PHILADELPHIA, PA - For the first time in club history, Nashville SC came back to secure all three points after conceding first. An explosive second half display saw the Boys in Gold grab a 4-1 win against Bethlehem Steel.
After a 10 day break, Gary Smith once again made changes to his side, switching to a 3-5-2 formation and giving Ropapa Mensah a chance to start up top.
Nashville once again started brightly, controlling possession and creating plenty of chances in the final third. Once again, however, Nashville conceded first. Bradley Bourgeois brought down striker Faris Moumbagna just outside Nashville's box and was given a yellow card. He was the last defender, and probably should have been sent off, but Bethlehem made the most of the opportunity as captain James Chambers curled the freekick around the wall, just past the fingertips of an outstretched Connor Sparrow.
It looked like Nashville would once again struggle to get a result, but they responded quickly, equalzing two minutes later through Ken Tribbett. The defender was left unmarked on a corner kick and headed home for his second goal of the season. Nashville went into the half level at 1-1, leading in possession and shots.
It was in the second half that Nashville came to life. After starting the half brightly, they took the lead in the 63rd minute. Lebo Moloto played a great ball over the top to a sprinting Ropapa Mensah, who managed to stay onside before blasting past a stranded Carlos Miguel Coronel. It was the young striker's second league goal of the campaign, and the first time Nashville had taken the lead after being in a losing position.
Bethlehem continued to push for an equalizer, but Nashville added two more. Veteran Kosuke Kimura scored his first in a Nashville shirt (and his first goal in nearly two years) with a well-timed half volley with his left foot. Back from injury, Cameron Lancaster tacked on a fourth after Mensah's overhead kick was blocked. It was the forward's first league appearance in almost a month, and his third league goal of the season.
Before tonight's victory, Nashville had zero wins, 15 losses and four draws after conceding the first goal. Gary Smith and co. will be thrilled to finally get a win from a losing position, and scoring four goals after a really poor finishing display in the Open Cup was a much needed result for the Boys In Gold.
With the win, Nashville move into third place in the Eastern Conference table, four points behind league leaders Tampa Bay. Their next match is against 16th placed Hartford Athletic, who have conceded 29 goals in 14 matches. The game will be played next Sunday, June 16th, in Hartford.
Quotes obtained from Nashville SC's media release
GARY SMITH (Head Coach)
On the club's first ever comeback win: “It’s taken a long time, so I’m delighted that it’s happened today. The circumstances weren’t very natural or normal having a change of venue, it affected an awful lot of things. Travel, obviously the field and the quality of the surface, the size of the surface, but most importantly, some of the facilities here have been diabolical. It’s not right for top clubs, professionals, to be dealing with some of the things that we have today. But it makes the victory, and coming from behind, even sweeter. In adversity sometimes, you see the best of people, and we have in our group today.”
On goals from defenders Ken Tribbett and Kosuke Kimura: “It looked for the world like it was going to be one of those games where creating clear moments was going to be difficult. I thought we had some very good passages of play in the first half and failed to contend with the surface and get the right quality of final ball, cross or entry pass. And then of course with their first attack, they get in behind the back line, and I need to see it again, but I thought it was actually a little bit soft. I thought the lad went over, I’m not sure how much contact there was. In all fairness, if the referee feels as though there is contact there, then what I’m thinking is it’s more than a yellow card. He must have been in doubt as to what had actually happened there. The response was fantastic, and it took guys from different areas of the field to come up trumps.”
On the switch to a 3-5-2: “I had set up to play with wingers, wide players. Thursday, the [location] was changed. Whatever the reasons are, it was disappointing. We were looking forward to going to play in the main stadium. Some of the footage I had seen there had really lent itself to playing with wide, dynamic individuals and I’m sure we could have taken advantage of that. What we didn’t know was what this surface or the field was going to look like. As expected, it was under the dimensions that had been given to us. It’s bitterly disappointing. I ended up thinking that maybe the best route forward was to make sure that we were in the right shape and mindset to come and deal with whatever we were going to run into. I think that shape gives us a little bit more stability to start off with. As it happened, it also gave us some really good opportunities. It’s a bit of a breakout game for us in the 3-5-2 scoring four goals.”
On Kosuke Kimura's first goal in a Nashville shirt: “Any goal is a good goal. I think [one of] the last times Kosuke scored was in the semifinal of the 2010 playoffs when we went on and won it, and he scored a very important goal against San Jose in the semifinal at home. That was a long time ago. That’s how prolific Kosuke is, but I’m sure he’ll be just as pleased scoring today as any other time.”
