Nashville SC lost 3-1 at Orlando City SC last night. The performance on the field was arguably the worst yet. I’ll have a few brief comments on the match itself in the last paragraph, but game will forever be remembered for that fact that it was even played. The storyline started in the afternoon when the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks decided to not to play in support of Black Lives Matter, social justice and justice for Jacob Blake. Shortly after all NBA games were canceled for the eventing and it was clear there was good chance MLS would follow suit.
Protest Came Together Fast
The big issue for MLS players was this happened late in the afternoon and Nashville and Orlando were scheduled to kickoff at 6:30. Discussions were had, but head coach Gary Smith has a no cell phone policy in the locker room once warm ups begin. When Nashville SC reached this point not all players were on the same page. See the tweet above by Steven Goff at 8:30 shorty before the match ended. It’s clear discussions were going on before the match, but some players still needed convincing of why they should join in. Nashville SC right back, Jalil Anibaba, is a board member of the Black Players Coalition. You can see in his post game quotes that not players immediately thought it was a good idea to not play. This backs up Goff’s earlier tweet.
Mark-Anthony Kaye Implies Orlando Wanted to Play, Not Nashville
The tweet from Los Angeles Football Club midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye is telling. Coming hours after the match it is likely he had a chance to speak to players from one or both Nashville and Orlando. While the timeline was tight, it is clear any players that needed a bit more convincing not to play were on Orlando, not Nashville. Kaye has been active in the social justice movement. Alicia Rodriguez wrote about Kaye’s activism back in June. He clearly has strong opinions and while I’d be shocked if he named in specific player, Nashville SC fans should feel confident the players that live in the Music City wanted to band together with rest of the league. That said, the main issue was the tight timeline. I suspect if the game started at just 30 minutes later it would not have kicked off. So just point anyone asking why did Nashville play last night here. Tell them to watch this interview with Jalil Anibaba on WSMV from June. The team is united with the rest of the league in its desire for change.
Nashville SC Worst Performance Yet?
I would say yes. Despite going up 1-0 in the 15′ on a Dave Romney header off a set piece, the defense was exposed more than any match this season. This is really odd especially given the early lead. I’ll have to rewatch the match, but I suspect the urgency to get some goals led to a bit more of an offensive push leaving them a bit more exposed at the back. One would think a Gary Smith team would keep its defensive (sorry Gary, I mean organized) shape and focus on not conceding once up 1-0. This is basically what Portland did to Nashville earlier this season and why the teams stats that match were so meaningless. Unfortunately, Orlando equalized just six minutes later on a lucky goal. Chris Mueller literally fell down in front of goal making his run. While getting up the cross came right to his head while he was still on his knees. The match would goto half tied 1-1 before a second half brace from Daryl Dike gave Orlando the win. Dike is a large man and a lot to handle. One to watch for the future for sure. So it was the most goals Nashville has given up all season and while they did get a goal, it didn’t come in the run of play. Nashville continues to do little on offense and seems to be content waiting to sign a DP 9 to try and change things. Six matches in and Nashville SC has 3 goals, two of which are from center backs. For context, last year FC Cincinnati had 8 goals after their first six games. One would think it has to get better, but Nashville isn’t a deep team. Look at the injuries Atlanta has suffered this season. If something like that happens the .5 goals per game average might not get better.