This weekend, Nashville SC lost for the first time in 2022. Here are my three thoughts on the match.
1. Gary Smith blaming Aké Loba for any part of Dallas’ second goal is baffling
Through 86 minutes of action Saturday, Nashville failed to register a shot on goal. Collectively, the team managed less than 10 touches inside of FC Dallas’ penalty area. To say that the Coyotes’ offense had been underwhelming would be a vast understatement.
The lack of offensive production made Gary Smith’s post-match comments regarding an Aké Loba turnover baffling.
In the 87th minute, Loba received a pass from Daniel Lovitz at the top of Dallas’ box. As soon as Lovitz released the pass, he made a darting run into the box. Down a goal with only a few minutes remaining, Loba attempted a first-time backheel pass to Lovitz. Had the pass connected, Lovitz would have had the ball 12 yards from goal with a chance to shoot. It did not work.
Following the turnover, Dallas played a line-breaking pass that whizzed past Nashville’s midfield. Newcomer Alan Velasco dribbled around Nashville’s defense and put the game away with a second goal.
Down a goal and with nothing else working for Nashville, Loba tried a bit of magic to unlock the Dallas defense. It did not work. The attacking third at the edge of the penalty area is exactly where you want your playmakers to get creative to generate a dangerous opportunity.
Gary Smith saw things differently. In his post-match press conference, he singled out Loba’s giveaway as one of the contributory causes of Velasco’s goal.
The comment baffles me. Sure, the turnover eventually led to Dallas’ second goal. But Loba should be applauded for at least trying something. Who cares if it led to the second goal? Nashville trailed and needed to quickly find an equalizer. On a night where you register less than 10 touches in the opponent’s box and fail to attempt a shot on goal, there should not be condemnation for Loba’s taking a risk.
2. Nashville SC remain right on pace, just not the way we expected it
Nashville have earned four points from the first three matches. Prior to the start of the season, four points is the total I predicted from these first three matches. It just happened in reverse. If you had told Nashville supporters that the season would start with a loss at Seattle, a draw in Minnesota, and a win in Dallas, they would not bat an eye. That sequence of results would have been the reasonable expectation.
Nashville ended up there. They just arrived in reverse order.
The loss at FC Dallas does however shift the narrative. Nashville will assuredly be bumped from the top spot on MLS power rankings.
The loss in Frisco also erases the sense that Nashville were ahead of schedule on this grueling eight-match road trip to start the season.
The Coyotes will travel to Real Salt Lake this coming weekend. On paper, Nashville have the talent edge. But away trips to RSL are notoriously difficult. Nashville will want to secure at least a draw in this match.
3. Numerous mistakes throughout the night
Nashville did not concede the first goal until the 85th minute. But Dallas created a number of opportunities before Franco Jara converted a penalty. They earned the result by picking apart Nashville’s defense and pouncing on mistakes.
In the 18th minute, Walker Zimmerman failed to recognize Jáder Obrian (#8) run unmarked into the box presenting a perfect pullback option. Dallas should have converted the chance.
In the 21st minute, a misplaced Eric Miller pass nearly leads to a goal.
Joe Willis carelessly gave away possession on multiple occasions with kicks that went straight out of bounds. I noted three separate times where Willis cheaply conceded possession, including on a goal kick in the 18th minute.
Whatever you think about the penalty call on Jack Maher, poor positioning by Dave Romney and Daniel Lovitz created the opportunity for Dallas. Lovitz tracks Arriola’s run as he darts toward the penalty spot. Dave Romney is stacked almost vertically behind Walker Zimmerman. Because of the lack of horizontal spacing, Romney leaves room for Brandon Servania to take an open shot at Joe Willis.
The shot travels wide and is misinterpreted as a potential cross to Arriola, who with a bit of veteran savvy induces contact from Jack Maher and obliges with a fall. The Jack Maher-Paul Arriola sequence never occurs if Romney and Lovitz prevent the open shot in the first place.
Nashville often get the little things right defensively. That did not happen against FC Dallas. The Coyotes will need to clean things up before a trip to undefeated Real Salt Lake.