Nashville SC

Postgame press conference: Gary Smith and Sean Davis wrap up loss to FC Dallas

Sean Davis photo from file

Head coach Gary Smith

“Welp, we always knew there were going to be some tough days on this run and tonight was one of them. We were certainly below the standards we set in the last two games with the ball. A lot of players below-par technically. However, I thought we gave a very determined account of ourselves and kept ourselves in a game that, ultimately, looked like it might have run away from us.

“I would have to question the go-ahead goal, having just seen it. I – honestly, when VAR asked the referee to go back over and have a look, I was – having seen it again – I was very, very hopeful that he might have realized that he may have made a mistake. And it certainly looks that way when I see it again. And in a very, very tight encounter that that really was the defining moment. The second goal was about being stretched out and looking to try and get back in the game quickly going in the final moments.

“So: not a good night for us, that is to be said. But certainly, some things to think about as we undertake another tough one next week.”

What made this Dallas group difficult to play through in their pressure?

“Yeah, there’s many, many different things, Drake, that have to happen in any game to find your way through to points. Tonight, we were unable to navigate the early exchanges with any real quality or consistency. The ball was coughed up, and offered up to Dallas far too cheaply. And in the brief spells of possession that we did have, the final choice, the final quality, craft, in and around the edge of the box was nowhere near the sort of level that we’ve seen from our group.

“As much as I’m loathe to say it, there are times that players cannot find their way in a game, and there were too many of our guys that could not find their way. The pictures were too cloudy for them. A very youthful and energetic, and high-octane Dallas group found it far too easy to win the ball back. And when we bypassed that press, there was not enough quality in our front line to secure the ball and to ask them a new question.

“So whatever way we turned, it was a difficult night. But I did feel, going into the 80th minute, like we’d weathered the storm. It was a pretty long storm, but we’d weathered it, they were running out of ideas, and the ball being given away on the edge of their box when it should’ve been secured – Aké [Loba] tries to flick it, should have secured it – lots and lots to do before they get themselves in a positive position, but the penalty: absolutely soft. And when we don’t get given one last week, I’ve got to be looking around and feeling pretty unlucky at this point.

Do you have an early update on Dax McCarty’s injury? Was there a temptation to take hm off at the half when he was already showing discomfort?

“Yep. We’ll find out more in the next 48 hours, but they clashed knees. He said that he felt as though he could get moving again.

“Yes, there was a temptation. I did think that there were a couple of things we could look at that halftime that would include him quite a lot in our buildout, so wanted to give it a go. In hindsight, it was a bad choice.”

How was CJ Sapong’s performance and the attack more generally?

“Listen, it was a really quick game – really quick. But listen: we can’t complain. We want to come here in the Summer, and it’d be 105 degrees here. The conditions were spot-on for players to go out and attack the game. The front pair – as I looked at them, Hany and CJ, who’ve been very, very good for us, even in these opening two games before tonight – just looked disconnected. There were some strange choices, we certainly didn’t support them well enough, we didn’t show any real fluidity in our play, and nowhere near enough to really challenge not only their backline, but their mentality.

“We didn’t produce enough creatively to be able to say to them, ‘OK look, if you keep doing that, at some point we’re going to find ourselves a moment.’ We didn’t switch play well enough. There were too many times we tried to force it through the central areas of the field and they were able to regain. When we did find better areas, invariably there was a reason why the attack didn’t progress. And all it did was give them the confidence to keep coming and getting on the front foot – and in the end, find what I believe was a situation that should’ve been averted with the penalty. But in the end, they’ll look at it and say, ‘well, it took us in front.’ The papers tomorrow will tell us they beat us two-nil, and that was the first goal, and that’s all that matters.

“From our point of view, there were just too many moments that we were unable to stay in control of the ball.”

Did you feel like the performance at right back and along the right side lived up to expectations?

“Look, the right-hand side of the field, whether it was Eric [Miller] and Sean out there in those areas, Alex [Muyl] obviously came into the second period, that wasn’t just the only area that looked a bit scruff and disconnected. There were other areas and periods of the game that, certainly, we could’ve and should’ve improved upon. We didn’t get Randall [Leal] in the game enough. We were unable to release our forwards into better areas. We didn’t build pressure well enough. There were too many facets of our game tonight that were below par. It’s as simple as that.

