus Bobby Warshaw not on tactics themselves, but the implementation of that tactical (and philosophical) approach:
In soccer, every team starts preseason with a tactical periodization plan. They know how much time they want to spend on each facet of the game and the order they want to go in. The plan might extend through preseason, or the first quarter of the season, or the entire season. Each manager goes about it differently.
Warshaw has sort of floated in the wilderness since leaving MLSSoccer over the Winter, but the content he’s putting out is strong, if infrequent.
It’s some demolition at the Fairgrounds
Without further comment.
Philadelphia and the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. … Tracking data with video analysis. … Futbol en la piel. … Fellowship available for aspiring data analysts. … David Accam donating for coronavirus prevention in Ghana. Latest data I’ve seen indicate 137 total cases in the country, so not particularly hard-hit, fortunately. … The Athletic takes an in-depth look at new US Soccer CEO Will Wilson. … The best USMNT games of the past 35 years.