Watch or read full comments from head coach Gary Smith and midfielder Aníbal Godoy after Nashville SC beat Seattle Sounders Sunday evening.
Head coach Gary Smith
I’m not sure I could’ve wish for an awful lot more than I saw tonight from the guys: a little bit of an adaptation to the way that we’ve played, certainly for half the season last year, and through the majority of preseason, and they’ve taken onboard a lot of information and applied it wonderfully well today. It was absolutely vital that we broke up the rhythm of this very talented Sounders group, and especially at home. You know, to give them no opportunity of getting on top and building their confidence, the guys worked tirelessly. They made sure that they kept their shape, they offered plenty of quality when in possession, and ultimately we found a way through in a very, very tight game, to taking all three points.”
How did you feel the midfield trio worked out, and how did Randall fit in with them?
“There’s not a massive shift in overall sort of looks. Dax played more so as – I wanted him more so as – a bit of a front screen. I felt that if we could get those three midfield players into this game with their experience in the atmosphere and the quality of the game was going to be such that they would be a real benefit to the group. But in doing do, it obviously creates a slightly different look to the backline. But in essence, the three attacking players have still got a very similar job to do. There was one or two things that Randall was asked to do in certain stages and areas of the field – and he carried out those orders and asks incredibly well, along with a lot of the other guys. I mean, I truly couldn’t fault the way that the guys have gone about this. It’s been a wonderful result, but also a very, very good performance here in a tough, tough environment.”
How did you feel you introduced yourself to the Western Conference, particularly against a strong Seattle side?
“Look, we came into this game incredibly respectful of what they’ve achieved here and in the past, and certainly who they’ve added and what they are capable of, that is for sure. They absolutely destroyed the team [Motagua] earlier in the week in the Concacaf, I’m sure the confidence was high. And with a couple of games under their belt, I felt as though they would be an even tougher test for us today given that it’s our first outing.
“There’s many things that we want to try and achieve in these opening games. I think we’ve been able to tick a couple off the list tonight, but in all honesty, these early games in the early stages – whilst tonight will be very exciting and I’m extremely pleased the way the group have performed – I truly don’t think you get an idea of where the team’s at, where you fit in. There’s so many things that we have to try and overcome this year, especially in this first eight games. No one’s going to get too overly excited about what’s happened here tonight. It’s the first game of the season. Unless someone’s going to tell me we can win the league on the basis of this, we’ve just put ourselves in a nice spot, and we can move towards Minnesota next week in a confident vein. And of course, it makes a tough, tough journey that much more enjoyable.”
What does it say about the weapons you have that a midfielder scored the winning goal, and what did you see on the play?
“In tight games, in very well-matched games, there’s never going to be loads of clear-cut chances. The fact that we limited them to two efforts on goal here in their own stadium is remarkable, really, the way the guys have gone about this. So I didn’t ever expect that there were going to be lots of moments, but just hoped that there might be one that we could force home, and we have.
“Teal’s initial effort, I think he didn’t quite get ahold of, and I think it – if I remember rightly – rebounded nicely and was rebounded out to Randall. And he made a terrific choice. I mean, he could have gotten excited and tried to make the effort his own. But he finds a wonderful area, and a player that you might not expect to be coming in on that back posts ghosts in and keeps his nerve.
“But you know, you normally find in these real competitive games that it’s just that one moment, you know? And tonight it’s been us.”
How did Sean Davis’s presence impact Aníbal and the midfield philosophy?
“I don’t think any of us need to really get too bogged down with this: we had three very experienced midfield players playing in a midfield three. And they needed some help from Randall at times, and they got it. We shifted form a slightly narrower to a flattened 4-4-2 at times, but ultimately, we’ve got three excellent midfield players – and by the way, an excellent young midfield player in Brian Anunga, but tonight it was those guys, it won’t always be – it certainly looked like it was the right way to go about our business tonight and play those three, and it’s turned out that way.
The fact that Aníbal’s ended up scoring the winning goal is just the icing on the cake. But he’s played slightly to the left of that three today, but in a narrow fashion. There were times he got dragged out into the flanks, but he’s an experienced guy, you know? He’s made over 100 appearances for his country: he’s certainly aware and appreciative of the work he needs to get through and the positions he needs to pick up. We benefit massively from what those three guys have given the team tonight, along with some other incredible performances.
It seemed your squad took control of the game in the second half. Is that how you viewed it?
“I truly thought it was very evenly matched. I know there’s some emotion on the bench, but I thought it was very evenly worked out the game in terms of efforts. I felt as though we managed some possession very well
the incentive in their game. The catalyst for them is the ball, they love the ball, and they’re very, very good with it if you allow them to have it for too long. Part of the plan was to not let that happen, and the guys did a great job in doing so.
“But I think overall, the possession for them, the stats were slightly higher. You would expect that as an away team, but in no way shape or form did I feel at any point in time that they’re taking massive control, and we were in a rear-guard action. So yeah, delighted with what we did with the ball, what we did without the ball, and like I said, we’ve managed to find a moment. That doesn’t always happen, but tonight we found it.”
What do the gameplay and result do for you in terms of going into the next seven games on the road?
“Each game’s very, very different. Minnesota will be an incredibly tough game next week again. Everyone wants to take advantage of their home field, and there’s been some good things that we’ve seen today out of the team. Likely it is, that might change a little bit. I’ll take a deeper look at Minnesota You’ve got to remember all of these teams – nearly all of these teams – we’ve never run into before. We’ve only played Minnesota once, we’ve never played Seattle as an organization, so therefore there’s going to be some feeling-out, and there’s got to be a lot more homework done on these teams.
