Nashville SC USMNT

Pitch Points moves on to the offseason

Welcome to Pitch Points, your semi-irregular rundown of links interesting Nashville SC and US Soccer fans.

Big-picture NSC’s Greg Seltzer on why Nashville SC is not a one-hit wonder. The kicker:

Relatively speaking, the Nashville attack is more of a question mark. Even so, there were real final third signs of life once Smith was able to get all three Designated Players (Mukhtar, Randall Leal and Jhonder Cadiz) on the field together down the back stretch. Incorporate late season pick-up Handwalla Bwana and maybe find a suitable understudy for Mukhtar, and this team will have everything they need to top their enviable debut campaign.

That sounds about right. Playing a non-pandemic season will benefit many teams around MLS, but I think there are few that stand to benefit as much as Nashville. Certainly it may aid with recruitment for a team like Inter Miami, but they’ve got a way of converting chicken salad into… something way less appetizing, so to speak.

Brian Sciaretta outs himself as one of the few national media members who actually watched Nashville before analyzing:

On top of that, Nashville has shown itself also to play well when games open up. It is a defense-first team but it does not play with a bunker-approach.

American Soccer Now

(Those who only watched Nashville exactly one time when it happened to be a non-representative gameplan in their road draw against New England Revolution not included).

Michael Gallagher from the Nashville Post on the season. The team’s official site puts a bow on the season.

A strong podcast ep from friend-of-the-blog Kean Barclay with Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. If you’re not familiar with Mike’s personal soccer story (and why he thinks about the game and management the way he does), there’s plenty to learn. (While you’re there, follow the series, which is generally awesome unless I’m the guest).

Individual NSC players

The Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle on Walker Zimmerman‘s US Men’s National Team call-up.

Long and Zimmerman are two of the overage players [for an otherwise largely Olympic-eligible team], and are there for the obvious reason: They are probably first and third on the right center back depth chart. Long wasn’t great in MLS this year but was consistently very good for the USMNT over the past several years, while Zimmerman absolutely earned it with his play in the league.

Matt Doyle

Certainly it’s cool that Nashville SC has a player high up in the MNT pool, but seeing Zimmerman get that level of credit got me on a thought exercise of sorts. He’s actually very complementary in style to the lock (on the rare occasion he’s healthy) left CB starter, John Anthony Brooks. Long is very much in the same mold, but an athletic ground-coverer to make up for Brooks’s immobility would be right in Zimmerman’s wheelhouse. Presumably Matt Miazga and Chris Richards are Nos. 2 and 4 on that RCB depth chart.

Ives Galarcep takes a more broad look at the centerback competition in this camp. Better late than never: ESPN retrospective feature on Zimmerman’s signing and how it impacted Nashville’s season.

Local fluff on Joe Willis from his native St. Louis. A dude coming out of one of soccer’s hotbeds in this country is hardly a rags-to-riches tale on the pitch, but certainly he’s had to earn his stripes in the pro game along the way.

Indomitable City Soccer with the post-mortem on Brady Scott‘s (brief) time with Sacramento Republic this season:

Scott’s pure numbers aren’t great — four goals allowed in 180 minutes, a save percentage of just 33 — but the sample size was truly miniscule so there’s a lot of noise in there, and he didn’t look like he didn’t belong, even if the numbers weren’t stellar. Did he look like he should have supplanted Diaz as the ultimate starter in goal? In limited minutes, I don’t think so. Diaz really stepped up this season and looked a cut above the other two goalkeepers used on the squad.

Indomitable City Soccer

I’m right there on the sample size questions – especially since a couple of the goals he ultimately did give up were total sell-outs by his teammates.

I don’t know enough about the transfer scene in Portugal, but Benfica is under some heat for stashing players they have no intention of using, and Jhonder Cádiz was brought up as an example:

“I see Vitória de Setúbal very quiet [about whether Benfica is using its funds to help lower-table teams],” said Carlos Barbosa da Cruz, recalling what is at stake, in his view: “Benfica buys a Libyan, a Moroccan, Cádiz. Benfica pays a lot of money for players who then they don’t play “.

Usin’ that Google Translate, babay

Benfica bought Cádiz from Vitória de Setúbal in the 2019 Summer window before sending him on loan to France’s Dijon last year. The implication here would be that they overpaid for him intentionally (the transfer fee was reported as €2.5 million) to help Vitória balance its books.

As for impact on Nashville? likely none. If anything, any credibility to these complaints – or punishment if a violation is found – would likely mean Benfica is more motivated to move him permanently (to reduce any appearance of impropriety), and Nashville could negotiate a slightly lower price on their loan-with-purchase agreement.

Individual game analysis

Major League Soccer Analysis with some… analysis… of Major League Soccer… It’s the Boys in Gold and their blowout win over Inter Miami CF.

MLS playoffs 2020: Nashville SC vs Inter Miami – tactical analysis tactics
Major League Soccer Analysis

Nashville involved their creative players early to manipulate the defenders and transition into the attacking third quickly.

The two attackers in the middle area of the field for Nashville, Cadiz and Mukhtar to start, drifted to either side to create overloads when possession moved either flank. The image above provides an example of this dynamic as Johnston and Leal join the previously mentioned players on the right-wing. Although Nashville progressed the ball well in wide and central areas, they failed to turn many of these situations into shots. With only six during the entire match, Nashville possessed strong methods to progress the ball but not turn those moments into goal-scoring opportunities.

Major League Soccer Analysis

That could be a story of the game in some ways. Also, Nashville scored three goals, something that home teams did 64 times in 290 tries during the regular season (22.1% of the time). The Miami game may not be hyper-emblematic of Nashville’s issues in creation – which do indeed exist – because the team got up 2-0 (on their first three shots and 0.84 xG of their 1.03 in the game) and sort of went through the motions the rest of the way unless Miami wanted to out-“going through the motions” them on Dax McCarty’s goal.

Total Football Analysis on the Columbus game. The back-to-back images of the run-up to the game-winning goal are fairly damning, imo. As Carlos mentions in the story, it was a rare lapse for Nashville. But it was an impactful one. It’s perhaps even more obvious from one of the screencaps in the Massive Report breakdown:

Cant turn your hips away from your assignment to be the triple-teamer as your mark sprints to goal.

MLSSoccer’s Steve Zakuani on how Nashville upset Toronto in the following round. Obviously – as with most analysis of NSC – it centers around defense, but the concept of a fully-healthy version of Hany Mukhtar with all his adjustment to a new hemisphere complete… pretty enticing going forward.


Ian Ayre relives the sale of Liverpool to American owners a decade ago. … Dax on ExtraTime. Friend of the Blog Clay Trainum talks Nashville SC on the Designated Players Podcast. … Drake Hills on the growth of soccer in Middle Tennessee. … Always love the home-country news stories about NSC players.

Randall Leal and Hany Mukhtar header photo courtesy Major League Soccer

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