Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and centerback Walker Zimmerman met with the media after today’s 1-1 draw against Houston Dynamo. Watch or read their full comments here.
Head coach Gary Smith
“Initially, of course, bitterly disappointed to concede so late and leave ourselves in a position with just a point and not all three. However, I think at the end of a very long week, with a lot of things that went on even in this game, let alone throughout the last two games, I think maybe a draw was a reasonably fair result, and I’m delighted with the efforts that the guys have given again. But sometimes these afternoon games create a different dynamic, and there were a number of mistakes. We weren’t quite as clean and as crisp as I’ve seen us in the last couple of games. No doubt, the loss of our only fit forward affected the dynamic of the group.
“And of course, on another day, we’re talking about very fine lines for the penalty that obviously didn’t stand in the end, and then the goal that didn’t stand. Look: we know or hope that these situations come back to give us our fair share of good luck, and today we’ve fallen the wrong side of it. I’m pleased we added a point, disappointed we conceded so late.”
What did you think of the VAR decision of the second play called offside, where Daniel Ríos had appeared to score?
“It’s a really difficult one. I’ve only seen the camera angle on the jumbo screen out in the field, and I’ve got to say: when the ball’s played, we’re talking about extremely fine lines. I can only assume that whoever’s in the VAR position has got a better angle and has made the right choice. I mean, I’m bitterly disappointed having seen it on the jumbo scren: we’re talking about such a fine line.
“It’s strange: I was only talking about this just the other day to a friend. The reality to a lot of fans is they want to see goals. I was always under the impression that some daylight between defender and attacker was really what people were looking for. And I know I’ve seen plenty of decisions all around Europe and the globe that leave us shaking our head. I find it disappointing that somebody could score a goal, and can have their big toenail just offside, and we cancel it out. I’m not sure that’s the way that we want to go, either.
“We’ve fallen foul of that today, my only hope is that at some point, either VAR or whoever else is making those choices repays us. But you’re absolutely right, Drake: it left everyone shaking their head.”
What did you see on the goal that Daniel Ríos scored?
“There was a bit of a discussion at halftime, just more so around how we were going to be more effective. There were some decent passages of play, there were one or two moments that we’ve just spoken about and were pulled back. How are we going to make that breakthrough?
“I honestly felt that, given Derrick’s performance in the week, that somebody in the middle there that was capable of physically asking more questions may well give us a bit of a boost. Derrick’s immediate impact was to roll the centerback, or draw him into a challenge, be strong enough to ride it, and of course make the perfect decision to slide Daniel in. I’m extremely pleased obviously for Daniel again, aside from the injury, he’s two-in-two now.
“The whole process was something that we were lacking in the first period of the game. Really, really pleased with that. For a large portion of the game, I felt we kept an incredibly bright front line very quiet. I’m sure somebody’s going to ask me how the game ended and the final goal, but there’s no doubt we finished looking tired, leggy, and lacking any real punch up front, which is understandable with all of our forwards injured at the moment.
On that note, what is your plan for center forward, and when do you expect Jhonder Cádiz in?
“First and foremost, where we’re at with our bodies, extremely disappointed to see Daniel limp off. I don’t know the full extent of it at the minute, so we’ll have to assess that. Dominique, obviously injury in the week. His injury has been fully assessed to maybe give us a bit more of a timeframe. Abu is probably the closest to any competitive work, and I’m hoping that he may join the group next week and give everyone a bit of a boost.
“Aside that, Cádiz, I believe, has gone through all of the paperwork process, and I would be encouraged to see him here next week. What day, I don’t know yet, but I think we’re close to that, and we may well see him on the ground at some point in the week. Given the current climate and circumstances, he has to serve a quarantine period, as have a lot of guys that have obviously joined the league. We hope that once that quarantine period is done, we can have him as part of the group, and it will be a much-needed shot in the arm, I believe, for everyone.”
How did you assess Tah Brian Anunga’s performance?
“He was absolutely terrific, and you know the difficulty is: Brian comes out of the game after an hour, I think most people would look at it and feel, ‘did he do anything wrong?’ And the boy might question what his impact on the game was. I thought he was absolutely terrific.
“You’ve got two guys in Dax and Aníbal who are arguably the best pairing in the league – I know others will maybe qwuestion that – but for me they’ve been absolutely outstanding for this group. The initial plan was maybe to swap the two senior guys out. Given the injury to Daniel and the position we were in, I just felt a bit more experience might be needed as we drew towards the latter stages of the game. And in many ways it was: sadly we couldn’t repel the pressure we were under.
“Brian was spot on. I’m so so pleased with how he’s developing, how he goes about his work and his attitude. He’s a top individual, great character, and I’m extremely pleased with where we’re going with Brian.”
Centerback Walker Zimmerman
“Look, I think we’re all really disappointed with the end result, but also when it’s the third game in a week, and you can’t quite get your legs going and you can’t quite get the quality going to where you want it to, I thin kwe all got pretty frustrated with our lack of sharpness and quality. That being said, we put ourselves in position, 1-0, where we’ve had our chances to close out games before, earlier in the year, and we’ve done a great job with that. And today was the first time it kind of caught up to us, especially on a set piece.”
Especially given how strong the defense was for the better part of the game to give up the clean sheet right at the end?
“Extremely disappointed. I mean, these are two points lost in our minds. Any time you’re at home, you’re going for three points, especially when you get the first goal in the game. We take a lot of pride in our defense, in our shape, and in our ability to get shutouts and limit opponents’ chances. Especially on set pieces. It’s where everyone’s got to be locked-in, tuned in. Somehow put your body on the line to try to make a play.
“We’ll have to go back and look at it and see what we could have done better, but I know we gave up a lot of corners at the end. It’s: can we maybe limit them from getting so far into our end where those become throw-ins out wide, rather than corners.”
Was the goal a moment out of the blue, or was it thew culmination of a trend in the game at the time?
“I think we found ourselves in a few games now where we’re dropping a little deep and we’re absorbing a lot of opportunities. That is going to be natural sometimes late in a game when you are protecting a lead. So we knew that we were defending a little deeper, they were taking more ground, but at no point do I think anyone thought that we were going to let up a goal. We were trying to communicate, stay sharp mentally, and those are moments where you’re trying to just chat to everyone, make sure everyone’s engaged and know their jobs.
“Again, I’ll have to look at the goal and see what could happen and if we could do things differently, and then move on from there and correct it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Do you foresee an opportunity at some point this season where you or Dave Romney will get a chance to finally get some rest?
“We’ll see. We’ll see, kind of – I think it’s one of those things where you’ve got to take it day-by-day, game-by-game. At some point, would the coaching staff like to get rotations in? I don’t know: that’s going to be a question for them. As far as me and Dave especially, we’re doing our best to take care of our bodies, and make sure we’re doing all the right things off the field, to make sure we put ourselves in position to do that.
“If there comes a week where we pick up a knock or two and we have to go to the staff and say, ‘hey, I’m feeling this a little bit,’ maybe that becomes a time to rotate. In my mind, I’m competitive, I want to be out there every minute. I want to play every minute and every game to try and help this team win. Find ourselves in the playoffs and making a run for an MLS Cup, because that’s what it’s all about.
“If there’s a time later on, yeah sure. I’m sure they’ll think about it. But again, that’s a day-by-day thing, and hopefully the body keeps feeling good and we keep moving forward. That’s a testament to all the work that everyone’s put in during quarantine to stay fit and stay sharp. I’m proud of all that work that I’ve done, that the team’s done. And so yeah: I’m going to keep pushing forward, and keep staying mentally and physically as sharp as I can.”
Walker Zimmerman photo from file.