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Nashville Soccer Club Seeking to Continue Balanced Attack against Hartford Athletic

June 15, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - Nashville SC News Release

NASHVILLE - This season, Nashville Soccer Club has gotten lots of contributions from a bona fide scorer in forward Daniel Ríos. Yet, in the last two league matches, Ríos' scoring tear that put him tied for the Eastern Conference lead in goals has quieted down.

That doesn't mean Nashville SC's offense has slowed down, as the club got contributions from four different goal scorers last Sunday in a 4-1 win over Bethlehem Steel FC. The Boys in Gold will look to a wide range of players to help contribute again this Sunday against Hartford Athletic. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. CT.

While Ríos went quiet, the rest of the team stepped up to put on an impressive offensive display.

"The fact that we scored from two set pieces, one of them which came after their goal very abruptly," Head Coach Gary Smith said. "Two minutes later, it got us back in the game, and on a good footing again. I think, to a large degree, shifted any momentum that they might have felt was gained by scoring first. Delighted, of course, to see Cameron [Lancaster] come on and get back on the score sheet after a little layoff again. Almost a once-in-a-lifetime Kosuke Kimura goal. The last time I saw him score was in 2010, but he tells me he's scored since then."

During Nashville SC's five-match unbeaten streak, eight different goal scorers have found the back of the net, including Ríos and the four from Sunday night's win (Ken Tribbett, Ropapa Mensah, Kosuke Kimura and Cameron Lancaster). Smith was particularly happy with Mensah, who started his second match of the season and is beginning to round into form.

"He's starting to show some signs of the old Ropapa coming off the bench on a couple of occasions..." Smith said. "It's taken him time to find his sharpness, to find the right mentality, to get back to that robust and positive and bright player that we know he is. So we get some encouraging signs off the bench, he plays against Indy for his first start. He had a fantastic impact on the game and really attacked it, which is really more important than anything. He deservedly started at the weekend again and scored a very important goal. The second one was vital. The game at that point at 1-1 was quite even and with the clearest sight of goal, it gets us in front and it gives us belief then. Very pleased with his form, but we're looking at a very small portion size at the moment. That needs to be a little bit more consistent."

Another welcomed addition to the Nashville scoring threat is Lancaster, who has missed the last few matches while recovering from an injury picked up in training. He scored a late goal to help seal the victory against Bethlehem. Smith is hoping that Lancaster can stay healthy and return to the form that won him the USL Golden Boot last season with Louisville City FC.

"I'd just love to keep him fit, and I know he wants to stay fit as well," Smith said. "He's had four minor injuries that have really broken up what would otherwise have been some decent playing time. To that degree, we're back in that process of making sure that he's in the right place. He's trained well, he'll certainly be in contention for the weekend. But getting 30 minutes under his belt at the weekend was really pleasing for him and for the team."

Smith's side will be going up against a resurgent expansion squad in Hartford, who has gone unbeaten in its last three matches after dropping the first eight matches of the season. Having just coached his team through an expansion season, Smith is familiar with the struggle and knows what it will take to beat Hartford on Sunday.

"It's never easy, but they're just starting to show some much better signs," Smith said. "The team has been together a little bit longer, they will have learned a lot about each other, they have certainly had to deal with some adversity and now they've not lost in three games with a very good win at the weekend. I'm sure they're in a much better mental place, and there's no two ways about it. The team is looking that much more efficient than in the opening exchanges of the season. We're expecting a tough game. I just don't think there are any games on the road that are easy anyway. You've got to deal with too many dynamics as you travel and stay away and so on. We're in a good run as well, and the players are in a good place. We'll expect that we're going to go there in the right frame of mind."

If you're not making the trip up to Hartford, come out to our Club and Country Doubleheader Watch Party at Corner Pub Downtown. Catch the USWNT take on Chile in the Women's World Cup at 11:00 a.m. before the Boys in Gold take the pitch against Hartford.

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