Nashville SC

Presser: Gary Smith, Randall Leal, and Daniel Ríos after a big win over Dallas

Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and two of his goal-scorers – Randal Leal and Daniel Ríos – met with the media after a 3-0 win over FC Dallas. Watch or read their full comments here.

Coach Gary Smith

“Well it goes without saying I’m absolutely delighted to score three goals, keep a clean sheet and add three points to the board. It continues our very decent run of home form. And against a very, very capable Dallas side, there were many moments in the game where I felt we looked very bright, purposeful and creative. There were moments they got on top – and it was always going to be an incredibly difficult game; they’re not sitting in a decent position in the West for no reason, they have lots and lots of talent in that group – and there were moments certainly at the start of the second period where we rode our luck a little bit. But on tonight’s performance, I think we can safely say that we’re in a nice vein of form and the longer we can ride this momentum, the better.”

What is the big-picture meaning of this win?

“This period of time was always going to be instrumental in what we achieve this year: four games out of the final six are at home, and with the way that we’ve been playing at home, the form we’ve had at home. But it’s never easy; you can’t just turn up and expect that you’re going to get results. Guys understand and appreciate that there’s an awful lot of effort needed, there’s foundations of the game, you must compete, you must restrict teams like this Dallas group who have goals in them. This is a team here, Dallas, who have gone to numerous places and at their own field as well, have taken teams to the cleaners. To keep a clean sheet and to again score three goals, back-to-back games that we’ve score multiple goals, back-to-back wins for the first time for the group: it all bodes well.

“But still work to be done: you know we’ve got a tough, tough New England group coming in on Friday, and we still have work to do to reach what I’ve made open to everyone, my points tally that I believe we need to get to.”

After we’ve talked about his improved play recently, how nice was it to see Randall Leal get a payoff on the scoreboard?

“Listen, it’s always great to see the creative players get on the scoresheet – you could say the same about Jhonder Cadiz his first appearance – as far as Randall goes, we are seeing – I believe – a brighter, more positive Randall and we are getting some reward for that, as well. For players putting in the effort that Randall is, for the type of attitude that he’s showing, it’s great to underline and reinforce that with a goal, with an assist, something tangible that he can draw on and say ‘you know what? It was all worthwhile.’ Because there have been plenty of times that Randall and some of the other guys have worked hard, they’ve shown very, very well and have walked off the field saying ‘if only.’ We’re turning the corner a little bit here, you know: six goals in two games, it’s not to be scoffed at for anyone especially our group. It should give everyone a shot in the arm and a huge confidence boost.”

Does the national TV stage of a scoring outburst help the team’s confidence?

“There’s a number of things that were obviously very, very pleasing tonight. We’ve got fans in the ground for the second time in this restart schedule. Yes, we’re on national television, and obviously we’re desperately keen to hit the back of the net as many times as possible, having been a little bit barren in spells throughout this period. It’s a real nice picture of what we’re about. It was an exciting game: Dallas came here and showed some of the qualities that we knew they had, and as I’ve said to someone else before, we rode our luck a little bit as well, and they may well be sitting in there thinking, ‘if only we’d scored.’ There was a terrific opportunity from a cross before we got our second. And they’ll also be disappointed that the first two goals were deflections.

“From our standpoint, we’ve put the goal under pressure; we’ve asked questions. Daniel Ríos had a great opportunity from a ross and the goalkeeper made a terrific save. There were other opportunities that we might have just squeezed a goal out of. So to score three is terrific – fortuitously for the first couple, but nonetheless, delighted that we’re hitting the back of the net as much as we are at the moment.”

How does Jhonder Cádiz fit into the system, and how does a lower-possession win restulf from the schematic approach?

“In terms of where Jhonder fits in, I think it’s fairly straightforward to see that Jhonder’s a terrific focal point up front. He’s a great physical presence, he has the ability to run beyond, he’s got a turn of pace and a trick, and he’s very, very positive in his play. Please keep in mind that Jhonder has not played since March. He’s been in quarantine since he’s come into the country here and has had just a few sessions with the group, and we’re trying to fast-track him for obvious reasons. but Jhonder has tremendous attacking qualities that we may not even see the best of until next season – I hope before, but I’m fully prepared to have a Jhonder at 50% on the field and achieving what he is for the group tonight.

“As far as the possession goes, I think sometimes those stats can be misleading. You’ve got a Dallas side that maintained the ball quite well in their half of the field. We defended slightly deeper. If you tell me that their stats in our half of the field, and entry passes, and those type of more tangible and aggressive stats are against us, then of course I’ll be disappointed in that. However, the mentality of the group – you have to remember – changes when you go two or three goals up. Whether you like it or not, it is an internal ‘we must protect this lead,’ rather than ‘let’s go and score another goal,’ and you do become more of a counter-attacking group than necessarily a front-foot creative group.

