Nashville SC Looking to Continue Strong Run in Playoff Tune-Up vs. Atlanta United 2
NASHVILLE - Nashville Soccer Club already knows most of its postseason fate.
It has the chance to host through the first two rounds of the USL Championship Playoffs, and could have the chance to host throughout the Eastern Conference bracket with a win on Saturday night against Atlanta United 2. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., presented by Coca Cola.
That opportunity to have a chance at first place pending the results of Sunday's Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC match, plus the opportunity to continue a good run of form going into the postseason, provides plenty of motivation for the Boys in Gold.
"We have to finish strong," said defender Kosuke Kimura. "We have been doing that since the end of last season. Everyone has that mentality. This could be the most important game. The next game is always the most important game, no matter who it is. Everyone knows that. Especially going into the playoffs, it's definitely one of the most important games we can play."
Back on July 15, Nashville SC sat in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with an 11-point mountain to climb to catch the Tampa Bay Rowdies. On that same day, Nashville acquired defender Jimmy Ockford on loan from MLS' San Jose Earthquakes, and he would go on to score his first goal two nights later in Memphis to secure a 2-0 win. The next week, Forrest Lasso joined the club on loan from FC Cincinnati and started in a 2-0 win over Indy Eleven at Nissan Stadium.
In total, Nashville has gone 11-2-2 dating back to mid-July when Ockford and Lasso bolstered the backline. Head Coach Gary Smith is thrilled with how the two stalwart centerbacks have clicked in such a short time in Nashville.
"I think by most people's standards had a pretty stout and competitive group," Smith said. "We got into the middle part of the season and, like a lot of teams, we hit a little bit of a slump, form started to wane a little bit. And at that point, if we were lacking something up front, we might have looked at forwards. We weren't. Our creative edge and our general play was very good, but we were conceding goals, so we looked at defenders. And I think at that point in time, if you can bring in two guys as we did of the stature of the two individuals, it gives everyone a lift. They've come in, done a great job and I think to their credit they settled in very quickly, not just to the team but their new surroundings and new city.
"And having both played at this level, albeit Jimmy in the west, I think they realized what they were in for. Forrest was not far detached from having been Defender of the Year at this level and done so well with one of our competitors the year before. So they were easy additions to make. The only thing I will say is that they themselves have really covered themselves with an awful lot of credit, they've worked hard, they've been good characters, they've given us an awful lot on and off the field."
Even with the good run of form and with potentially two home playoff matches locked up, Nashville SC is still motivated and hungry for a win on Saturday against Atlanta. First place is within reach, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs would be a massive boost. It won't be easy against an ATL UTD 2 side that hasn't lost since early September and will likely bring lots of young talent.
"We haven't lost in quite a few games now which is awesome," Ockford said. "Going against Atlanta on Saturday will be a tough game, but I think everyone will work hard for each other. We want a championship. I think knowing that, it's perfect timing for the way we're playing right now."
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United Soccer League Championship Stories from October 19, 2019
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