Our moment

We’re only three games into the new Nashville SC season, but it feels like they’ve turned a corner in multiple ways.

Perhaps “turning a corner” isn’t the right phrase. I mean, Nashville have performed well in the last several seasons, and the fan base has been largely exciting and energized.

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Nonetheless, something feels supercharged about this season (so far).

While I should know better than to get overly optimistic, I can’t help it. And it’s not just about the team’s performance. It’s also about the fan base and its “performance.”

Looking back:  The situation and events of the opening game against NYCFC couldn’t have been much better. Wonderful weather, the Man in Black jerseys everywhere, the Cash family representing. Plus, the game unexpectedly end up being the one that opened the MLS season. That feels like a prescient bit of fortune.  

And then game itself: so much of everything. From the opening moments, the crowd felt fiercely ready to live up to the moment. And while each of us may have scripted the opening goal differently, there was something magical about Zimmerman getting that goal after a set piece scramble. It harkened back to the beginning of the Coyotes’ time in MLS. 

In the second half, given the opportunity to celebrate Hany Mukhtar’s season in the sun, the crowd seized it. Having him enter the pitch to spontaneous chants of MVP let me, led all of us, to expect magic.  And man, his entrance… his speed… did the trick, energizing the play, allowing him to open his assist record for the year, and allowing Jacob Shaffleburg, who has done nothing but make us love him, score. 

To add just another layer of space: the boo-ing of Maxime Chanot did the trick. While it’s certainly not unique for a particular player to be heckled when they touch the ball, there was something spontaneous about this that felt like a recharging of the crowd each time. Multiple people around me asked, “Why are we booing him?,” while simultaneously joining it, wanting to be part of it.

After the game, I saw numerous people in social media asking the same question and while there were good reasons for the booing, what I really loved is that it was spontaneous. This wasn’t a predetermined “Let’s boo the star player every time he touches the ball,” or “Let’s boo the guy who talked trash last week.” 

No, this was a crowd decision that took place at the game.  The fact that people joined in who weren’t sure why made it even more compelling. I hope it happens again. But spontaneously.

While a 0-0 draw is no one’s idea of crazy fun, picking up a point on the road against NYRB only led to an even greater appreciation of what might happen.

But then last weekend. Sure, the rain sucked, but we’ve gotten somewhat used to that. I’ve gotten so used to supporting teams who falter on the very games when you expect a win, that I was perhaps not as hopeful about this game as I should have been. 

But Gary Smith—for all the battering he’s taken—seems to be pulling toward a bit more balance of a style this season, balancing active attack and fierce defense.  The angle of the Shaffleburg goal was amazing.  But, and I think we all agree with this, it was that banger by Taylor Washington that was the real magic.

More than almost anyone, if you’ve been following this team since their USL seasons, he feels like one of our own.  He works hard, he’s fast, and his public persona is simply lovable.  Scoring a goal that amazing as his first MLS goal.  It felt like we were being blessed in the midst of a storm.

I know we’ll have bumps; I know we’ll have some dreary periods to go through and some bad seasons in the future.  But right now, this feels like our moment, Nashville.

Invite some friends to jump on board.

Author: John Sloopgrew up in Asheville, NC, and after forays to Georgia and Iowa, found his way to Nashville over 25 years ago. On a trip to Portland, Oregon, 15 years ago, he watched the (then) USL Portland Timbers youth squad play one afternoon and fell completely and totally in love with soccer, to the detriment of his love of all other sports. In addition to thinking, writing, watching, and talking about soccer, Sloop teaches media and rhetoric at Vanderbilt. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the Belcourt Theater and is part of the team that runs Tenx9 Nashville, a monthly story telling event.

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