It has been a long six months since we last saw Nashville SC on the field. After two games to start the year, the Boys in Gold have been on the shelf during the coronavirus pandemic.
The frustration is further compounded – if given a tiny bit of cathartic relief – by the fact that the majority of Major League Soccer was able to get back to the pitch over the course of the past month at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando. Only Nashville and FC Dallas, which both had spreading of the novel coronavirus amongst their rosters to the extent that they were sent home from Central Florida, have yet to return to the pitch.
“This last month was tough for us, because we know what happened in Orlando,” Nashville SC midfielder Aníbal Godoy said of his team’s withdrawal from the MLS is Back Tournament. “Now we’ve come here to try to build up a little bit more before we go to Dallas.”
A trip to D-town beckons in just a couple days, with NSC and FCD slated to play the first of three games head-to-head to make up for their absence in the tournament. The second game will be played Sunday (Nashville SC will fly in and out on gameday both days, rather than stay in Dallas), with the third game, in Nashville, to be scheduled at a later date.
The series kicks off a return to home-market play for the league after the time in Orlando – at least after the reconfiguration of the groups in the wake of Nashville and Dallas’s respective departures – went off largely without a hitch. For a Nashville team that prepared to perform in Florida only to have the rug pulled out by the pandemic, having a concrete game in sight is welcome.
“I think at times when you don’t have that end goal or target, it’s hard to stay motivated,” said goalkeeper Joe Willis. “But now that we know what we’re doing, and where we’re playing, I think the energy has definitely ramped up a bit. The drive and the competitive nature of guys is really starting to show, and guys are really getting excited. The energy level has been raised for sure. I think guys are ready to start kicking other people, rather than each other. So we’re going to come out firing.”
“We tried to keep working,” added Godoy. “Now we know we have a game next week, a game against Dallas. This is really good for us, because now the objective for this team is to try to play. Try to enjoy these two games we have now [in Dallas].”
Watch Godoy and Willis’s full comments here:
There’s no question Nashville SC will be rusty when they hit the field Wednesday evening (7:30 p.m. CDT on MyTV30 locally and ESPN+ out-of-market). There’s no question that the team members would rather have had the chance to take on opponents in Orlando over the course of the last month. There’s no question that they were excited about the carrot at the end of the knockout bracket: a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.
There’s no use in ruminating on the past (except inasmuch as it helps the team maintain heightened vigilance in avoiding contraction of the virus). Instead, the team has to look for the silver linings in not playing its expected games against Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union and Orlando City SC. The added practice time is likely not as valuable as the games would have been, but it allows for a different type of development.
The team has spent the past three weeks at Currey Ingram Academy honing its style of play on the practice pitch. Making the most of the time spent in Nashville should help lead to success going forward.
“Especially as an expansion team, it gives us a lot of time to kind of iron out some of the details on how we want to play, and how we are going to play,” Willis explained. “So I think it’s been obviously a long and arduous journey, but at the end, we’re trying to take some positive benefits from it, and trying to come out better because of it.”
There’s no denying, though, that the team wants nothing more than to get back into a competitive environment, and show the world what they can do. A soccer career is finite, and these players live for the game.
“This is our job: everybody wants to play, everybody wants to come to training,” Godoy said. “Everybody tries to enjoy every training, because we know that football is short. More in this time, everybody thinks that, when football finishes, what happens after football, you know?”
Soon enough, the players will be able to take their game back to the pitch, back to television screens, and back to the MLS standings.
Joe Willis photo courtesy Nashville SC media relations.