After chattin’ it up about Jhonder Cádiz Thursday afternoon, Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith fielded a few questions about this evening’s matchup with Atlanta United. Watch or read his full comments here.
What’s the feeling having an entire week to prepare for the match?
“Well after such a tough run, big piece of the equation was making sure that the guys were physically and emotionally refreshed. So they’ve had a couple of days off. In that period of time, they’ve been in to make sure that their recovery work at the training ground – and certainly some of the players on the fringes have had some extra work. But we’ve for the first time today [Thursday] got back together again and looked at some of the aspects of our game that will be important towards the weekend.
“As Mike’s touched on, this is a unique season with so many games coming so quickly. I do believe that the time we’ve had here has been utilized well. For those guys, being physically ready for the weekend was one of the big boxes that I wanted to tick. Atlanta are coming off of a tough week themselves – three away games, this obviously being their third – and I felt honestly that being fresh, being bright and purposeful at the weekend is as big a quality as any to try and put ourselves in the positive column at the weekend.
Not knowing who your next opponents are or when the next game will be, do you feel a little more ability to be throwing everything you’ve got at Atlanta, almost like a season-ending game?
“What we know is, Tim, that there’s due to be a second phase of the schedule, so we are assured – as assured as you can be I guess, this year, nothing straightforward – there’s going to be more fixtures. I think to your point, that Atlanta are a team that, even in the early stages of our history, have been a best way of putting it: a bogey-team, a thorn in our side, a difficulty, however you want to put it. They’re a team that we have a distinct rivalry with because of the location. And yet at this precise moment, as you might have expected, they’ve got themselves in a good spot in that relationship.
“Make no mistake: I’m very, very keen to start getting this back on track against Atlanta, and Saturday’s as good a day as any. At home again, we’ve had our two most recent games in Titans’ Stadium, I’ve felt as though the performances – in a very strange environment, of course – warranted and looked like good home performances and that the guys looked comfortable and expressed themselves well. I would hope that Saturday’s game won’t be any different. You add into that, that Atlanta have had a midweek game and we haven’t . We’ve been in that position numerous times: it’s not easy, especially when you’re jumping on a flight and you’re playing a game in the same day. We know what that’s like.
“There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to overcome ourselves. Whilst they’re going through what would seem to be a bit of a transitional period themselves, you cannot take for granted the fact that they have a tremendous amount of talent still in that team. I think they’re one of those groups that, if you do take them for granted, then it really does come back to bite you. We’ll be in the right place. We’ve got some work to be done tomorrow, and to finalize some of our plans and preparations, but to your point, we’ll be throwing everything at the weekend, and I’m not sure there’s a game we’ve had yet where we haven’t. If there’s points on the board to play for, Tim, then I’ve always felt that it’s a game that you have to throw everything into.”
How does the dynamic change with the the shifting Atlanta lineup, particularly the previous injury to Josef Martinez and subsequent departure of Pity Martinez?
“Well, [Erick Cubo] Torres and [Adam] Jahn are very different individuals. There’s no way of telling at this point who’ll start the game. I think what we’ve seen is that you may well see both of them throughout the game because of the opportunities with substitutes. Pity not being involved – and winning the game ultimately against us in Atlanta – you’d have to think is a positive for us. He’s an exceptionally talented guy, and it’s one less exceptionally talented individual that they have in their group.
“But they’ve added [Jurgen] Damm out wide, and [Ezequiel] Barco seems to have stepped into the void that Pity has left. Just watching tyhe game last night, there’s a lot of weight put on a young man’s shoulders there now that you’ve had Josef and Pity disappear, and of course in the not-too-distant future or past, you’ve obviously lost Almiron as well. He’s now stepped up a little bit, and he looks like an individual who the other guys are leaning on quite a bit.
“Listen, whatever way you look at it, they’re not an easy side to play against because of their philosophy, and their mantra of possession and creativity. They do take, normally, a lot of chances going forward. They commit bodies to attack, which makes them so exciting of course, but it also makes them vulnerable. I don’t know what Stephen Glass will do with the group after a midweek game, but I think we know we’re in for a tough encounter, come what may. But I also believe after a three-game unbeaten streak and only one goal in that period against us, and certainly opportunities to have taken the victory in a couple of those games, the players are in a confident mood, they’re refreshed, they look bright and upbeat today, which I would have expected, and they certainly want to start putting this record straight.”
How important is it to get a result in the third match so far against Atlanta?
“I don’t think I could have stressed any more how important how I think it is, and I’m sure the players feel the same way. I think if we look at it purely from a competitive standpoint, which is what every game should be, and from a standpoint of a local derby and a rivalry, yes of course it is important. We want to put our mark on this rivalry scenario. But I don’t think anyone’s in a desperate state here. Let’s keep it in perspective: we’re at home, we will certainly give it everything we have to win this game. There’ll be, I’m sure, no individual on that field that won’t absolutely empty the tank for a result for us. And then, of course, we’re reliant on quality at the right times, and making sure that our gameplan is fulfilled to its very utmost.
“Listen, I expect it to be extremely competitive even though I’ve said that they’ve had a tough week. They’ve got good group, they’ve got depth, and I would be veery surprised if Stephen doesn’t rotate to get some fresher legs on the field. But my hope is, and there’s certainly no guarantees in professional sport, but my hope is that we turn out a performance that we have done in the last couple at home, we’re able to create the opportunities that we have done in most of our games, and somebody in the group is able to do something that they haven’t just yet, and that’s get us on track with multiple goals. It would be even nicer if one of the forwards was to score multiple goals. That would be quite something for us, and I think that would be enough.”
Gary Smith photo from file.