Nashville picked up a valuable point on the road against a really strong New York Red Bulls II side. The Boys in Gold battled to a 1-1 draw in a game full of fouls and half chances.
Gary Smith made four changes to the side that lost to Saint Louis last week, including giving 'keeper Connor Sparrow and midfielder Vinner Vermeer their club debuts. He sent out his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, playing in a low block and looking to hit New York on the break. Predictably, it was all New York to start the match. The home side was on the front foot, creating several solid chances and controlling 69% possession through the first 20 minutes.
In the 21st minute, however, Nashville opened the scoring, with Daniel Ríos pouncing on a poor back pass to give Nashville the lead. He rounded the keeper well before a great finish from a tight angle. The goal came against the run of play, but came about how Smith set out to score.
The game calmed down a bit after the goal. Vinnie Vermeer went off injured after 29 minutes, replaced by Bolu Akinyode, on the bench after starting the previous two games. Nashville had a decent half chance, with Ríos setting up Davis after a quick counter, but the defender's shot pulled just wide from 20+ yards.
Nashville came out of the break energetically, taking the game to New York for the first 10 minutes. Matt LaGrassa hit the post on a well-struck half volley, and moments later played a great ball across the goal, but no one was there to finish.
In the 55th minute, New York equalized. Marcus Epps made a strong run into the box before playing a great ball to Brian White, who was all alone at the far post. He headed into an open goal from three yards out to secure a point for NYRB.
New York pressed hard for a winner after the goal, forcing a couple strong saves from Connor Sparrow, and hitting the post after a well-run set piece routine. However, Nashville's defense held strong, holding on for a well-earned point against a perennial playoff team. It may not have been the prettiest game to watch, but Smith sent out a team that was organized, tough to beat, and dangerous on the break. Not a bad formula against a playoff contender on the road.
Gary Smith: "I honestly felt there were some very good moments for us to extend our lead, and if we had been able to do that, I think that might have been enough. However, when you look back on the balance of opportunities at both ends, a draw was probably a fair result, and against a very bright and positive New York side. I’ve seen lots of teams come here and get picked apart. I think it’s a good result and there are some qualities within that result that will serve us well as we move into these next four games that are away from home out of the next five.”
Gary Smith (on changes to the lineup): “We’ve got a very strong squad, as you well know. The guys that started today have had good preseasons, they’re in a good place physically. There were one or two aspects of the game last weekend that we can certainly improve on, and we’re away from home. We’ve changed up one or two areas in a slightly different picture to how we played with LaGrassa in the middle with two other genuine midfield players. Because I honestly felt there would be a lot of central field play, regains, second phase, and a lot of work going on in there. To a degree, it helped. But ultimately, we’ve got a lot of good players and there’s going to be occasions where we’ve got to rotate them. Other than Vinnie [Vermeer]’s injury, which is really disappointing, I felt the guys that came in did a very, very good job, and I expect the guys that haven’t seen the field yet in the next couple of weeks because we've got a weekend off now, we may well see a couple of other faces as well.”
Gary Smith (on injuries to Daniel Ríos and Vinnie Vermeer): “Daniel’s fine. He just took a little bit of a battering against two very capable center backs. Vinnie’s looks slightly more concerning, although we’ll get a read on that I’m sure in the middle part of this week. He’s turned his ankle. To what degree, I don’t know at this point.”
Gary Smith (on a finishing off a game with a lead): “All teams, when they create chances and get themselves in good positions, give themselves opportunities to see a game off. All teams want to try and convert, and nobody doesn’t want to convert. I think it’s who does it fall to, can they stay composed, what’s the type of finish, can you pick a spot, are you getting hurried and just randomly lashing at the ball and hoping for the best? The top goal scorers and the top individuals are really keeping a clear mind and that’s what makes them difference-makers. Daniel’s goal, it would have been easy for Daniel to have hurried and rushed the moment. He didn’t, it looked at one point that the goalkeeper might have done enough, but he rounded him and still kept his foot in and finished well. Daniel’s pedigree tells us that he’s capable of doing that. We need to find a way to make sure that our top finishers, goal scorers and creators are getting in better areas and today we’ve seen that.“
Daniel Ríos (on his goal): “It was a long ball, and because of the surface, the ball goes slow. The defender was trying to play with the keeper, but it was short so I took a good touch and scored the goal.”
Connor Sparrow (on New York's goal): “It was kind of just a broken play, as we got off a corner it kind of trickled back out to the corner and the kid spanked across a cross and I turned around and it was in the back of the net. Kind of have to sharpen up in that regard, but it was a good ball in a good spot for the forward.”
Connor Sparrow (on what lessons the team can take forward): "I think we need to focus on a second-to-second basis, especially on the defensive end. It’s kind of two goals now we’ve let up not directly from a set piece but involved in a set piece, so I think that’s still an area as the season goes on that we’ll work on.”