Film Friday: Controlling with possession

Hello and welcome to another Film Friday!

Nashville SC defeated the New England Revolution 3-2 and finally scored some long-awaited goals. We always talk about goals, rightly so as they are the most important events in a match. However, today I want to talk about control and game management. So let’s get into it.

Shop MLS Jerseys at

New England scored early in the second half, and that goal gave them hope for the rest of the match, which meant that they were pushing more aggressively. This allowed for Nashville counter attacks, and as we have discussed in the past, Nashville is deadly in transitions.

With that said, missing Fafà Picault and Jacob Shaffelburg limited Nashville’s transitions. And with a 3-1 scoreline, Nashville were playing with a lot of confidence. Which is generally a good thing, but in this specific instant, it might have had just a tad bit of a negative impact.

Nashville players were going for glory almost every attack, and missed some combination play and some easier plays that would have put them further ahead. Instead, their counter attacks started to look like this.

So instead of continuing down a frustrating path, Nashville made the smart move of keeping more possession, which is common for teams ahead. Of course, they still have to deal with New England’s pressure, but those few minutes where Nashville maintained the ball made the game less vertical and game the players a chance to catch their breath.

Let’s look at Hany Mukhtar here. He notices that the counters are going nowhere at the moment, and decides to drop back and slow things down. He stretches the field and plays it to the players around him, who are secure in possession. This move lead to 37 consecutive passes by Nashville and almost two minutes off the clock.

This also doesn’t eliminate Nashville’s threat. They can still score and go forward, but it’s a bit more methodical this way. This is a much better way to kill off the game than parking the bus, for example.

Looking at both possession in five minute intervals, Nashville had more possession than New England in three instances. All three were in the second half, and all three were to control the game better. This sort of control is something that Nashville has been missing recently, and while it comes with risks, it could be very rewarding in the end.

I asked Gary Smith about this.

Thank you for watching, and please share and follow.

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

Leave a Reply