Gary Smith photo from file. Tim Sullivan/Club and Country
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith and midfielder Randall Leal – who scored NSC’s fourth goal – sat down yo discuss their team’s 5-1 drubbing of fellow second-year club Inter Miami CF. Watch or read their full comments here.
Head coach Gary Smith
“Certainly the best performance away from home of the season, it goes without saying. A response needed, as I said on the broadcast after the game after last week’s defeat. We came here knowing that this was going to be a tough game, having lost in real heartbreak fashion last time we were here, and it’s never easy to play against this group. To score five goals and win as resoundingly as we have tonight, I think, makes a bit of a statement from where we sit. For our intentions to be in that postseason. I think a lot of people might well be saying, ‘well, you’re not far away from it already,’ but you’ve got to get there: it don’t just happen, it’s not just given to you. You’ve got to earn it, and tonight we earned it.”
What was your impression of Hany Mukhtar’s injury postgame?
“I think he’ll be OK. He said that he was fine to carry on, but we’d got to a point in the game where maybe adding some energy, making some changes – he’d done an incredibly good job at that point, and it seems silly to risk him any further. So we’ll assess him tomorrow when we get back, but I don’t see any lasting damage there.”
What did you think of the attacking output on the night? Was it something you changed after Toronto, or was the banged-up state of Miami’s backline a factor?
“Look, first and foremost, I understand that there’s some suspensions in their group and some good players that are omitted. But [Kelvin] Leerdam and [Christian] Makoun have been playing regularly in that backline, so there’s a shuffling going on, and most teams have to do that at some point.
We can only attack and work against the group that’s put in front of us, and the big difference tonight from the last time we came here was the appetite of the players, the willingness to get beyond their backline, and to show more energy. Straightforward: sometimes it’s not too complicated. There was a nice connection and there was an appetite about our game. And to your point, we didn’t let up: there were opportunities that – the difficulty here is, they have so many good attacking players that if you think you’re just going to waltz your way through a period of the game, as we saw, [Gonzalo] Higuaín needs a sniff at goal, and they’re back in it. And the picture changes: they’ve got their towels up, they’ve got four or five terrific players that are more than capable of creating or scoring in the blink of an eye.
“So Randall’s goal really, I thought, caused a major problem for them, of course. And the fifth was just icing on the cake, really.”
Was Leal’s goal the one that made you feel like the result was in the bag? At what point did it happen if not?
“Of course, yeah: Randall’s goal, I thought, just subdued their attitude again after getting themselves back in the game, and feeling a tack better about themselves. But look, I’ve got to say this: Phil [Neville]’s done an incredibly goof job here; they’re in a really decent position. This is not a group anymore that get rolled over. The result tonight is a terrific one for us, and our guys have played tremendously well, but anyone that thinks that this is an easy task, coming here, is greatly mistaken. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed with conceding those goals, but they are in a very good spot, they’ve become a very, very competitive side. And as I’ve said more than once, they have so many talented players that the game can turn on its head in a moment. We saw it last time out: go one-nil up, lose the game in the final moments with some incredible craft and finishing. That’s something that you have to be careful here. Non-stop, so the fourth goal was very, very important.”
What was behind some of the philosophy implemented tonight with the 3-4-3 and how did it lead to such a productive attack?
“Well Claudio, we’ve been playing that way for a long, long time. The differences in the shape can change slightly according to personnel. Tonight, Randall;s inclusion instead of Daniel Ríos – who’s obviously a striker by heart, by nature – Randall is a very creative attacking player, but will come into areas a little bit deeper and try and control the game. And he did it fabulously: he played the role to an absolute T. His industry without the ball is phenomenal for the group.
“And the balance tonight, I thought, looked very, very good. Chances created, opportunities, five goals. I haven’t seen the stats yet, but of course delighted with the output. So the balance in general can be shifted dependent, really, on personnel.”
How exciting is it to see two defenders rewarded with goals in this game?
“Well for someone like Walker [Zimmerman], I think last weekend he had an absolute cannon come off of the crossbar, and was a constant threat in their penalty box when we were trying to get back in the game. I just don’t think he’s had his rewards for all of his great work in the other penalty box from dead balls this year. So to see him add another one to his tally, you know, he’s four, or five, six, seven goals or more a season. Due to the sheer strength and power that he possesses in the air, so that was a delight. And Alistair doesn’t get too many, and he should – and could – have scored probably just before that, with a header.
“You know, there were some other wonderful performances tonight. I’m disappointed we conceded, but not at all unhappy, of course, about the result and the goals we’ve scored. I think the guys, when we’re in a strong position against good teams, there are always going to be those moments where chances will come and go. We’ve limited them to very little tonight, but it’s still frustrating that they’ve managed to squeeze one out.”
Did Jhonder Cádiz get a bit of vindication after getting flak for a flub in the previous game in Miami that led indirectly to the loss?
“To me, honestly, it looks like he’s got the bit between his teeth, he looks hungrier, he’s got a sparkle back in his eye, and he looks like a player that could be tough to play against. Jhonder’s in control of that: when he comes on, and he performs as he does tonight, he’s an absolute asset. And we have some terrific forwards now to choose from. Hopefully that competition is starting to maybe show us and offer us the type of goals and creation we’re getting tonight.”
Midfielder Randall Leal
When you receive the throughball from Alex, is there any thought in your mind other than ‘score’ after you’ve had some hesitance in recent matches?
“Yeah, I just – at that moment, we needed a goal, you know? They scored their first goal, and it was 3-1, so we knew at that moment, and I just took the chance, and I just feel then if I shoot, I will score. And that happened, so thanks to God for that.”
How did it feel to return to the starting lineup for the first time since leaving on international duty, and how good does it feel to score on your return?
“Yeah, very good, very good, you know? We – players like me and Godoy – we are always normally in the national team. We need to know that sometimes we leave the team for 15 days, 20, so we need to be ready when we come back. And try to make the same work than we did before leaving. Yeah, it’s great – we lost the last game and we know that we need to win this game. We did, we need to enjoy it for today, and we need to be ready for Chicago Sunday.”
Randall, when you return to Costa Rica after performing with a struggling national team and seeing the criticism, what’s your mindset?
Asked and answered in Spanish. Apologies for a fairly rough translation – the combination of poor audio quality and fast talkin’ is tough.
“I believe that it’s important to always be at a critical level more than not: so this is doing well. I believe that I’m good here – we scored five goals – and that’s good. In the Selección, we’re waiting to be able to do the same. And it’s normal: thinking that one must score two, three goals for the team. Sometimes, it’s clearly really easy to always criticize them, they see that that it’s easy to understand.
“I believe the most important thing is to always remain clear, not always see the criticism, I think that the same press makes players have confidence at times. And when we return to Costa Rica, they’re talking bad. Sometimes, I believe it’s a process that has to pass. I hope it passes quickly, I believe the Selección is going to get better, and when we meet as a group, we have the type of preparation that we need to have.
“And I think for many, when return, it doesn’t matter to me if they criticize me or not, because I’m a true Costa Rican. It’s a country that is beautiful, it’s very wonderful, with many things to do. I just thank got for my family, know I have to continue to improve, obviously, where at a critical point [in World Cup Qualifying], and we need to get a little bit more from all players, and improve our position, and we know we will see the Selección will perform well going forward.”