Nashville SC games are still fun, but do changes need to be made?

For anyone who loves sports, the first day of a brand-new season is one full of awesome possibilities.

It’s a fresh start for every team around the league and a fresh start for players who may not have had ideal seasons the year prior. And for fans of Nashville Soccer Club, the hope was that their favorite team would be able to make changes that involve a more exciting brand of soccer to watch. However, with Gary Smith still at the helm of the team, it doesn’t feel wrong to ask whether or not fans should be worried about the season so far and the season moving forward, given their preseason expectations.

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Before Nashville’s decisive 4-1 home win against CF Montréal last weekend, led by a Sam Surridge hat-trick and the return of Walker Zimmerman to the back line and the scoreboard, the results and play on the pitch did not incite much enthusiasm within the fanbase, taking lots of the fun out of attending a match.

When showing up at Geodis Park, the goal is not only to see a win for the home club but, at the very least, it’s to watch a fun brand of soccer. A brand of soccer that leaves one saying, “Well, they lost, but they had enough chances,” or, “Well, they lost, but their passing and flow was brilliant,” or whatever the case may be.

The problem is, however, now that Nashville isn’t consistently winning many games, watching them draw in the most frustrating of ways is not fun for a casual viewer who may be seeing a soccer match for the first time.

As a fan who follows the team, an aspiring journalist covering the sport, and someone who just loves watching the beautiful game during his free time, it has admittedly been hard to attend matches for reasons outside of the obvious physical barriers of going to school five hours away. Walking into the ground with the expectation of a loss or a draw after the club’s start in MLS and their run in the Leagues Cup tournament last year is a tough pill to swallow.

Even worse, when the match starts, and Nashville takes a lead by one or two goals (the highest number of goals they’ve scored all season outside of the Montreal fixture), there’s an expectation that they will park the bus and concede, not only goals but possession of the ball for the remainder of the game. Watching the other team have the ball for an entire half or maybe even longer is not fun and very stressful.

Take the game against the San Jose Earthquakes, for example. Nashville took an early lead thanks to a gorgeous strike from outside the box by Hany Mukhtar. Then, they drew back and allowed the worst team in MLS to attack over and over again before eventually scoring.

A personal example I can add to Nashville’s match against the Columbus Crew: I attended the game with my family, and because they don’t watch NSC very often (two of them watch the English Premier League, so they enjoy the sport), I told them that if Nashville took a lead in the first half, they were likely to sit back and let the Crew attack for the entirety of the second 45 minutes.

And, while they did go down 1-0 early, the Coyotes ended up taking a 2-1 lead before halftime thanks to Hany Mukhtar and a gorgeous bicycle kick by Aníbal Godoy. And, after standing in line for Prince’s Hot Chicken on the other side of the stadium from where we were sitting, I came back to the seats and said, “They will probably give a goal up late in this half.”

Sure enough, even after Columbus was awarded a penalty, which Diego Rossi shot off the post in the 47th minute, Marino Hinestroza tied the game up in the 79th minute.

The Crew are a strong team, and a draw against them isn’t inherently a poor result. However, it’s the way in which they drew that epitomized the overarching problem of the club and the issue fans have had since the beginning of the season and the results that have followed.

Nashville has public goals of making the playoffs. Nashville’s fanbase isn’t satisfied solely with a playoff berth, but wants the team to actually compete for and win trophies while playing a proactive and entertaining style, like many of the top clubs around the league have committed to in the last several years. Fans want to win, and to win well.

Instead, the club and the manager have too often seemed satisfied with an approach that sees the team sit back after scoring a goal. From a roster-building perspective, there are still some glaring holes in the lineup that have been obvious flaws through several transfer windows that must be improved.

Other Nashville sports teams have already seen their fair share of “rebuilds” or “retools” or whatever jargon one uses to describe a team working with what they have and what is on the open market to try and make their jump back to the upper echelon of the standings. Heck, the two other major sports teams in Nashville – the Predators and the Titans – both had a coaching change and general manager change within the last year!

The likelihood of a change in management seems quite lower for NSC than for the other in-market teams, but a coaching change might be a way to help a team with legitimate scoring threats on the roster get back on track. It also might be a way to reinvigorate a fanbase that has grown tired of watching their favorite team convert on a chance or two and then predictably concede possession and often the lead, frequently at home to teams that a club of Nashville’s on-field quality has no business dropping points against.

The 4-1 win against Montréal buys Nashville and Gary Smith time, but without drastic and consistent improvement, these questions aren’t going away.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As this is an editorial piece, the views reflected in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Broadway Sports Media as a whole.

Author: Jeff MiddletonJeff is a sophomore at Miami University double majoring in Journalism and Sports Leadership and Management. He is just stepping into the soccer writing world but has been writing about sports for four years. From writing about the NHL (Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche) to MLB (New York Yankees) and the Miami University hockey program, he has gained valuable experience writing about sports, learned from the best writers in those media markets, and continues to learn as he builds his soccer portfolio

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