Nashville SC Lineup Could Get a Boost Ahead of Clash with Charlotte Independence
NASHVILLE - With Nashville SC captain Michael Reed sidelined for the remainder of the season, the Boys in Gold will need to find a way to replace his presence in the midfield.
Enter Matt LaGrassa.
The ironman midfielder, who played in more than 50 consecutive matches for the club before being sidelined with an injury in July, could continue his return to the Nashville SC lineup this weekend on the road at Charlotte Independence after making a substitute appearance last Saturday against Bethlehem Steel FC.
Reed will be missed, and LaGrassa knows that leaves a gap will need to be filled in the middle of the pitch.
"Obviously, what happened to Michael [Reed] is devastating," LaGrassa said. "You don't want to see that happen to anybody on the opposing team and definitely not on your own team and to your captain. I think each one of us is trying to support the team with whatever role we can. With him being out, there's a gap there that needs to be build. Hopefully, I can fill it."
LaGrassa's return comes as Nashville prepares to face the Independence, which took a 1-1 draw against Nashville back in May. In that match, Charlotte's counterattacking style allowed them to find a goal and ultimately end up taking a point from the match. Head Coach Gary Smith is preparing for another tough match against a hot team.
"I think there was a lot of lessons learned," Smith said. "They played a good game plan on the day. Their counter-attacking style caused us a lot of problems, especially in the first half. The fact is that they do have four or five players that can create something out of nothing, really. They have the experience of Enzo [Martinez], Dominic Oduro, [Jorge] Herrera. You've got guys there that are more than capable of creating an opening or actually making a difference and scoring. They've got a very talented group, no doubt about it. They've found their way back into some form after a very, very tough start. I think it's full credit to them that they are in the position they are actually in right now with the way they started the season. They are not to be taken lightly."
Over the last five matches, Nashville SC has not conceded a goal. The common denominator in all five of those clean sheets has been defender Jimmy Ockford, who was acquired on loan from MLS' San Jose Earthquakes. LaGrassa played with Ockford with Reno 1868 FC two years ago and is not shocked at all at how well he has fit into the squad on and off the pitch.
"He's just one of those guys where you can't not get along with," LaGrassa said. "As far as him making friends, I'm not surprised there. The way that he's fit in so seamlessly, he's a smart player. I think he's got a lot of ability, but he's also very intelligent about where to use that ability. They've definitely sured up things back there. Five shutouts in a row is a huge compliment to them and the work that everyone's doing defensively."
With the stretch run of the 2019 season upon us, Nashville will be looking to take as many points as possible in order to secure a spot in the top four of the standings. After the Eastern Conference's top club, New York Red Bulls II, dropped at match in the midweek, Nashville SC has an opportunity to gain ground. Despite dropping some points against Bethlehem over the weekend, Smith says his team is in the right state of mind.
"I think we have got a nice vein and mentality about the group at the moment," Smith said. "There is a lot positive about the way we are managing games at the moment, the way we are creating, the way we are defending. I think they are seeing there is an opportunity. New York [Red Bulls II] get beat last night. Pittsburgh is on a great run. That top five or six again is getting really, really tight. It's going to be the team that continues its form the final 10 games or so that really get it done. I am sure they are going to be some peaks and troughs as we move along this final stretch and we have got to make sure we hold firm as long as we can."
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night in Charlotte. Catch the match with other Nashville SC fans, and with captain Michael Reed, at Corner Pub Downtown.
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