Dax McCarty photo from file
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and his two midfield maestros met with the media this afternoon. Watch or read their full comments here.
Head coach Gary Smith
“Everyone’s in good health. I think we’re moving very positively through one or two difficult areas that we’ve encountered in our game, and trying to correct – as I’m sure we’ve all seen. The guys’ attitude’s been great. Lots and lots of positives to come out of the initial three games of the season, so we want to make sure that we continue to reinforce that. Most importantly of all: that the guys are in a good place physically and mentally and looking forward to the weekend.”
You mentioned good health, does that apply to Daniel Ríos, Abu Danladi, and Tah Brian Anunga, who were all out last week?
“No, that’s a good question, Tim (thanks!). I meant from last week – those guys are still unavailable to us. But as far as the group, and the healthy group from last week, we remain intact. We’ve not had any new additions to the training room, and those three guys remain with the medical department.
How do you strike the balance between attacking and keeping defensively sound?
“I’ve always said the balance is absolutely key. We’ve performed, I believe, very very well from almost minute 10 or 12 on, and been what I think we could class as the aggressor, or in control of proceedings from that point. We’ve started a tad sluggish in those three games, and I do think that the clean sheet will do everyone a world of good.
There’s a number of things that you want to try and tick off in your early stages of the season. Clean sheet’s one of them. Getting your first multiple goals is one of them. And of course, your first win on the ball is the other, and probably main, one. We’re still in search of that.
“I think we’re in a very good place with regards to creation. We had good territorial advantage, possessional advantage, and managed the game well last weekend. However, against a more resilient and slightly deeper Miami group than weeks before. It became a tad more difficult to find multiple opportunities to score. But I think somewhere in between the real extreme of Cincinnati and maybe last weekend is where we’d like to slot most weekend. I don’t see any reason, with the guys that we’ve got, that we can’t.
“Making sure that we’re as tough as Miami were last week to play against is also a big key to winning any game. We’re slowly getting there. It’s not an easy process given the path that we were on through preseason. But the guys are in a good place.”
What have you seen from New England so far?
“I do think having watched New England’s opening games, that they are the most well-balanced and competitive group that we’re going to run into at this point. That’s not any discredit to the teams that we’ve already played, because they do have certain qualities within their group. But this New England group, throughout their group from backline – well let’s start with the goalkeeper, who was magnificent last year and has carried on that form, their backline is competitive and resilient, and has plenty of athleticism. The two guys in midfield, I think any group would want in terms of their industry and general team play. And as you look at the attacking group that they have available to them, I would again think most teams look in awe, really, as to what they have available.
“They are one of the most complete groups, I believe, in the Eastern conference: capable of not conceding, capable of competing, difficult at both ends of the field on set pieces. Also incredibly talented in creating their own opportunities. IT’s going to be a real tough game. We know from last year that they’ll come, they’ll want to go and force the issue. They’ll want to get on the front foot, and I’d expect nothing less than maybe the most difficult encounter we’ve run into.
Do you expect New England to sit deep like Miami did? How important is good service from wide in that situation?
“I think we’ll see a very different game to last weekend. Our relationship, if you like, with Miami is one that I think both groups are enjoying now. It’s got a very different feel to it given that we both came into the league at the same time, and the games have been exceptionally tight when we’ve played them on most occasions. And I’,m sure that they realized they were in for a challenge themselves coming in here, based on our first two outings.
“I don’t expect the same game. I know that we’re playing at a very similar time in the day, which does affect the way that guys go about their business and the way the field plays etc., but this New England group have not only been together a lot longer, they, I believe, are far more comfortable within their own skin, if you like. The Miami group had a number of new additions, and even some missing, so you can understand that. This New England group are really capable of really getting on the front foot and forcing the issue. I think that’s when they’re at their best. Also capable of obviously sitting in and defending a lead if they need to. They’ve got guys who are more than capable of doing that, so we’ll be ready for whatever comes our way.
As far as delivery and service from those wide areas if you look at the first two games – whether from dead balls or open play – I think we were as good as anyone in the league in the first two games. Lots of opportunity, plenty of connection, and the type of delivery was varied, which I think gave the opposing backlines a real tough time. The weekend was slightly different, and I think I can only draw a line under the word consistency. Our dead balls weren’t anywhere near as good. We certainly didn’t hit the areas that we would like to. And in open play, for whatever reason, we didn’t have the same connectivity, and when the opportunities came along, I think we could point towards two very good openings and situations: one from Hany and one from Randall, the second being Dominique’s chance late-on.
