Nashville SC

Press conference: Gary Smith and CJ Sapong after a loss to Miami

Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and striker CJ Sapong were not in a super-great mood tonight? Nonetheless, I soldiered through the video (had a technical difficulty at the beginning for Smith, but the full audio is there) and transcript for the people. Watch or read everything they had to say here.

Head coach Gary Smith

“Well as you can imagine, bitterly disappointed to get beaten in such a fashion. I guess having beein on the other side of that coin, we have to take our medicine when I think it’s due: we were below par tonight, nowhere near the sort of standards we set with the ball. We relied very heavily on some of the discipline and hard work in the group, but when all’s said and done, the game was there to be won, and unfortunately, if you’re not clinical in front of goal – as we’ve seen many, many times before – then it certainly leaves the door ajar for a team like Miami to sneak in and take all three points.”

What did you think of the performances of your offensive substitutions in the second half?

“In all fairness, there was not – I didn’t feel – a lot of traction up top all game. It didn’t matter whether it was Jhonder, Aké, CJ, or any of the other guys that might find themselves in those attacking areas, with their back to goal, especially. The three center-halves of Miami were too astute, experienced, aggressive, physically capable: and that lack of focal point proved to be a problem all game.

“Tried to change it, tried to add a bit more energy. It looked flat. A real lack of sparkle in our play, if I’m brutally honest. And, you know, maybe the goal if he had’ve scored, Jhonder might have been keeping with the way that we played. But I don’t know whether it’s the three games away from home inside a week, that’s possible. We’ve tried to rotate the group as much as we can. But when you get results like today, there’s far too many players that were below par, and unfortunately, the result of that is defeat.”

What happened on the final Miami goal?

“Listen, when you’ve got an individual like Federico Higuaín – who’s very, very capable, he’s talented, he’s been a terrific player in this league – he’s more than capable of putting the ball into a very dangerous area, and that’s what he does. He asks the question, the lad gets in between Dax and Jalil, and finishes well. Would I have liked more pressure on the ball? Yes. Should we have dealt with situations that led to it in a better fashion? Yes. Would that have negated some of the pressure that we had to deal with? Almost certainly.

“There were just too many areas of our game tonight that we just didn’t come up to scratch. From building out, to any sort of creative connection or breaking lines, I can’t remember being a serious threat in-behind them, everything was in front of them. Is that, again, is that the heat here? I didn’t think it was too bad, but of course I’m not playing. Is it the travel? Is it a combination? Probably all of the above. What we know is we were way off the mark today and we’ve got punished for it.”

How do you explain the gap in your home and road form?

“Look, I mean: as far as chance-creation – and I think that always ends up being the fundamental in winning games or offering yourself a chance to – we can look at if we just had the cross-section of this week, very little creating in New England. You might expect that. I actually felt as though there were some nice opportunities, and we might have snatched the game in Toronto, if you remember Hany had a – not sure as clear-cut a chance as Jhonder’s but a very good chance. But not lots of clear-cut chances, and that’s the big difference.

“At home, we look free-flowing, we look relaxed, there’s a real confidence about our play. But away from home, we’ve looked uncertain, almost happy to allow teams to come and build some pressure. And most of that has come from not being able to get in-behind or beyond, or secure the ball in good areas. So yeah, there’s a big difference. I might need to take a little look at that and go back over the game. But it’s tough to evaluate and maybe compartmentalize, because there are so many good things at home. I don’t understand – and I’m sure whole lots of coaches have been in this position as well – why we would be less enthusiastic about a similar style of play or thought process.”

What was it about this game that led to a slog in the first half and a very open second half?

“I mean, you have to expect third game in a week, teams are going to have – there’s going to be fatigue, no matter how much rotation. This environment itself, although the sun’s not beating down, it’s very, very humid, and exactly what you would expect in a lot of cities in the Summer in the US.

“I think from a very personal standpoint, the group certainly looked like the travel had taken its toll. Whether they were playing or just on the flight, it looked like the combination of travel and the humidity probably took the sharpness and sparkle out of their play. And in the end, nobody likes getting beat, no one. And it’s been a long while since we have, which makes it all the more painful. But that’s part and parcel of any season. And somehow we have to get back, break down the game, look at some of the things that were worthwhile, and a lot of things that probably weren’t, and get ourselves shaken off and ready for two home games now that become very, very, important.

Striker CJ Sapong

How did your goal happen, and what did you see as Hany Mukhtar served the corner kick?

“Yeah, I mean, we kind of have had a focus on set pieces – both offensive and defensive – just being a little bit more turned on. I think for me, I felt last game I should’ve taken an opportunity off a corner kick, so I had a little bit extra focus. Hany’s just been playing great balls in that area, and at that point, it’s just connecting and keeping it on-frame.”

How painful is it to see such a late winner, and how does it affect the group?

“Yeah, I mean, it’s tough. Because when you think about it, we’re actually not that used to losing, so it might be easy to point fingers and feel like it was a letdown. Ultimately, we know we weren’t good enough, and maybe we’ve been bailed out previous times in the season. But ultimately, I believe these are the type of games and roadblocks that you kind of need to build the character that it takes to be successful in this league.

I personally, I experienced it was very hot out there, it was humid, it’s a different type of grass. Yeah, we’re meant to perform game-in game-out, but hey, three games in a week, it’s not the same as playing at home and having those fans giving you that spark. So yeah, it’s a tough one. It’s hard to swallow. But ultimately, I think we’ll be better for it.”

You and Hany have really found a connection in the past three weeks. How has that chemistry been built with you two as well as Randall?

“Yeah, I was going to say: Randall is a pretty pivotal piece there, because Randall really opens up the game and with opposing defenders knowing that they have to worry about him as well, it gives me and Hany a little bit more freedom to get forward and take risks.

“Just from playing with each other, we’ve been able to build some chemistry there, and obviously for me, any time he has the ball, I feel like I have a chance, and I just need to be in the right spot. I know he feels the same way when I get the ball, so it’s just about staying confident and continuing to try and replicate those moments that we have success in.”

How do you think you can change this team’s fortunes on the road?

“I mean, there’s probably typical things that you guys can think of: not sleeping in your own bed, you’re obviously traveling, there’s a lot of different things that are not part of the normal routine. Hey, we did have a lot of home games in the beginning of the season, so we never quite found that routine, flow, rhythm on the road. It’s an uphill battle for us. But like I said earlier, these are the type of things that you need to build character, to truly push for success in this league.”

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