Welcome to The Wrap, running through all the postgame content after Nashville SC’s 1-1 draw against one of the top teams in MLS.
A sense of foreboding loomed over the first half, with Nashville SC unable to progress the ball through Orlando’s crowded and organized midfield. When winger Benji Michel laced a long shot into the far side-netting in the 17th minute, things were looking grim for NSC. When they were unable to respond – with second balls regularly falling to Lions players, rather than Nashville SC players – a comeback looked unlikely.
Enter Nashville’s two designated players. Attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar and winger Randall Leal have been maligned for their lack of precision since MLS’s restart, and often that criticism has been warranted. They linked up directly out of the locker room to deliver a beautiful goal for Nashville SC.
In particular, getting Mukhtar and Leal performing at a high level was a key.
“In the first period, it was far too easy for their defensive shape and team organization to deal with two of our most creative players,” Smith said. “Randall spent too much time in front of defenders, and in a position where he’s easy to mark – or certainly he found it very very tough to get away from anyone. There were two instances where he stayed wide and got himself in good positioins, and he actually created – on his own – two shooting opportunities. Same applies to Hany. Slightly different to Hany, you know. When we’re building out, he’s got slightly more license to overload areas, but he’s at his very best when he’s behind midfield players, in front of defenders, getting in those half-pockets and on the half-turn, and asking questions of the backline. Second half, he did that more often.
“We were giving a lot of wrong pass and everything,” Leal said. “He told us in the second half we have to show something more, and we can do it. I think the second half, we go to the pitch with another mind and everything, and then we get the first goal quick.”
The Graphical paid particular attention to the fact that Nashville’s DPs didn’t change a whole lot but their effectiveness between halves.
Obviously the duo linked up on the goal, but their overall performance leaves even more to analyze.
While it looks like they were a lot more active in the first half, a big part of that is time: they both played the full first frame and Leal got just 26 minutes in the second half, and Mukhtar 45 of 49 minutes. NSC was also seeing out the game without trying to make major offensive pushes (which led to some scary moments on its own late in the contest, to be fair), so you wouldn’t expect attacking midfielders to be involved in that final 10 minutes or so.
Gary Smith was happy to see them not spending so much time in defensive areas, as well.
Just one film room this game, on the goal itself:
Urso, the right DM, and Pereyra, the attacking midfielder for Orlando, both volunteer to not be involved in the play: Pereyra passes the responsibility of marking either of Nashville’s talented Central Americans to his teammates, and steps out to mark fullback Alistair Johnston – who wisely hangs back from the play, preventing Pereyra from revering. Meanwhile, Urso is ball-watching to an incredible degree, and simply lets Mukhtar go where he wants with nobody defending. It’s an incredible lack of locked-in play after the Lions had been so precise and engaged throughout the first half.
This is just simply incredible, after how well Orlando had played early. It frees Nashville SC’s best player to distribute unperturbed from Zone 14 (the connections weren’t quite precise, so Mukhtar had to make a creative sliding pass, but if Urso is in the same zip code like he should be, it’s just a dead play).
I may well come back and get into the film on Joe Willis’s 84th-minute save, but with a game coming up tonight, that’s a task for a later day.
And finally, the voting post for Community Ratings, and your results:
A smaller proportion of folks shared their thoughts once again. Don’t forget you can type in the box below the numerical value each week!
- Man of the match – M/F Randall Leal: 8.51 Community comments:
- “Quality give and go …GOAL⚽️”
- “Great to see him get is first for NSC”
- GK Joe Willis: 8.48 Community comment:
- “When OCSC signed Gallese, it made us signing Willis seem comparatively weak. Willis was easily better than him last night”
- D Dan Lovitz: 7.60 Community comment:
- “Very solid game”
- “Whatever problems NSC has, it has nothing to do with LB”
- D Walker Zimmerman: 7.16 Community comment:
- “stayed closer to home”
- D Dave Romney: 7.09
- D Alistair Johnston: 6.74 Community comment:
- “obvious progression”
- M Aníbal Godoy: 7.24 Community comments:
- “Good and bad. Good passing, but can’t lose a 1v1 within 25 yards of your own goal.”
- M Dax McCarty: 6.59
- M/F Hany Mukhtar: 6.45
- M/F Alex Muyl: 6.19 Community comment:
- “Tough outing …7 give aways and looked winded …to his credit he kept grinding”
- F Dominique Badji: 5.83
- F Daniel Ríos (64′ sub): 5.72 Community comment:
- The MLS level seems to fast for him.
- M/F Abu Danladi (71′ sub): 6.11
- M/F David Accam (72′ sub): 6.77 Community comment:
- “I want to see him on the field more. He brings an attacking bite that others dont'”
- “felt dangerous when subbed in. I like him in that role”
- M Tah Brian Anunga (90′ sub): 6.10
- Coach Gary Smith: 6.22 Community comment:
- “I’m not comfortable with the USNT-Belgium-ish finishes. Need to have a better finish of match plan”
- Overall team rating: 6.80
NSC official site game recap. NewsChannel5 game story. Randall Leal makes a rundown of Costa Ricans in MLS. Game story from Drake Hills at The Tennessean, and a column on Nashville’s Designated Players from his colleague Gentry Estes. Game story from Broadway. Three takeaways from from Sportsblog‘s Ben Sundock. Three things learned from the Orlando Sentinel. Nashville Post game story. Big day for friend-of-the-blog (and proud Tico) Claudio Villalobos and Futbol en la Piel: their game story.