“This precise moment, it’s a great start. It’s a confidence boost, it’s a great feeling for the players. With a long eight-game road stretch, it was always important to try to get the first win on the board, and I’m truly grateful that it’s come tonight. But I don’t think that we can get beyond ourselves here. It’s early in the season, we’ve seen some good foundational pieces.
“I think as we grow as a team, you’re seeing players that are more comfortable around one another and managing situations better: they’re able to deal with the pressures of good attacks and good individual players, but they’re also capable of getting on the front foot and showing some good pressing moments as well, and stealing the ball in some better areas. But on top of all of that, they’re making better choices when we need to keep the ball, not squandering it, not giving it back to talented players who are going to take advantage of it. Sometimes that’s a tough choice because there are moments to cross, to create, and to maybe get a shot on goal. But if you’re over-stretching, and you end up giving it back, then it can be very detrimental for the team in the long run. Tonight, the players made some very, very good choices.”
What has allowed your team to be tough to beat even on the road? How important will that be for the next seven games?
“Look, we’re going to find out an awful lot about ourselves. You know, internally, what we’re made of, what the fiber’s like deep down in the pit of our stomach. Because eight games on the road is not easy for anyone. And my hope is we can keep ourselves in a good position for what will be a terrific opening of our new stadium on May 1. But there’s a lot of hard work to be done.
“What I will say is: that this group of players are – not just the guys that you’re seeing on the field, but daily, and certainly as personalities – they’re great characters, they’ve got great determination, and terrific will. That counts for an awful lot when you’re on the road. There are so many things to contend with: away crowd, quality teams, front-foot approach from these teams – there’s plenty that we’ve got to try and work our way through, and we will continue to have to do that. And there’ll be time when we’re on the back foot and we’re in big trouble. But you know, you find out a lot about people, about their personalities when you’re in that position, and it can only stand us in good stead as we move forward.”
This is your first season-opener victory in MLS. How do you turn that into a strong overall start?
“Of course there’s a lot of enjoyment in this. I may not look like I’m enjoying myself right now because of the challenge that we’ve gone through to prepare for this. But for sure over the next couple of days, I’ll certainly feel a hell of a lot better about it. It’s a really, really tough run that we have here. And yes, it’s a box ticked off: we’ve got our first win under our belt. It will count for very little if we don’t back it up, and keep adding points to the board as we go through this tough run.
“Our challenge is to really compartmentalize each game, each opponent, each difficult scenario that we have to encounter. The guys have got to get back on a plane tonight and travel five hours and recover, and then get ready again to go on Friday to Minnesota, and we’ve got to do that over and over again: it’s like Groundhog Day. There’s no doubt when we get to four or five, six and seven, and then into our last game, you can bet that there’s some mental difficulty as well as physical. So we’ve got an awful lot we’ve got to deal with.
“There’s a lot that I have to consider in keeping the players fresh, in keeping the group in the right place, making the right choices, and you know, if the guys can manage to keep themselves in the sort of form they are tonight, I don’t think we’ll go too far wrong. But it doesn’t take an awful lot to be complacent and to shift the other side of the fence and be too easy to play against. The game was won tonight because we were tough to play against.”
How did you evaluate set-piece defense tonight? Did anything change schematically or mentality-wise?
“If you look around the group, there’s very little change to the same guys that were out there. Again, as you said, one game, but one game that we can build on. Everyone understands and realizes, I think, the real disappointment of the way that we defended dead balls last year. I think there’s a tremendous amount of pride in this group, and they’re doing everything they can to show the right attitude. It’s nothing more than that. We have enough big, physically-capable, strong, determined bodies to get the job done. It can only be down to attitude, and the attitude tonight was spot-on.”
Midfielder Aníbal Godoy
Thoughts on the game and your goal?
“First one, I think we do a really good job, all the team, working hard. It’s a difficult place to play here. I feel great because it’s my first goal I think in 15 months with Nashville. It’s a great moment for me, and we need to continue to work to win these games.”
What did you see that inspired you to make the back-post run on the play you scored? Did you know the cross was going to get through?
“I think I made the run only to try to go to the box. But Randall played a really good ball – and also before the goal, he played a really good ball with Teal. Randall have very good vision: this is why I trust to try to go in the box, and he put a great ball for me.”
What was the experience of playing with Sean Davis and Dax McCarty?
“Sean he is an amazing player – he’s working hard, run a lot. Dax everybody already know he’s a guy who is really good player, he’s the other warrior, you know. This guy always – without ball, with the ball – puts the calm for the team, have the team in both sides of the field, and Sean also. It’s good shape for all the three in the middle, you know. All the three working, try to working hard, try to running a lot. This is why we have a the last year very good season: everybody working hard. Not only the three midfielders, also three forward, all the defender, this is why we need to continue.”
En Español, translated (perhaps poorly!) by me: What’s the midfield three like, and what did you think of the pass from Randall?
“Well, I believe that, like you said, it’s important to include Sean in the team. He gives plenty of energy, and Dax gives calm, gives that which we need on the field. Then I think that over there, everything was good in the first game for the midfield three, just the beginning.
“Randall is always a different player – he always comes out with something different in any moment. Then I think that for him, I believe in him: I believed that he’ll always put the ball across the goal, and I was able to put it in.”