“And the one thing that kept us in the game was a big heart, and a lot of determination. And in the end, it wasn’t good enough. And that was always the fear sitting on the bench: that we were going to offer too much ball to them, and they would find a moment. And they did in the end.

“It’s one game out of three. It doesn’t feel nice – no one likes getting beat – we’ve got to pull ourselves together, knowing that we’ve still got an awful lot of mileage to do, and many, many away games to go, we’ve got to keep looking at each individual game. The first two, I felt as though there were some strong building blocks to move on from. Tonight, we’ve taken a step back, for sure.

“But I’ve seen this group after defeats, and they will have the bit between their teeth come next weekend.”

Is there anything the experience of losing can give to you guys going forward to improve for the final five games of this road trip?

“Well look, I think the first two games have put us into a very good position, mindset, and feel about the way things are going away from home. Tonight’s a bit of a reality check: this young, energetic Dallas side tonight have got the better of us.

“I feel as though we’ve certainly not given the best account of ourselves, and there can be many, many different reasons for that. When you’re jumping on and off of a plane, and you’re having to play in very different environments, there are going to be some nights where it doesn’t go your way. And on those nights – like tonight – and on many many other nights, we’ve been able to grab points out of those and move forward. Unfortunately tonight, we didn’t do enough. The guys have seen that – not very often, but when they have seen defeat, the reaction to that has been a very, very good one, and we’ve always come back on the front foot and looked strong.

“But it won’t be easy, because we go to another difficult environment, and what we know is we’ve still got five games away from home, but we’ve got to try and literally compartmentalize each game, and take what good we can out of it, try and analyze what wasn’t right, and move towards next week’s game in a better frame of mind.”

Midfielder Sean Davis

Did you see Dallas trying to play specifically into the space behind the central midfielders? And how did you see it play out?

“Yeah I thought to start the game, they unbalanced us – like you mentioned – and we had to adjust. I think we made the necessary adjustments. As the half wore on and we got to halftime, we altered our shape a little bit and I think that helped, but in the early going, they were definitely overloading different sides, stretching out our diamond, but I do think the adjustments helped.

“You know, in the second half it’s disappointing to concede so late. I think we were solid for the most part: I think we could’ve been a little sharper on the ball, a little more possession in their final third, but all in all, I think that we had done enough to earn a road point. And so it’s disappointing, it’s a learning experience for our group: we know this stretch isn’t going to be easy, but we take the good and the bad we look at it this week and move on.”

Did their pace and energy give you trouble?

“Yeah, I think we were well-prepared coming into the match in terms of knowing what they were all about. We knew that they were an energetic team, a young team and a team that was looking for their first win. So, we knew that, and it’s about matching that intensity. I think, again, we could’ve had a better start to the game – that hasn’t been an issue for us in the first two games – but again, we weathered the storm. I think it just comes down to us being a little sharper in possession, trying to control the tempo a little bit more, being on the front foot a little bit more – I think that could’ve helped us, but that’s on us on the field. And that’s something that we’ll take from this game and move on.”

What did you see on the penalty?

“Yeah, it was hard for me to see in the run of play. I thought that the ref looked at it for a long time. I haven’t seen it yet, so it’s hard for me to comment on that. But again, it’s just more disappointing to concede late in the game. That’s something as a group we’ve got to improve on, and it’s not going to be easy during this stretch. But I honestly didn’t see it, so it’s hard for me to comment.”

What goes through your mind from a personal, on-field, and leadership perspective when you see Dax McCarty go down injured?

“Ever since I met Dax early on in my career, he’s such a big presence in the midfield. Great leader, so you never want to see him go down. When he does go down, then it’s just time for all of us to step up and take on more responsibility. We hope he’s OK. Obviously it’s early – we don’t know too much about what’s going on – he’s a huge part of this team both on and off the field. I already felt that the first month or two with the group, and so i’m hoping he’s OK.”

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