Nashville SC went to Indianapolis and fought for a 0-0 draw in a tight, defensive affair. Let's take a look at some stats and tactics to get a better look at the result.
It was the second match of the week for Nashville, and neither was filled with chances.
Nashville actually had a better xG value by about 33%. A big part of this is that four out of Indy's five shots inside the box were headed, which is a lower percentage shot than shots taken with the foot. Nashville only had one headed attempt, coming from Bradley Bourgeois in the 70th minute.
Nashville did most of their damage in the first half, only taking three shots in the second. Their best chance of the night came in the 16th minute, after Lebo Moloto played Tucker Hume in on goal.
The phrase "matches are won and lost in the midfield" is used a lot, probably because it's true. The majority of this match was played in the midfield.
Both teams had issues getting into the final third, but Nashville particularly couldn't break through Indy's defensive line. They had a couple opportunities in the first half, but in the second half Smith had his team sit back and focus on keeping the clean sheet.
Nashville's two best chances both came from Tucker Hume. The first came after Lebo Moloto chipped a fantastic ball over the top, allowing Hume to get 1v1 with goalie Evan Newton. Hume took one too many touches, allowing Newton to make the save.
The other big chance came in the 62nd minute. Ropapa Mensah found space on the right wing, isolating Kenny Walker 1v1.
Mensah gets a half step on Walker and plays a gorgeous ball into the box, beating three Indy players and putting the ball on Hume's left foot.
Hume gets on the ball, but when he strikes it, he's stretching and leaning back. It was a decent enough run, but a little late. Even being a half step earlier there would have allowed Hume to keep his body over the ball and put it on target, potentially even scoring. Hume is a good player, and has shown his scoring ability in the past, but that chance shows the difference between him and a player like Daniel Ríos. Ríos times his runs to perfection, and is consistently able to put his shots on target, converting 36% of his chances this season (Hume has converted 14%). It was the first match this season in which Ríos didn't start, and his absence showed just how valuable he is to this team.
RETURN OF THE 352
After using a 4231 formation for the past four matches, Gary Smith returned to a 352. Indy Eleven have used a 343 all season, and the move seemed designed in large part to counter this. Both sides limited the other's effectiveness from central areas, forcing their opponent to rely on crosses and balls served in from wide areas.
PLAYING FOR A POINT
We've talked on the pod about there being instances where a single point on the road is a good result, and although this wasn't a fun one to watch, I think it's fair to say that a point was a good result. Nashville had their moments to get ahead, but in general they seemed focused on keeping Indy off the scoresheet.
Nashville got plenty of bodies behind the ball, especially in the second half.
They defended in two banks of four, with the back five sitting just inside their box and the midfield just outside. After he came on, Kharlton Belmar tracked back and dropped into midfield at times, giving Moloto more of a free role underneath Ríos. It wasn't particularly thrilling, but it was quite effective, limiting Indy's effectiveness in the final third. After conceding eight goals in the previous six matches, they've kept two clean sheets in a row. With a bye this weekend after their Open Cup match, they'll have time to rest and get players back to full health after a stretch of eight games in 24 days.
Neither match was pretty, but good teams find ways to get results even when they're not in the greatest run of form. Nashville hasn't been in the greatest run of form, but for the most part they've gotten results.