Randal Leal photo courtesy Nashville SC
Welcome (back!) to Pitch Points, where I run down links of interest for Nashville SC, the world of US Soccer, and more. The internet tells me there hasn’t been one of these in this space since March 12, so let’s get right into it:
Concacaf released Concacaf Nations League provisional rosters. The Nations League games take place in a couple weeks, and MLS is respecting the international break, so the following names…
- Randall Leal (Costa Rica)
- Walker Zimmerman (USA)
…won’t miss any gametime even if they are selected to represent their countries June 3 (semifinals) and June 6 (final/third-place game) in Denver. Leal is essentially a lock to make the final Costa Rica roster, while a quick eyeball of the situation puts Zimmerman right in a grey area. Given that MLS isn’t playing through, it’d be good to see Zimmerman make the trip. Conversely, his wife is quite pregnant, and if he’s on the borderline anyway, it may be best from a competitive and personal standpoint to call in other guys.
The other provisional centerbacks are John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), and Miles Robinson (Atlanta United). Brooks, Ream, and Richards are most likely ahead in the pecking order – though Ream is also considered a LB – while Long, McKenzie, Miazga, and Robinson are competing with Zimmerman for the final spot or two.
Meanwhile, the Copa América largely takes place after the international break re-closes, so I would imagine that MLS-based players – including Nashville’s Jhonder Cádiz – to not make the final roster for South America’s top international tournament.
Atlanta United’s Ronald Hernandez and Josef Martinez (never heard of him), NYRB’s Christian Cásseres, Philadelphia Union’s José Martinez, DC United’s Junior Moreno, Toronto FC’s Yeferson Soteldo, and FC Dallas’s Freddy Vargas are similarly affected. It wouldn’t be a stunner if one or two of those guys was ultimately requested and released by their club teams. It can really affect the season, though.
For what it’s worth, Venezuela should be expected to advance from the group stage – four of five teams in the two groups will move on – and Nashville’s games during the group stage include Red Bulls and TFC, and Philly is on July 3, the day of the first knockout-stage games in the Copa.
The Gold Cup – for which MLS is playin’ right on through – in early July could be a little more problematic for NSC, given that it could feature a bit more of a B team for the US, and Canada is also playing. About which…
Alistair Johnston gets his own section
The Canadian wonder had a lot going on over the past couple months. Alistair Johnston will almost certainly don the Maple Leaf for the Gold Cup (if Nashville releases him, at least).
Johnston guests on a podcast hosted by a couple of his youth club coaches. A very good run-through of his development and path to not only NSC but the Canadian Men’s National Team. Of interest: before the pause in play last year, he’d been preparing to go on a season-long loan to Las Vegas Lights. Similar to fellow rookie Jack Maher, the three-month break in the season may have had a strong silver lining in that it accelerated his path to MLS.
On SBI Soccer, Johnston talks about the future:
“I’m probably my own biggest critic, for sure, so I was working out this offseason trying to prepare for bigger things in 2021,” Johnston said. “I can’t really complain with how the rookie season went though, I was part of a pretty good, solid backline and a good run in the playoffs. We feel we could’ve done more and competed for a title so that will surely be on the agenda this season.”SBI Soccer
He’s been solid so far this year, and given that Nashville seems to be close to breaking through with a bunch more upside, maybe those performances go to the next level.
Various other podcast things
Nashville SC striker CJ Sapong can be found at 14:30ish with The Cooligans, widely regarded to be among the gulliest podcasts out there. Sapong was also the star of an episode with Julian Gressel and Fabian Herbers on Zee Soccer Podcast. If you want to know a ton about his background, check out the extremely lengthy interview he did with former NFL star Steve Smith. And of course, I can’t post a bunch of Sapong podcasts without directing you to listen to our interview with him.
Meanwhile, defender Jalil Anibaba joined MLSPA’s official podcast, Play By Players with former MLS defender Bobby Boswell.
NSC Academy Directory Jamie Smith had an incredibly long discussion with Red-Tinted Glasses, a pod covering Aberdeen. If you’re only interested in Nashville-relevant stuff, skip to around 68 minutes in.
It comes very late in a very long episode – around an hour and eight minutes deep – but I thought it was interesting where Real Salt Lake head coach Pablo Mastroeni ranked Gary Smith among the head coaches he’s played for.
When two friends of the pod get together, we post a link. Check out NSC radio voice John Freeman as he joins Clarksville SC Director of Coaching Kean Barclay on Down the Tunnel.
By now, it should be no surprise to regular readers and listeners that whole-person coverage of NSC – i.e. not just treating players as football robots – is important to me. So too is mental health, and this feature from LA Times reporter (and friend-of-the-blog) Ken Baxter is outstanding. It also happens to heavily feature Dom Badji.
“You feel lonely here. This is not home. Senegal is home,” he said. “You don’t have that support system over here.”
Complicating matters was the fact his family didn’t have access to the internet and he didn’t have enough money to call by telephone.
“I wasn’t able to talk to my family for three years,” he said. “So you’ve just got to be brave. You know, a lot of prayer and just hope that everything is going well back at home.”La Angeles Times
Please think about this sort of stuff when you try to roast a guy for missing a shot or whatever.
Fluff from FIFA on Leal (versión en Español). Ticos in MLS mention.
Local fluff on Leroy Enzugusi. Though he mostly grew up in Iowa, he obviously has Kenyan roots – and a bit of history in Tennessee.
Enzugusi was born in Kenya. His father, who was an electrical engineer, said it wasn’t uncommon for families around them to be so broke that household hunger was rampant. About 36 percent of the country’s residents live in poverty.
“It can be very tough for the other people,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan moved his family to South Africa and then to America after winning a green card lottery, a program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. Leroy Enzugusi was 6 when his parents found a home in Tennessee and then Mississippi. They moved to Marion, Iowa when Jonathan got a job working engineering at Alliant Energy.Des Moines Register
There’s also a podcast interview with him, and while the audio quality is sorta poor, it’s a good chance to get to know him.
Stats and whatnot
American Soccer Analysis has taken a major step in data availability by adding USL and NASL data to their already-extant MLS and NWSL databases. Woody Boyd “I like it” GIF (which inexplicably does not exist!) goes here.
Spielverlagerung on the tactics of one of the top American managers globally, VfB Stuttgart’s (and New Jersey’s own) Pellegrino Matarazzo. The style of writing over there is always a little “I have a word count that I simply have to hit,” but the information is good.
John Muller writes about the differences between what we can learn from event and tracking data (and advances in the latter) for FiveThirtyEight.
Nashville continues to rack up big ratings for soccer matches of national interest. My theory about how a city with a big soccer-bar culture gets artificially-deflated ratings (except during a global pandemic!) continues. I dunno, I guess this is a type of statistic, though not in the way we’d typically discuss here.
Nissan Stadium opened a sensory room for fans on the autism spectrum, suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and more. … The USL website with a feature on former Nashville SC employee (and current FC Tulsa Creative Director) Lucy Gonzalez. … Only the important things in these posts, yes sir. … Tennessee SC‘s ECNL Girls squad is ranked No. 34 in the country by SoccerWire. … Every so often, I’m gonna flog it: donate to Bonadies Sporting Alliance to help build minipitches in the area. … American Tifo catches up with Nashville SC supporters. This would normally not be in this late a bullet point in a long links roundup, but you know, months without one’ll get ya.