It wasn’t the easiest of matches. However, Nashville SC defeated San Antonio FC 1-0 in the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup.
The reigning USL Championship title winners came to GEODIS Park and looked up to the challenge of slaying a higher-division foe. For large stretches of the first half, it was SAFC that appeared the more likely side to find a goal. Nashville kept themselves in the match and eventually wore down the opposition in the final thirty minutes.
Here are my three thoughts on the match.
Rotation, rotation, rotation
The three things you will see in the early rounds of the U.S. Open Cup: rotation, rotation, rotation. Nashville SC’s lineup certainly obliged.
Jack Maher and Alex Muyl were the only starters carried over from the weekend’s 1-1 draw with LAFC, with Gary Smith making nine changes to the starting lineup.
Open Cup matches provide the best opportunity to give depth pieces meaningful minutes during the season. It’s a chance to stay sharp and prove to your manager that you are deserving of additional playing time.
While I’m not sure any Nashville players staked a claim for added minutes, Wednesday night did provide Nashville SC debuts for Laurence Wyke and Joey DeZart.
Pressure pays off
After the LAFC match, I highlighted how Nashville dialed up high pressure and how it resulted in the best spells of soccer the Coyotes have produced this year. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when Nashville found its breakthrough against San Antonio via counter-pressing immediately after a loss of possession.
Fafà Picault created the chance when he ran down and picked the pocket of Shannon Gomez right as he collected an errant Nashville pass. Picault found himself alone in the box and slid the ball to an on-rushing Ethan Zubak who was staring at a wide-open net.
Through 70 minutes, Nashville lacked any clear ideas or patterns of play in the final third. It’s something this squad has constantly struggled with. If open-play goals don’t come from counterattacks, it’s difficult for the Boys in Gold to generate quality chances.
Strategically applied pressure can help alleviate the burden and generate more of the lightning-quick opportunities that this team is built to rely on.
It is 2023. If you’re unable to adequately stream a match, what is the point of your competition?
For those “watching” at home, the first half was marred by choppy video and a five-minute window where no video existed whatsoever.
I’ve watched a multitude of high school football games via online streaming that have never so much as skipped a beat. Yet, the United States Soccer Federation, MLS clubs, and B/R Football are unable to deliver a quality entertainment product.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Last year, ESPN+ did a fantastic job covering the tournament. The streams I consumed never had an issue. The early rounds also featured Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez of Futbol Americas hosting a whip-around show that drew near-universal praise. In a lot of ways, that show served as an inspiration for what we now see each week on MLS Season Pass’ MLS 360 show.
This year’s broadcast, by comparison, makes the U.S. Open Cup feel small, meaningless, and not befitting of the most unique sports tournament in the United States.
The tweet says it all.