Nashville SC

Presser: Gary Smith, Joe Willis, and Alex Muyl after a draw in Miami

“Miami” is a word that here means “Fort Lauderdale.”

Nashville SC played to a scoreless draw against fellow expansion club Inter Miami CF after yet another lengthy rain delay. Watch or read full comments from head coach Gary Smith, goalkeeper Joe Willis, and midfielder Alex Muyl here.

Head coach Gary Smith

“I thought it mapped out pretty much how we expected. Miami started in a very bright fashion, and got themselves into some very good positions early on. Probably for the first time in a good while, we rode our luck a little bit in those early sort of 10-12 minutes, but warmed into the game. Showed some very very good signs in possession, we managed the well as we have done away from home, and I felt, got stronger and strong – the second-half statistics tell us that.

“There were some very good openings for us. Yet again, the only thing that’s missing for us is that end product. Some very good chances, clean sheet, a wonderful display under the circumstances again – a long delay. I really can’t ask more from this group at the moment.”

Were you surprised by the chances Inter Miami was able to get great chances – and ultimately miss them?

“So are you telling me that their were more simple than ours? Is that your question? What I saw Drake, our opportunities to score were every bit as clear-cut as theirs. I honestly wasn’t surprised at how they started the game. What I was surprised about was the fact that after about 10-12 minutes, that pressure and those opportunities started to dissipate. I think that was down to a bit of resolve in our group. Listen, everyone was up at 6 o’clock this morning, we jumped on a flight, we’ve sat around for two-odd hours in a storm delay. We finish again late at night. This group is having to deal with some of the most incredible circumstances that I have ever seen. To give up a couple of opportunities is, at this precise moment, minimal for this group.

“We still had enough opportunities to either get ourself back in the game if they’d have scored, and win it in the end because they didn’t. And that’s the frustrating part.”

What was behind the lack of selection of David Accam in the squad?

“Competition: simple as that. The group’s very, very competitive. I felt as though we needed a slightly different group traveling here. Game after game. Dave’s a great lad: no issues, no worries with him at all. Just a choice, a selection on the night, and knowing that this was going to be not an easy journey – it got all the worse with the dealy – and I felt I needed some different characters in the group.”

Did you feel you had a winner with Dan Lovitz at the end? WHat’s the reaction when you see it inches wide?

“It’s the easiest one to pick out because of the clear-cut nature of it. But I did think that there were two or three others. Drake’s mentioned the corner or set-piece, Hany did well a couple times. There’ve been some really nice moments that we haven’t converted again. It’s been the achilles heel for this team.

“We’ve had 16 efforts at goal tonight away from home, and we’ve only hit the target four times. Not only is it a problem not scoring, it’s a problem hitting the target as well. This is an ongoing problem for our group. I only know two ways of trying to correct that: one is you change the bodies, the second one is you work ever-so hard at it. And we’re working ever so hard at it. The hope is, we see the rewards from that.”

Do you feel like you had common threads between slow starts to halves i this game and previous games?

“I can’t get inside the players’ heads, but I would say quite simply fatigue. How many teams have you seen go away now – we’re starting to get into the thick of this schedule, and teams are playing Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday week after week, and the fatigue’s seeting in. You throw in an hour-and-a-half flight, you throw into it an early-morning start. You have all the difficulties of travel and the problems of playing away from home against a team that – come on, you’ve got a wealth of talent in the other team, and this is a terrific point. I think the fact that we’re all disturbed, frustrated, and upset that we haven’t won this – or at least scored a goal which would have won it in the end – tells us a staory. Listen, I expect that some point in the game, the guys are just going to come off that high-tempo, high-energy and competitive game that they’ve played.

“Yeah, we didn’t start brightly. They did come out on the tracks quicker. We did get a little bit fortunate. But beyond that, I felt for large portions of the game, we very much held our own, if not created some of the best chances – or as many good chances as they did – away from home. I’m not going to criticize the players at all, they’ve given it everything they’ve got.

What will be the easier process when it comes to no midweek fixture and a home match coming up?

“Huge. Listen, you would not even believe the amount of discussion about the break, about some rest, about the opportunity to regroup emotionally and physically. To be in a position where we can choose to have some recovery time, some buildup time, some work on the training field – as heavy or as light as we want it to be – and have a week that looks somewhat normal for this group. I’m sure any team that’s dealing with the schedule in the same way we are is thinking exactly the same thing.

“These players have now played five out of seven games in 25 days away from home. It’s tough. Really tough. Nobody in this country, as far as I know, have ever had fly in on the day of the game as much as teams are doing right now, and you’re seeing strange results because of it. It’s not easy. So it’s going to be great to have some days at home, it’s going to be great to get some rest, and I would hope that emotionally and physically, we come back much fresher.”

What has been behind the positional shift of Taylor Washington player more advanced as a winger?

“The main thought process around it was that Taylor’s a very different player to one or two of the attacking guys that we know. But he’s quick, he’s competitive, he’s got abilities in his game that lend themselves – the determination and the fiber that you sometimes need – in difficult surroundings against a very, very talented team. And I felt as though those qualities were going to be needed tonight. And I also felt that Taylor’s performance was exactly what I expected. It was full of energy. It was full of passion and desire. And we needed players tonight – at the end of this long five out of seven away games in a short period of time – I needed players going on the field that were going to lift the others, that were going to help morake. Not necessarily the most gifted, but individuals who were really going to roll their sleeves up and do the utmost to get whatever they could out of this game, and they did exactly that.”