“So consistency is the key. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be asking questions of every team that comes to Titans’ Stadium. I think it’s just a matter of the guys getting back on track, and being in the right place mentally to get the job done in that situation.”
What does Carles Gil bring to this team after you mostly didn’t have to see him in the two games last year?
“I think that’s the main difference this year. I know there’s one or two other names that have crept into the group. I think last weekend, Marcial in midfield looked a very good one.
“But Gil is the one player that we didn’t see a lot of. He was back fit and healthy for the playoffs for them, and for their final competitive games. But he certainly has impressed me in these first couple of fixtures. He looked very, very bright and effective in the Atlanta game this past weekend. Anyone with the sort of technique and talent and creative impetus in a game is always going to be a worrisome factor. He certainly will be one individual for us to keep a close eye on.
“But look: the center forward [Adam] Buksa, I don’t know whether [Gustavo] Bou will play, and [Tajon] Buchanan on the flanks is also another very, very talented wide player who certainly can hurt any group in those isolated 1v1 situations. So lots and lots of areas of creativity from their group.
“Look, I’m sounding like this is all about New England, it’s not: we’ve been very good at home for long, long periods in the last three games. I’m sure there are things in our game that they’ll be concerned about. It’s really down to us to make sure that we can impress upon this New England group a style of play that’s proved very good in the attacking half of the field in the last three games. And that’s our job as the home team.”
How important is closing this homestand with a win?
“Of course it’s important. I think we’d have all looked at the opening schedule and said a win or two out of those first four games would have been ideal, and to stay unbeaten. We can look at it in one of two ways: the glass can be half-empty and we can say, ‘well, we haven’t started great in a couple of those games, and we’ve conceded goals, and there’s work to be done there.’ Or we can look at it in a very different fashion, with the glass half-full, and how well he have done going forward: the chances we’ve created, and the opportunities, really, in the Montreal and Cincinnati games, to to have actually overturned the two-goal lead they had, and to have won the game.
“I’m definitely edging towards the glass half-full, and being very positive about the way we’re playing. The physical position that the guys are in – they look in a really good physical shape. They’re playing a full 90 minutes at a very good pace, and they’re looking strong.
“I see no reason as we move down the line here why – whether it’s this weekend or beyond – we don’t get our first win on the sheet, and feel that much better about it. And if this weekend’s going to be that situation, we’ll look back and say it’s been a very decent start to the season.”
Midfielder Dax McCarty
“Yeah, preparations have been very good this week – I think just like every other week. The intensity and desire to continue to improve, and to try to get that first win of the season, is at a very high level right now. So, we understand the challenge that we have in front of us in New England, and we’re excited about stepping on the field and trying to get our first win against one of the better teams in the league.”
You didn’t mince words on social media about your disappointment in results so far. How do you continue building on the positive and work toward the end result?
“Well, you have to be honest with yourself every time you’re analyzing your performances: whether you win, whether you lose, whether you tie, in our case, which we have three times in a row. So you always want to analyze the good and the bad. I think that there has been far more positive and good from our play than bad, but ultimately, the bad and places that we need to improve, they are – how should I put this – I guess more apparent when you don’t win the game.
“So we’re continuing to watch video every day. We’re continuing to look at how we can better ourselves. I think we’re trying to evolve ourselves as a team, and with evolution, I think comes a little bit of challenge, and a little bit of frustration. I said it on social media because I believe it: we aren’t happy with three points from three home games.
“I don’t think it’s up to our standards that we’ve set for ourselves as a club, and I think that with a very front-loaded home schedule, we need to be picking up positive results and three points at home. And it’s not going to happen every time, but certainly with the way that we played, I think, the majority of these first three games, I would have expected us to pick up at least seven points, but that’s not the case.
“So we learn from it, we move on, and we focus on New England to try to get three points against them.”
What is behind the struggles in opening 15 minutes of games?
“There’s two things that I think stick out to me: one has to do with our team, Nashville. I think we have lacked sharpness in the first 10-15 minutes. I think that we have been a little bit loose with our technical ability on the ball. I think that we’re giving other teams the incentive to come and be more aggressive, and to try to press us, and to try to punish us because of our mistakes. That’s something that we need to clean up. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for why that is. I think that there are reasons for it, but at the end of the day, we are better then what we’ve shown in the first 10-15 minutes of every game that we’ve played. There’s no question about it.