On how a road win helps build for the second half of the season: “We’re not far away from that halfway point now. Looking at some of the results yesterday, the league continues to throw up some very competitive and small-margin results. Tampa have obviously lost their unbeaten run, which you might have guessed would happen at some point. It’ll be interesting to see how they react, but all in all, it is an incredibly tight league. There are two or three teams that are on a really good run, [North] Carolina being one of them. New York continues to find attractive and attacking play, even with young groups. We’re on a good unbeaten run ourselves, and I’m including that Open Cup game because we didn’t get beat in 90 minutes, we got beat on penalties. It’s an unbeaten league run. The longer that goes on, the better. It gives confidence to the group, and it’s never easy away from home. I think we’re one of the top sides away from home at the moment. It is important that we turn the screw and find better form at home. But I’m seeing a lot of positives in the group, most of all the attitude. It wasn’t easy today. They are a very capable side. Connor [Sparrow] made two or three excellent saves in the second half to keep them at arm’s length. But the attitude to come away and perform in difficult circumstances, and to really be adaptable enough to get the job done, it’s the most pleasing aspect of the day.”
KEN TRIBBETT (Defender)
On the first come-from-behind win in club history: “I wasn’t aware of that, but it’s nice. To go down early is disappointing, but we got on level terms very quickly and in the second half we came out strong and we got some goals. Some subs played a big impact in the game so it was all-around a good performance.”
On his goal: “Well, it’s something that we’ve actually looked at in training ground for the last couple weeks. We’ve been doing in-swingers most of the year, I said let’s just try an out-swinger. So Lebo whipped in a perfect ball, and it was just a good kick from LaGrassa as well, and I was just lucky enough to get my head on it.”
On returning to Philadelphia: “Philly is a special place for me. Like you said, it’s my college, you know. I came here in 2010, so it’s basically my second home. I’ve been here 8-9 years. So it’s always special to come home, [and] to put in a performance like that, score a goal in front of my old college mates and my family was special.”
On being able to switch between formations: “We’re pros, we can go out and do it. We’re professionals. We should be able to do three-back and four-back, whatever the night calls upon. Today, with the field, the conditions, it was a three-back system. We adapted and performed well. If we need to go four, we can, we have the personnel to do it. You took the words out of my mouth.”
On not panicking after giving up the first early goal: “I wouldn’t say that. It’s obviously disappointing because we want to keep a clean sheet. Before this, we had two in a row in the league and we wanted to keep that streak going. So it’s disappointing that we let that one in, but at the same time after that we regrouped, we bounced back and were able to take care of business on the road.”
On moving forward with a five-match unbeaten streak: “As you said it was the first time we’ve come from behind so now we know we can do that. Obviously we don’t want to get scored on right at the beginning, but if we need to, we know we can, we’re good enough, we have the players to continue our run and to push for the top one or two spots in the table.”
KOSUKE KIMURA (Defender)
On the club’s first comeback win: “At halftime, I told everybody that this is our biggest challenge. I didn’t want to say we never came back, because I didn’t want to put that in their head. I just told them this is our biggest challenge yet to come back. This is a big chance. Gary said this is our day. We started bright even though we conceded the first goal. Maybe we could have scored before. We knew that if we kept going at it, kept working at it…we have a good group of guys. This is a good group of guys. They never cheat. They work hard. Everybody has everybody’s back. We just kept pushing and then we got the second.”
On his goal: “When you play the position [I do], sometimes you have awkward positioning. Sometimes you join late so they don’t see you coming. I told Taylor [Washington] that maybe when the cross was coming, I might be a possibility. We can get it and still press. I saw the ball coming, and I just told myself, ‘Just keep it down, just keep it down.’ That’s all I focused on. I just put it on goal, and it worked.”
On Ropapa Mensah's performance: “We know how he wants to play, especially with the narrow field. Everybody was talking about how we can just turn them, turn them. We had Ropapa, we had [Daniel] Ríos, two guys that are not easy to defend. We kept telling them to try and turn them. We told them to keep going behind, and glad it worked.”
On the field and facility conditions: “I think we have dealt with a lot of different conditions and fields in the USL. You see that. Even our field, it’s a baseball field with great grass, but it’s not wide or long. I think we know how to deal with it. It’s all about your mental attitude.”
On what the team can take from this performance going forward: “I think we have one of the best records in away games. We just need to keep doing that on the road, but we need to get it going at home. If we take care of business at home, that will be good for everybody.”