Nashville SC

Pitch Points probably isn’t Newcastle-bound

Welcome to Pitch Points, wherein I run down some of the recent items of interest in the world of Nashville SC, US Soccer, and more. As always, follow on the social channels and please feel free to share with friends.

Is Ian Ayre headed to Newcastle? Media reports out of England – from outlets with varying degrees of scrupulousness – link Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre with the top executive position at England’s Newcastle United after an expected Saudi takeover of the Magpies. Here’s one:

While I received an official “no comment” from the club (which I was expecting: the organization doesn’t and shouldn’t comment on rumors – or rumours in this case), it’s been expressed to me that there’s not much to worry about from a Nashville perspective.

My own take from knowing Ayre, following the club more closely than anyone out there, and simply reading tea leaves: it wouldn’t make sense for him to leave unless the money is simply massive. He wants to see out the Nashville project, is comfortable in the United States, and doesn’t see this phase of his life as complete. For a guy who views his life as consisting of very distinct phases, that’s meaningful. He also doesn’t have some burning desire to get back to England: Liverpool was the club he grew up rooting for as a child, and it’s not like Newcastle is going to have the same draw to him.

Of course, the Saudi royal family does have all the money in the world, so if they do indeed end up taking over the club, certainly they’ll try to make the price right. At the same time, uh, they’re also the sort of people who murder Washington Post reporters, so perhaps the FA will decide they don’t get to buy a Premier League club anyway.

Tactical Talk. Peyton Berry breaks down the Nashville SC tactical approach against Portland Timbers. There’s some pretty good stuff in there:

Behind them once the ball was played to one side, Nashville’s midfield line (and their shape as a whole) focused upon great horizontal compactness, without worrying about potential switches of play thanks to intense pressure on the ball. Nashville’s wide midfielders would then look to prevent a vertical pass up the line by Portland’s centerbacks while maintaining access to the Portland fullbacks, ready to pounce should the ball be played there.

I think that’s a really fair look at the defensive approach – which got a little mischaracterized as super-passive after the Atlanta United game, which was an opponent effect rather than an absolute stylistic choice.

He did have this to say about the second half offense:

Already behind a goal and likely frustrated by not making anything difficult for Portland, Nashville entered the second half with a new focus and different attacking shape. The changes by Gary Smith started with the role of Randall Leal. Alongside Mukhtar, the Costa Rican is Nashville’s next best option to receive between lines and advance the ball through tight areas. Instead, he regularly received with his heels against the touchline in the first half against a set defender with his best option cutting back onto his right foot and crossing. While a pair of Nashville chances were created in this way, Smith perhaps felt Leal could exert a greater influence on the game in a narrower and deeper position, with Daniel Lovitz at left back instead providing attacking width.

I’m not sure I agree that there was some grand technical change, though. Seemed to me more like Leal – a player who plays on the wing but whose tendency is to float inside – simply did what comes naturally to him within the same offensive structure. Perhaps a subtle offensive tweak by Smith, but more likely to me just the flow of the game.

Lots lots more there.

The DA. While I opined that the shuttering of the US Soccer Development Academy was the right choice (and the Federation scooped me by actually doing it before I could advocate therefore), there’s no question that there will be some growing pains… shrinking pains? …thanks to the sudden nature in which that process occurred.

Only tangentially related, the Federation is also furloughing and downsizing staff in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic*, more cost-cutting measures that have become all-too familiar at a variety of industries around the country and the world**. The DA’s low-hanging fruit status as an inefficient use of federation resources came home to roost, though as I’ve said, that’s more a painful pathway to the correct decision than a bad decision itself.

Meanwhile, Top Drawer Soccer is keeping tabs on where former DA clubs are ending up going forward – spoiler alert: mostly the ECNL for now, though MLS’s youth club setup is going to pick off some of the most competitive clubs that haven’t announced a 2020-21 league yet.

Apparently there were rumors about some MLS-affiliated clubs folding, but that seems more like recruitment warz than anything realistic: those would be some of the literal last not-for-profit academies in the country to close up shop.

*Stay inside! Wash your hands!

**All my “treatment is worth than the illness”-heads out there – and I doubt there are many reading this blog, fortunately – it’s not. Even with the social-distancing measures in place, this has been a brutally deadly and painful pandemic. It would be much, much worse than “only” 40,000 dead if not for the measures in place. 

Talent in the pipeline. It’s easy to forget about Nashville SC’s young players with two of them on loan to Charlotte Independence and two more yet to see any playing time in this short season to date, but one of the players who was temporarily moved from Nashville gets the praise of his captain of the Boys in Gold:

“I’ve got to give a shoutout to Jack Maher, our No. 2 overall draft pick. I’ve trained with this kid, I’ve seen him play,” McCarty said. “He has a ton of potential. He’s got a ton of talent, he’s a really good passer, I really like that. He needs to get a little bit stronger, but that kid has a really, really bright future ahead of him for Nashville, hopefully for many years.”

I broke down Maher (and Luke Haakenson)’s first – and to date only – game with Charlotte here, and you can read about some of the potential while seeing some of the “unfinished product” characteristics of the youngster, too.

Etc.: Cool story on the rebirth of Chicago Fire from Scouted Football’s Justin Sousa. … This article is specific to Texas and specifically the Austin area, but the ripple effects are felt similarly nationwide with the shutdown of the Development Academy. …’s Matt Doyle on the top Boys USYNT prospects over the past 25 years. … Seattle Sounders are hosting an online analytics conference over the next three weeks. … Tennessee Soccer Club’s ECNL staff is being built out with talented personnel. … WKRN talks with Nashville SC’s on-air talent about looking forward to life post-COVID. … Friend-of-the-blog Kean Barclay has started a podcast. … US Youth international Jose Gallegos has a cool path thus far, going the USL route as a high-schooler.

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