mls Nashville SC NCAA USMNT

Pitch Points… has been a minute

Welcome to your no-longer regular rundown. Herein, there be links of interest to fans of Nashville SC, US Soccer, and more.

The archives indicate that we haven’t had one of these bad boys since Sept. 18… and I’m a little surprised it was that recent. I’ll try to be a little stricter in curating to make sure posts are still relevant and interesting.

General NSC

Nashville SC is the Sixth expansion team to make playoffs (Inter Miami became the seventh on Decision Day). A little clarification for the chart. There’s been a lot of “yeah but the playoffs were bigger this year” talk from the usual “yeah we lost but did you see the freakin’ attendance?” crowd. So some additional context:

  • 2018: LAFC • 3rd West (6 playoff teams, 12 total West teams)
  • 2017: Atlanta United • 4th East (6 playoff teams, 11 total East teams)
  • 2009: Seattle Sounders • 4th MLS* (6 playoff teams, 15 total MLS teams)
  • 1998: Miami Fusion • 4th East (4 playoff teams, 6 total East teams)
  • 1998: Chicago Fire • 2nd West (4 playoff teams, 6 total West teams)

* The competition format was insane, with two automatic bids per conference and then the next four highest point totals – either conference – making the playoffs. It makes more sense to just consider it a single table.

By finishing seventh of 14 teams, and of 10 playoff teams in the East, Nashville’s expansion-year accomplishment is comparable to Atlanta United (whether Atlanta’s first-year success was over-mythologized for off-field reasons or Nashville SC is on track for big things on a fraction of the budget is in the eye of the beholder) and Miami Fusion – around the midway point of the table proper, and just below the “middle seed” of the playoff field. From that, you can certainly see why a poorly-framed question got on Gary Smith’s nerves when it implied that NSC, like the round one opponent, only got into the playoffs because of an expanded field. Meanwhile,’s Jeff Carlisle slides Nashville into the “happy to be here” category for the knockout tournament.

There’s not necessarily a whole lot new in this story from The Athletic on Nashville SC’s roster build. But it’s fair to give Mike Jacobs a victory lap for the things he’s been preaching – and national media have been doubting – about moneyballin’ it. I did find this tidbit interesting:

“It’s very different, the Eastern Conference from the Western Conference,” Jacobs said. “Part of it may be cultural — maybe it’s the climate or the diversity in some of those cities. The Western Conference has been more tranquilo. It’s been less high pressure. That doesn’t mean teams sit in; your line of confrontation where you pick teams up from, I think the East is more smash-mouth. Teams tend to pick up higher and are more physical. Our team is probably built more like Eastern Conference team from the standpoint that we create our chances in transition.”

The Athletic

…since I don’t necessarily share the opinion that the East is more press-oriented, but I certainly haven’t crunched any data on that whereas I’m certain Mike has.

Speaking of “not much earth-shattering,” This feature from Charlie Boehm on Handwalla Bwana‘s trade is mostly about how Bwana requested the trade (which he since told us himself), but there are still some nice morsels in it. Por ejemplo:

I had certainly missed that tidbit the first time around.

I know I said at the top I’m trying to be a little more timeless with the links today, but gotta give some love to the Danish sites still following Hany Mukhtar. I guess while we’re at it, same for some Randall Leal love in his native Costa Rica.

Local fluff on Abu Danladi from California’s Santa Maria Times. Brayan Beckeles is among the Catracho players in MLS supporting hurricane relief efforts in their native Honduras. Canada-oriented fluff on Alistair Johnston. (#Johnston4CanMNT, imo).

Walker Zimmerman was league Defender of the Year, but was he snubbed for MVP?

Nat Chat

Charlie Boehm with some things we learned from the USMNT’s win over Panama Monday:

Matt Miazga and Tim Ream seem to rank pretty highly in Berhalter’s estimation of his defensive corps and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of either of them by any means. But the biggest winner from their performance against Panama was John Brooks, who got the night off.

