Nashville SC Not Taking Swope Park Rangers Lightly Ahead of Saturday's Clash
NASHVILLE - Nashville Soccer Club's match with Swope Park Rangers this Saturday night begins a four-match stretch against teams currently sitting below the playoff line in the USL Championship Eastern Conference.
However, that doesn't mean the Boys in Gold are prepared to rest on their laurels.
"You can go ahead and look at those as pretty tough games, tougher than the ones at the top half because these guys are really fighting for places, so they're going to come out and give it their all," forward Kharlton Belmar said. "At this point, they've got nothing to lose, you know? They're going to come out and give us their best shot and those are the most important ones. We've got to stay on edge and make sure we stay on the front foot to really try and pick up those points."
Three of the next four matches are against teams that Nashville beat earlier in the season. Back in May, Nashville SC dismantled Swope Park Rangers 5-1 on a rainy night at First Tennessee Park. Nashville also went to Philadelphia and beat Bethlehem Steel FC 4-1, and then went to Hartford the next weekend to beat Hartford Athletic in a 3-2 thriller.
Head Coach Gary Smith is fully aware of the challenge that presents for his club.
"You always look at those games in the back end of the season and think it's going to take an eternity to get there, but once we get them, can we take advantage of them - Smith said. "What you don't know is at that point is who's going to be below the playoff line, who's going to be above it. It just so happens that two of the teams, or all three of the teams, one away and two at home, are going to be below the line. However, I think as we've seen in prior seasons, any of those teams, and I think Bethlehem, certainly at this point looking at the groups, are going to be that team that are really feeling as though they can be a part of the playoff picture. So I would expect for all sorts of different reasons, we beat Hartford at home, they'll want to try and turn the tables on that. Plenty to play for in terms of futures and next season, even in their own minds, they might feel as though there's a playoff push to be had. As far as Bethlehem goes, we know they have some very talented guys like a lot of these MLS 2 teams, and at any given time, if you take them for granted and are too complacent, it can hurt you."
Nashville SC enters Saturday's match against Swope Park with two consecutive wins in tow after taking down Indy Eleven at Nissan Stadium last weekend. One of the difference-makers in those two matches has been new centerback Jimmy Ockford, who is now on loan with Nashville for the rest of the season. The match against Indy also marked the Nashville SC debut for Forrest Lasso, who was brought in on loan from MLS' FC Cincinnati. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens started behind him for the last two matches and has been thrilled with how Ockford and Lasso have settled in to his new group.
"I think, speaking for Jim, I think it's two games and two wins. He slotted in nicely, and then Forrest comes in for a big game, doesn't have much time to prepare, and comes and does his job as well. I think the mentality of those guys has been great. We hope to build around them and help them out as much as we can so that we can pick them up where they fall short, and they can pick us up where we fall short."
Belmar spent the last two seasons splitting time between the Swope Park Rangers and their parent club, Sporting Kansas City, so he'll be on familiar turf when he returns to Children's Mercy Park with Nashville SC on Saturday. Last time Nashville faced Swope Park, Belmar scored a goal and added an assist, so he will be looking to have another big night in Kansas City.
"I'm really excited to get back there," Belmar said. "Children's Mercy is a great stadium and a great field and everything. Like you said, I played with those guys last year. It's good to see some familiar faces and everything. It'll be a really fun game. They're a really good team and it'll be fun."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on Saturday night. Catch the match with other Nashville SC fans at our watch party at Headquarters Beercade in Downtown Nashville.
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