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Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and midfielder Aníbal Godoy met with the media after their team’s 2-0 loss to Columbus Crew SC. Watch or read their full comments here.
Head coach Gary Smith
“Listen, I’m sure everyone would think I’m going to come in here and be ultra-frustrated and disappointed. When I’ve had time to just evaluate a little deeper, I’m sure there’ll be some things I can pick out of this that we can certainly work on and move forward with. I honestly felt that our gameplan, our attitude, the way that we possessed the ball – I’ve seen the stats: we’ve come to this place, which is a tough, tough arena and I think it ended up being 57 or 58% of possession, I think we’ve made 200 passes more than them throughout the game, we’ve had 15 efforts at goal. I think the only thing I would be critical of the players about are twofold: the first one is that out of those 15 shots we only hit the target twice, and of course the mistake that was made for the first goal.
“But up until that point I thought we were in a terrific spot with… controlled a lot of the game. I felt very, very comfortable and confident about where the team was at.”
What did you see on each of the two plays that led to Columbus goals?
“The first goal’s the most vital one, Tim. At that point in the game, both teams are looking and waiting for a breakthrough. They’ve had two efforts at goal – nine efforts, two on-target – and have scored twice. What we can say is that they’ve been far more clinical in those moments. The clarity of that opportunity – it was still a little bit to do, and it was a wonderful finish by Santos, take nothing away form him there. But I think we all know that in 99% of occasions, Walker [Zimmerman] finds a pass forward, he drops it into a nice area, he doesn’t get caught on the ball and the opportunity just moves on. It’s something that he’s obviously very, very disappointed about, and so’s the group given how well we acquitted ourselves. There were some terrific displays. I thought the team unit itself – in all aspects, with and without the ball – was spot-on. It was a lot of work that went into this in limiting such a talented side, away from home. I was very, very pleased – as I’ve said, I just could not see a way that they were going to break the deadlock.
“The second goal comes purely out of a change of shape – I went 3-5-2 for the last five-six minutes – and in all fairness, I think the ball into the box was shallow, they ended up breaking very well, and of course the finish was terrific again. You’re talking about a center forward [Gyasi Zardes] who’s at the top of his game, and he’s, I believe, leading the Golden Boot tally at the moment. So for a large, large portion of the game, we’ve kept him quiet, and one or two other areas of a very potent attack.”
Did Dominique Badji have more dynamism and chance-creating responsibility than in previous games?
“I think you’re starting to see a better connection and understanding of players – the person on the ball, Dominique’s movement, where he likes to work into, how he can be effective. We had looked at trying to take advantage of their left-hand side of the field, and there were two or three moments for Dominique in that position. And even late-on, as you’ve said, he did ever-so-well, we broke quite excitingly, and he’s desperately trying to work it onto his left foot. He finds a good angle, and the only criticism I have of him or any of the guys that get into those areas, is they’re just not making the goalkeeper work hard enough. There were three or four moments late-on where we should be making the goalkeeper work, and asking more questions of second-phase balls that rebound, and get bodies high up the field. And we’re just not doing that, and that’s disappointing.
I really want to reinforce some of the positive things about this performance. I know we got beat two-nil, and it’ll be rare that I sit in front of you guys and say that I’m happy when I get beat. I’m not happy, but I’m very, very pleased with how we’ve acquitted ourselves at some of the qualities that have come out of the game and the way that we’ve conducted ourselves here. This side are on a fantastic run, and I really have to keep re-emphasizing this: but for a real dramatic error, I’m not sure whether they’d have got what they wanted out of this game. The only disappointment for me is that we couldn’t put them into that position going late-on into the second half, and maybe asking some questions of them, you know?
“They didn’t press anywhere near as aggressively as I felt they would. I think they sat off hoping that we wouldn’t get in behind them. They kept a really nice tight block, which gave us some good possession, but it also made it a very pragmatic game. And I think they maybe found themselves that there wasn’t an awful lot to get out of our unit and good defending.”
You and Mike Jacobs have spoken about wanting to not look like an expansion side this season. Does it build your confidence to stand up against a team like this, even without the result?
“I think it’s a really good point, and the one that Mike made is a really good analogy. There are always going to be games like these for every team, let alone expansion teams. I think the fact that we have come in here and given a tremendous account of ourselves – not just hung in this game for long periods, we’ve actually dictated this game; we’ve been the aggressor in this game, we’ve created the moments and got ourselves into good positions and really forced the issue here against a team that are in fantastic form. They are not one of the better teams, they are the in-form team at the moment. To come away from home and to put on the type of display that we have, albeit that we’ve gotten beat – and I understand that’s the most important stat, it always will be; when their manager comes in and he discusses whatever he will, it is the most important thing – but for a team like us that are developing, that are constantly trying to move
forward, that are always trying to reinforce some of the qualities of our game, I think tonight embodies an awful lot of that. We’ve shown a wonderful attitude away from home, we’ve been terrific with the ball, there’s been some excellent displays, and – as I’ve said – we can really feel frustrated that we haven’t made more out of this and come away with something.”