“And the other major aspect of that is I think that with how we played last year, and the – I guess mantra, that we sort of achieved for ourselves when it comes to being a difficult team to play against, not being an easy out, I think, for a lot of teams in the league: we have garnered a little bit more respect, and with that respect comes other teams trying to say that they want to be on top of the game when they play us.
“And so we have to continue to raise out level. We can’t expect that, because we played well last year, that’s going to translate to wins this year. We have to continue to try to raise the bar, and try to be better than we were last year.”
What have you seen from New England on film?
“New England’s a very good team. I’ve seen plenty of New England over the first couple of week, and obviously the past few years. I think Bruce Arena’s done a wonderful job putting that team on a path to being very, very successful. They have a lot of dangerous players. Their attacking unit is very, very tricky, and very difficult to keep at-bay. And I think they have a really good balance in terms of how they defend, how they attack.
“Carles Gil is one of the best players in the league. He’s their focal point, everything good that they do usually goes through him. If he has time and space on the ball, you’re in trouble. He’s going to pick out the right pass, and make dangerous chances for them. Their strikers are clinical. They’re good on set pieces, they have a great goalkeeper, they don’t concede many goals.
“Just a really well-balanced team, and a team that’s started the season off well. So we’ve got our work cut out for us, but I certainly am up for the challenge. I know our group is up for the challenge, we’re ready to try to go to battle and get our first three points of the season against a very good team.”
Is there a special emphasis on winning this game since the team has drawn three in a row at home?
“Yeah, I think that the special emphasis is for us to not shoot ourselves in the foot. The first two games of the season, we were the architects of our downfall, and our own worst enemy, if you will. We gave the other team the incentive to go and score goals, and to get on top of the game early. And we had to dig out of a hole.
“So that’s the focus: to make sure that we’re the team that’s aggressive right from the get-go. Don’t make any mistakes that will put New England right on the front foot. And secondly, we need to play with a little bit more urgency. I think that’s a word that I’ve used throughout this week to try and make sure that we instill in our group: is that e need to play with more urgency from the opening whistle. And I think we’re going to be a team that’s always going to be honest, we’re a team that’s always going to give everything we have on the field for our fans, for our shirt. But at the end fo the day, you can still raise the urgency when you see that the results haven’t always gone your way. That’s something you can always control.
“I expect us to start the game better than we have this past three games. We’ll see how the game plays out, but we’re certainly expecting to get three points.”
Midfielder Aníbal Godoy
“I think we started training, try to think about New England today. Because the last two days is more like a recovery day. Today is a good day, because we’re thinking about the first 15 minutes, try to improve more in the first 15 minutes, try to control more of the game. This is what we were training today.”
How do you go about turning some of the positive moments from games into wins?
“It’s difficult when we play at home three games now, and we have three points. We know if we want to go to the playoffs, we need to win at home. This is more important in this league, because everybody knows when you go to play away, it’s a tough thing, it’s really, really difficult to try to win one game away. Everybody tries to play to win at home. Try to step forward.
We need to improve, we need to improve, like what I say before, we need to improve the first 15 minutes. We control all of the games after the first 15 minutes. The first game, we made like 30 shots, hit the target, and we controlled all the game. We moved people really well. But we didn’t win.
Futbol is about winning. Futbol is not like: 80 percent with the ball. If we don’t score, we don’t win. We need to improve more at home. I know the people want to win, the fans want to win, we want to win. But this is like: we need to improve, try to stay focused for the first 15 minutes
Do you have to take into account the top midfield talent when you prepare for New England?
“Not only me, I think everybody prepares like – not like different, because we know we play against New England, a tough team. Not like different thing as last year, they have the same players. They changed like 2-3 guys maximum. They don’t change a lot. They have the same shape, they have the same energy, they move the ball well: they don’t change a lot. We need to prepare for the game to try to control more the first 15 minutes. This is the most important I think in this moment for us. Last year, when we played against them here in home, that was a tough game. They controlled, I think, like most of the game.
“They have, like you said, good midfielders. If you leave Carles Gil, if you leave Buchanan in the wide spot, I think they make a difference, which is why we need to stay focused about our game first. We need to think always about our game and not try to think about the other team.