Saturday, March 16th, Nashville Soccer Club took on Saint Louis FC on a beautiful night at First Tennessee Park hosting a great crowd of 6,070 fans. This particular game featured both of the 8 seeds from last year’s 2018 USL Cup Playoff, with both Nashville SC and Saint Louis FC looking to move onto 2-0-0 this 2019 season. The game finished 0-1 (84′ Caleb Calvert), with the visiting Saint Louis Club taking home the victory. Here are my big take away’s from the game.
NSC dominated every phase of this game except for the part that matters, the scoreboard. Nashville controlled the outside attack with stellar play from the 6’0″ (I’ll give you that extra inch per the NSC roster page…) Forward from VCU, Kharlton Belmar. Belmar completed 84.8 % of his passes, and also won 11 duels showing the crowd his exceptional ball control with every touch. NSC fans.. do not be surprised if this man finds himself on the MLS Roster come 2020! Outside of Belmar, the midfielders seemed to struggle getting the ball to the feet of their play-makers Rios, and Lancaster in space.
Stats Via: USL Championship
NSC failed to convert on 12 corner kicks. It was just one of those games… Being early in the season, NSC still has time to develop chemistry and establish better positioning inside the 18 that will consequently increase the team’s “Coca-Cola” corner kick conversion rate. As it always seems to go, SLFC converted 1 of the teams mere 3 corner kicks for the winning match goal..
Movement Without the Ball
Being only the 2nd game of the season, this one is an easy fix. The squad seemed stagnate at times which forced the ball carrier to default to passing back to the defenders for a reset. I’d expect to see Coach Gary Smith having his squad looking much more active checking to the ball, making runs, and better planning out their attacks. The exhibit below shows the starting positions vs. the average position from the entirety of the match (via USLchampionship.com). The name that keeps making an appearance is Kharlton Belmar (#11 on the Exhibit). Belmar actively inserted himself into the attack by consistently seeking out the ball, and pressing up. His presence on the field kept the SLFC defenders on their heels having to check him at all times. Going forward, I believe it will help LaGrassa (#20), Akinyode (#30), and Moloto (#10) find our stars feet if both Rios (#14) and Lancaster (#9) put more pressure on the defenders by playing in the gaps and extending the defense. Rios and Lancaster are too good of talents to be bottled up in the middle where it is harder to turn and rip off shots from deep. Once again, being this early in the season NSC fans should be optimistic to see the squad with such a dominating performance throughout this game.
Exhibits Via USLchampionship.com
Pickens won the fan vote Man of the Match, and is a fan favorite for a reason. Matt seems to embrace the ‘Roadies’ by applauding the relentless fans after they cheered him on for crucial saves. You can enjoy one of Matt’s great saves below!
There's only ☝️ Matt Pickens 😱 pic.twitter.com/8sleNnRMGV
— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) March 17, 2019
NSC takes to the road playing their next 2 games in New York on the 24th, and in Ottawa April 6th before returning home on April 13th to take on Memphis. A good measuring tape game will be against the New York Red Bulls II who made it to the Semi-Finals in last year’s 2018 USL Playoffs. With NSC moving into the MLS next season, they will be the team with the target on their backs, and get every other squad’s best effort night-in and night-out. My predictions for the upcoming match-up is a 2-1 NSC victory over the Red Bulls II. Let’s GET IT BOYS!