Alan Winn earned his first MLS start after a long time out of the squad. How did you evaluate his performance, and did you sense any friction in the locker room about his decision to be the only Nashville player to not take a knee during the national anthem?
“Absolutely not. First of all, I’ll take the question on his performance. Alan, I’ve felt when he came on last week against Atlanta, put in a terrific shift. And if you think about the guys that are in front of him, there’s some very experienced and talented players that have done a really good job for the team. And Alan’s just unfortunately hasn’t had his opportunity to break into the group. We’ve got a glut of injuries, all in that wide area – I don’t have to tell you who those guys are – and Alan gets his opportunity, and I felt for an hour, he was very competitive. Do I think there’es more to come from him? Absolutely.
“As far as not taking a knee, we support our guys, and we support everyone’s opinion and the way that they want to express themselves. What I do know is this: Alan and the rest of the group are a very, very tight-knit unit. I have no doubt in my mind there will have been discussions in the locker room. Alan’s one of the most-supported and decent individuals that you’re likely to meet. I wouldn’t read into that too much. I would imagine for him, there were one or two reasons for that, and I would think the national anthem being played is one of them.”
Nashville SC VP of Communications Cristina Maíllo Belda: “Just to clarify as well, Alan’s dad is actually a policeman – a Chief of Police – so that’s the reason why he did it that way.”
Midfielder Aníbal Godoy
“Good night to everybody. It’s a tough game, before the game we knew if we would want to win this game, we’d need to give everything. We gave everything, we played well, we demanded with the ball. We tried to always have the ball, take the ball: tried to stay calm but also we moved the ball really well. We created chances, but we don’t finish the chance. This is fútbol: when you don’t finish a chance – Columbus only had one chance in the second half and they punched in – it’s more difficult when you go down in the score. But I feel happy: I feel happy not because we lose, but I feel happy because all of the team made big efforts in difficult plays. We know here it is a difficult place to play, but we made effort. We worked really hard and I feel happy because also we have only three days to shake this game now. Now tomorrow is another day, now we try to [wait to] think about D.C. until tomorrow.”
What was Gary’s message about the plan, particularly through the midfield?
“Yes, ‘[Darlington] Nagbe don’t play’ [Columbus’s central midfielder missed the game through injury]. He makes up that is: we need to stay compact, we need close the line – the passes for line inside. Nagbe’s only… Columbus is not only about Nagbe. Columbus is not only about Nagbe. Columbus has other very good players: Artur is also a very good player. If they break the pressure we put, they have good wingers, also. This is what before the game Gary told: we need to stay compact, we need to react quick. This is what we did, this worked well. When I say this before: when they scored the goal, it’s so difficult to win.”
Does competing well in Columbus give you confidence going into a stretch against teams that are visiting Nashville and not as strong as the Crew?
“Yeah, of course. Of course, we have some confidence for the next games. It is good because we have three days only, for try to change. Not to change [how we played] this game, because we played really well in this game. This is why I’ll go happy to my house. Because we played really well, but sometimes in the fútbol you play really well, and you don’t win. Sometimes you play bad and you win, but this is the way we stay; this is the way we need to stay and try to build this. Try to think about this game, also, because we gave everything. This is why the team: we know have a final here. After here, al the games are a final for us: this is why Wednesday we have another final against D.C. also we have another final against Houston in three days more. This is why it is everything to try to recover quick to play this game against D.C.”
Is the team starting to build an identity with recent results?
“Yes, good good. We have identity now: like you say, we improve, every game we improve. If you see the building up from behind is better. In the first game in Dallas, if you see, we always tried to have the ball, to have control of the game. And we controlled the game the first half, and also the second half before they scored. We controlled the game, we had so many passes: like 20 passes in one time. And we finish the action. A really tough place is Columbus, and the first team in the league. This is really, really, really good for us. This is why we try to improve every day in the training. This is why if we continue like this, for sure we will go to playoff.”
Did the team discuss Alan Winn’s decision not to kneel?
“This is… you need to ask this question for Alan. I don’t know. This is your decision, he knows what happened, but I am not the right man for try to explain this question. Sorry.”
You had a strong chance in the first half cleared off the line. What did you see on that play, and did you feel like it was going in when you hit it?
“For this set piece, it is like we always try to put the ball in the right spot. We have really good targets like Walker, Dave [Romney], and Badji. But I am that: try to stay second in the box, try to find the second ball. In this moment, I stepped first, I alert the action, but I try to finish. They saved the ball on the line. But this is why the fútbol, if we don’t finish the action, it is really tough after we went down 1-0.”
Gary Smith photo from Zoom/file