By Davey Shepherd (@daveytshep), host.
Nashville SC secured their third win on the trot via a 3-1 performance against old USL rivals FC Cincinnati Sunday evening at the IMG academy in Bradenton FL. The starting lineup was a mixture of “the first and second groups” that head coach Gary Smith has been rotating thus far into the preseason. The most notable appearance was the return of Hany Mukhtar to the starting lineup for his first action since the game against Chicago Fire.
Nashville started off the day’s scoring with a free kick from a danger area. Mukhtar’s shot was on target and saved, but SuperDraft pick Jack Maher was in the right place at the right time and netted the loose ball after the Spencer Ritchey save. The 1-0 score line held going into the half, where Smith kept to his normal script and made large changes to the lineup.
In the 62nd minute Frankie Amaya equalized for FCC, but it was short lived. Daniel Ríos continued a string of positive performances and converted just minutes later to put NSC back ahead for good. Derrick Jones finished off the evening by earning a penalty, which he converted himself in the 83rd minute.
Gary Smith was pleased with the teams performance. He noted that several of the players had either had small knocks, or had been battling illness and it was good to see them get needed minute in the lead up to the regular season. He also touched on the performances of some of Nashville's young guns, specifically mentioning goal scorer Jack Maher and Miguel Nazarit, who played his most minutes yet so far in a match this preseason. Smith noted that both groups of players controlled the pace and tempo of the game against “what looked like a Cincinnati’s first team for 75 minutes”. While he was pleased with the effort, he was also clear that this team is still a work in progress.
Final Thoughts: Former USL player Matt Lagrassa played the full 90 minutes for Nashville against Cincinnati. When asked about playing an old rival, LaGrassa said, "Obviously it's different groups of guys. But being around Nashville as long as I have I'm well aware how much playing that team means to the fans. For me I want to go out and win every game, but there are for sure feelings there". Gary Smith was quick to point out Nashville SC’s scoring record over the first five preseason games, even saying that the team had put the notion that they’re a defensive side to bed. While I think the jury is probably still out on that topic, the numbers have certainly been favorable. Nashville has now netted eight goals while conceding only four. When you factor in having a few goals ruled off for offside, and several shots finding the woodwork, you see a side that is generating scoring chances at a rate fans should be happy to see. Smith also mentioned that he viewed the 1-0 victory against Montreal Impact as a baseline for the team to grow from and that the performance was a level above their victory against Louisville.
Nashville SC concludes its preseason this Wednesday against MLS side DC United. Stay tuned to @SpeedwaySoc for in-person coverage of the match.
Photo courtesy Nashville SC.