How encouraging was Hany Mukhtar’s performance?

“Delighted. It was, for me like you’ve just mentioned, one of his most influential performances. He looked like the Hany I’d seen in those first couple of games of the season. He’s shaken off some of those shackles of the moratorium and being unable to compete and work at a competitive level. And he looks to me like he’s getting back to his old self: he looked brighter, he looked like he was a catalyst for some of the work – and a lot of the work we had in possession. Just as importantly, he found himself in some good shooting and creative positions, and that’s exactly what we need out of him.”

Goalkeeper Joe Willis and midfielder Alex Muyl

How did the clean sheet come about?

Willis: “I think we came into this game knowing we could get a lot out of it if we were compact in the back. Getting a clean sheet is the foundation to getting points in this league. We came into it knowing that if we could at least give ourselves a chance, then the attacking players would create chances for us. I think we were very organized, and dealt with their more-dynamic players, as well. A lot of good defensive plays.”

How are you adjusting to the new team?

Muyl: “I think for me, a third start in a week or so is good. Obviously I think I still need to improve a lot, keep a lot more balls. But ultimately, the team is coming together really nicely. Obviously like Joe said another shutout is never easy on the road, especially this year when you have to travel day of the game. But I think we’re not trying to make any excuses, and we want to come on the road and expect to get three points. We have to build in that direction, and hopefully we can take the lessons from tonight and apply them going forward.”

With the early activity that Miami had in front of net, did you get into a groove and get engaged quicker?

Willis: “It definitely helps you get into it. I like to get my hands on the ball early in the game. It kind of gets you tuned in. I’ve said it before, but: you have to stay focused for 90 minutes, and when there’s not a lot of action you have to force it. But when there’s action, it kind of comes naturally. I prefer to be involved more so than just to be standing back there by myself. I like to, like I said, get my hands on the ball early.”

Do you feel like your ability to make defensive plays in scoring areas adds a dimension to this team?

Muyl: “I think the higher up you win the ball, the shorter a distance it is to the goal, and that’s always going to make it easier to score. I think for us, in games – especially early – we’re pressing and we’re creating opportunities out of it. As long as we continue to do that, I think goals are going to come. We’ve shown we’re comfortable to sit back and absorb pressure and break out of that. But to add to our game a little higher press will definitely lead to some more goals for us, and also lead to us having more control of the game.”

How do you as a defense-first winger get involved offensively in different types of games?

Muyl: “Yeah, I mean with three games in a week and then having to travel and come down here, it’s going to be a game that maybe you’re not on the front foot. For us, obviously we were able to absorb some pressure – they had some early chances. For us, we grew into the game, and I think that’s something that: while we obviously want the three points, we also have to take the realistic look which is: the last three games we’re unbeaten, we’ve only conceded one goal. Joe’s done amazing at keeping us in games, and we’re creating chances. I think we can look at this and know that we have something here. A foundation that we’re moving in the right direction, and for us of course it’s never going to be every game that we’re dominating, but we have to be able to get something out of these games.”

Did you feel a difference in your ability to communicate between the Orlando game and this one?

Willis: “I wouldn’t necessarily say so. I think communication is always important. I try to be as vocal as I can and get guys in the right spots. When you have an empty stadium it’s a lot easier, because guys can actually hear you. That being said, we have a lot of veteran defenders – and even though Alistair [Johnston] is young, he’s a very smart defender. For the most part, they know where they need to be, they know the plays they need to make, I’m just there to help them if I see something that they don’t. Like I said, communication’s always a big part of keeping the team organized, and as a goalkeeper, I have a vantage point of the entire field. So I think it’s important for any goalkeeper to use their voice as much as possible.”

Other than the obvious ‘kick ball in net,’ how do you individually help make the offense more effective?

Muyl: “I think for the attacking players, obviously when goals aren’t going in, you start to lose confidence. So For us, I think we just need to continue doing what we’re doing. The most important thing is just to create chances: that’s the hardest thing to do. Once you start scoring, they’re going to come a lot easier. I think for us, it’s just going to be about keeping our heads down, staying positive, and continuing to do the things we’re doing, because we’re creating a lot, we just need to put them away. I think once we do, it will start coming in bunches.

How big a relief will it be to have a break between games, and no travel for the next one?

Willis: “Yeah, it’s huge. We knew coming into this Phase One of the new schedule that it was going to be a lot of games in a short amount of time. To see a full week between games is a blessing for sure. I know a lot of the guys are going to relish the time off to get their bodies right and prepare for the next game. I think we’ll be able to get some real training in too, and get some good recovery. Like you said, we’ll have a home game at the end of the week, so we’ve only had two of those so far. It’ll be a nice change of pace for sure, and hopefully we can keep some of this good momentum going.

Muyl: Yeah, I just echo all of that. It’s going to be good for us to get our bodies back. These three games have definitely taken some wear and tear on us, I think we’ve actually done very well though, in terms of being able to match the physical side of the game. It’ll be good to get a week and come back at it on Saturday, and get this thing going again.”

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