The Chalkboard: Nashville SC vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds

It's generally assumed in soccer that if your opponent has a man sent off, you're at an immediate advantage offensively and should be able to score at will. That's not always the case, as Nashville SC learned against Pittsburgh last weekend.

Pittsburgh's Tobi Adewole was sent off in the 40th minute for a foul that looked much worse in real time than it did on replay.

As expected for a side playing a man up for 50+ minutes, Nashville had the majority of possession and had twice the amount of shots as Pittsburgh. On xG alone, Nashville should have scored at least once.

Nashville were able to set up shots from inside the 18, but weren't able to convert, despite putting four on target.

Pittsburgh is a defensively strong side to begin with, only conceding 28 goals so far this season. Pittsburgh began the match with their typical back five, and match up really well against Daniel Ríos. The were able to get bodies on Ríos and limit his space in the box, especially on services from wide areas.

Pittsburgh were routinely able to get 2-3 defenders around Ríos, and when he did get the ball in the box he had no space or time to operate. His best chance of the night came on a bit of a broken play, when LaGrassa flicked on a chipped ball from Moloto, and Ríos was able to get on the end of it. He brought the ball down perfectly, but surprisingly the finish was lacking. That's a chance he finishes 9/10 times this season, and if he puts in a goal early in the match, we're talking about an entirely different outcome.

The red card completely changed the match. Already defensive, going down to 10 men forced Pittsburgh to abandon most of their attack and focus solely on frustrating Nashville in the final third. They only took three shots in the second half, all of them from range. On the other side of the ball, they dropped plenty of bodies behind the ball, setting up in a very low block and limiting space in the final third.

In the above photo, Nashville have had a good sequence of possession and are looking for an entry pass into the final third. Pittsburgh have all 10 players behind the ball (Pratzner and James are out of frame on the right). This was pretty typical of the second half, and when Nashville did get the ball into the box, they had no time to get off a shot.

As a single result, I don't think there's much to be concerned about. Both Ríos and Moloto had chances in the first half that they normally finish, and going forward they should put those away. More concerning is the fact that Nashville once again have dropped points at home.

Nashville have played 14 matches at home this season. In seven of those, they've dropped points (three losses, four draws). They've already played each of the other top five sides at home, and they've only won one of those matches.

Only one team in playoff position (Birmingham Legion) has been worse at home than Nashville. For a side that will play their final three matches at home, and have been very public about wanting to secure home field advantage in the playoffs, their home form simply isn't good enough. That needs to change in order for them to have a real shot at the USL Cup.

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