“But if you look at the way the first moments in the game went, the first goal is always vitally important to any team at any level in any league. And when you get the first one, it changes the perspective for the group behind, and it changes the way the group who are in front might well manage the game. So I think that always needs to be taken into consideration.”

What were your thoughts on Daniel Ríos’s performance?

“Well, that’s his third goal in three appearances – two starts, and an appearance off the bench now. When Daniel went down with a minor injury a couple of weeks ago, it was a big body-blow to the group. He was in-form, he was looking positive. I’m absolutely delighted to see him back in the group. You can see that I’m very, very keen to get him into the team, hence coming in in a slightly different role as more of a withdrawn striker and a false-nine along with Jhonder. But nevertheless, I think that we’re seeing and have seen over the last month with Daniel that he’s settled in to his world – with al of the difficulties and the upheaval of the way this season’s gone – I think he’s settled in to MLS, he’s confidence now in his pals and his teammates, and one thing that we can guarantee of Daniel is if he gets a sight of goal, he invariably hits the target. Doesn’t always score, but he’s a very, very good finisher. In fact, Id go asa far to say he’s as good as anyone in the club.”

What do you need to accomplish in a quick turnaround for New Enlang?

“Well, in this very unique season with just two days to get ourselves prepared and be ready for New England, I’ll evaluate where the group’s at physically tomorrow: we’ll all be in and it’ll be a very light recovery session to see where the players are. What we know is after an incredibly tough 90 minutes-plus in New England, this group coming in have got all of the qualities necessary to cause us a lot of problems. Well-organized, an incredibly tough group, competitive, and with some really nice, creative dimensions to their team. Listen, we’ll be confident – no doubt about that after tonight’s victory – we chalk up another three points that takes us to the points tally we are after, and Friday night will be no different. However, I think we will find it’ll be a very, very different encounter to what we have seen tonight.” 

Winger Randall Leal and forward Daniel Ríos

How happy were you to get on the scoreboard tonight?

Leal: “I’m really happy. I’m really happy but what’s important is that we won, that we’re close to the playoffs. This is what we want to go forward: to the playoffs. Today we can celebrate, but tomorrow we need to start thinking about Friday. We need to win and we need to make one step more to making the playoffs.”

What went through your mind on the assist to Daniel Ríos?

Leal: “I think I talk with him always: to be close to me when I get the ball. I saw him before I was awaiting the moment, the correct moment to give the ball to him. I did and it was great. He did a good goal, and it’s great for him to get confidence after missing time earlier after his injury. He scored and it was good for the team to have Daniel back with us.”

Describe your goal

Ríos: “Also the choice is real quick, really fast. As soon as I saw that Randall received the ball, I knew it and I started my run. I started slowly and then when he cut inside I tried to go faster and run faster, and I knew the ball was coming. He played a perfect ball to me and then I took a touch – fake, and then fake again – and the defender was on the ground. I shoot a finishing across. It was a good goal.”

How important was it to score on return from injury?

Ríos: “It’s real important for me, because I was really looking to recover the moment that I was living before the injury when I scored two goals. To score tonight brings me confidence and it brings confidence to my players, to my teammates when I’m in the field. It’s great. It’s great to score a goal and that I had the opportunity to play 15-20 minutes is nice.”

What does it mean for the Hispanic community in Nashville and MLS to have three hispanic players score?

Leal (Spanish translation by media relations): “It was important for each one of us to score tonight. Obviously, us Hispanic players, the technical staff gave us trust in us, and obviously when they brought us here, we wanted to bring that Latin flavor in order to elevate the level of the team. A win today doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win on Friday, so our goal right now is to celebrate tonight, and then come tomorrow get ready for that game on Friday and get a win.”

Ríos (Spanish translation again via NSC): “I share Randall’s feelings: I am happy for the three of us Latin players for scoring tonight. But I think that the important detail right now is to be focused on Friday. Not only that, but the playoffs. We need to have those two elements in mind as we continue to move forward.”

Did you suffer a minor injury in the game, and how do you feel now?

Leal: “No no, I feel tired of course, I limp a little bit tired of foot. But I think tomorrow I’ll get the treatment and everything, and then I think I’ll be ready for on Friday. It happens in a game, and we are exposed in this kind of game, you know. Important is to take care of us these two-three days, and then be ready for Friday.”

When your headed shot was saved, did you think you’d missed your opportunity to keep your goal-scoring streak going? How good did it feel to get – and convert – that second chance?

Ríos: “To be honest, I thought I wouldn’t have another chance. I just was living in the moment, I saw the clock, and it was like eight minutes left. I had a second opportunity, and I feel so happy and feliz, además [more happy!] – happy for scoring a goal.”

How do you feel about making an impact to represent Mexicans in Major League Soccer?

Ríos (Spanish translation): “I’m very happy. Little-by-little, I think that Mexican people are beginning to know my presence in Major League Soccer. I want to maintain the moment that I’ve gained. I have a good level and I have faith in me. I think that with my potential, I just want to continue to score goals and have an impact in MajorLeague Soccer.”

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