Harsh but fair! I think it’s semi-safe to assume that Ream‘s continued presence is mostly a stopgap measure, so I wouldn’t worry too much as it relates to competitive matches. Miazga is probably better suited as the Brooks-esque (pass-oriented, sorta slow) member of a pairing that includes a more athletic complement.

Friend-of-the-blog Justin Sousa on emerging (after a couple years on the Big Soccer- or Scuffed-type radars) striker Nicholas Gioacchini:

Gioacchini is a scrappy finisher who knows how to work between defenders and drop into the midfield to help link play. Caen often shifts between a front two and a front three, meaning Gioacchini has experience playing as the focal point of the attack, on the right side of a front three and as the false nine behind a target striker. His strength and speed allow him to hold his own as a lone striker or get by players in the wider spaces, and his ability to contribute to the build-up play sets the foundations for a well-rounded striker.

Soccer by Sousa

Mucho más there. He also evaluated the strikers’ performances from the win over Panama for American Soccer Now.

I am strongly on team “call up Daryl Dike,” to the surprise of exactly nobody.

Wondo gets his own heading

Obviously. club country usa dot com may as well be the clubhouse of the official Chris Wondolowski fan club.

Tactical talk

It’s nice to be able to have actual Nashville SC discussion in these sections, rather than things that are interesting on a mere theory level. Anyway, a tactical breakdown from the scoreless draw against Minnesota United*:

Basically, the main principle of Smith’s attacking gameplan is to recycle the possession until they can create good scoring chances. There are two phases in this attacking approach: bypassing opponents’ first defensive line and bringing the ball into opponents’ box by taking advantage of half-spaces. The purpose of this approach is to overcome Heath’s defensive set-up.

Major League Soccer Analysis

Smith’s men recorded 8.1 PPDA in this match. We could say that their pressing gameplay is similar to Liverpool‘s gegenpress. A great example can be seen in the image below. Reynoso received an aerial ball from his teammate, Aaron Schoenfeld. Before he can decide to pass back to Schoenfeld, four Nashville players were onto him within a second. Nashville pressed down enough to steal the ball from him but the referee whistled it as a foul.

Major League Soccer Analysis

Ah, yes, famed gegenpressing devotee Gary Smith (it makes more sense in larger context, I promise). Much more there to check out – I don’t necessarily agree with every word, but I am also not The King of Tactics – far from it – and it’s always good to pay attention to what fresh eyes have to say.

*You may recall this was the second game of the forwardpocalypse and played out much more positively than the previous.

Nashville’s defensive organization and intelligence (while noting the scheme wasn’t necessarily anything special) was key to the win over Montreal. … The Boys in Gold got hit with the bunker-counter routine by FC Dallas.

Meanwhile, Total Football Analysis took a closer look at the win over Orlando City on Decision Day:

Total Football Analysis

For all of Orlando City’s attacking prowess, their inability to deal with set-pieces and crosses ultimately let them down. In open play the Lions were solid, only allowing nine shots spread throughout the game. Looking at the xG analysis of Nashville’s chances, we can see that of all their chances, the equalizer and the game-winner had the highest xG.

Total Football Analysis

That review is a little more Orlando-focused (just by circumstance – it’s written from a neutral perspective), but there’s a good view of multiple Nashville goals.


Former Cane Ridge High and Tennessee SC striker (and ephemeral Nashville SC player) Shak Adams was Player of the Year for USL League Two’s FC Tucson. … Rapinoe 2024. … Belmont University has a major role to play in Nashville’s development as a soccer city. … Having to abandon postgame wraps because of time constraints means not nearly as much sharing of others’ work, so a quick shout to the homie Claudio Villalobos.

As always, thanks for visiting. Feel free to share with a friend (or share using the buttons below).

Handwalla Bwana photo courtesy Major League Soccer.

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