It’s good to be back! After watching the rest of the league have fun the weekend before, the Hounds finally got in on the action on Saturday and brought home a point from Nashville. While a win would’ve been great, getting a point on the road to start the season is pretty alright.
Supposedly Nashville filled Nissan Stadium with about 19,000 fans with high hopes for their new USL team. If the Hounds let the new season jitters get to them it was a recipe for a quick disaster. Lucky for us Lilley knows what he’s doing. The Hounds of years past probably would’ve let up an early one, but 2018 Hounds held the line. Once the first 20 minutes passed and the game settled into its rhythm, it was clear that not only the Hounds were playing solid and composed defense, but that Nashville wasn’t a scary team at all. They’re basically all defense and no attack. The Hounds kept them to only one shot on goal in the first, and while Nashville took the edge in possession it never felt like they were building towards something. The first half wasn’t pretty soccer by any means. For the Hounds in particular there were too many errant passes and too many heavy touches on the ball that couldn’t solely be blamed on the weather. By half time the stats mostly favored the home team, but Lilley don’t care. He saw all he needed to see to plan for the second half.
What a second half it was. After a slightly longer than usual half time, from what we can only assume was due to Lilley needing to put all his props back, the Hounds came out hungry for a goal. For the first 20 minutes they dominated play and didn’t give Nashville a whiff at goal. At the same time the Hounds were swarming in the offensive zone and tested just how sharp Pickens is. Nashville must be pretty thrilled to have gotten a top keeper in the offseason. He’s the only reason it wasn’t a 2-0 final. The Nashville defenders sure weren’t doing anything to stop us. Unlike previous years, probably half the team was getting involved with dangerous runs on net instead of only one or two guys doing all the work. That’s obviously tougher to defend and makes the Hounds way more dangerous than we’ve seen in recent years. Not only were there more numbers on attack but the skill shown was something to get really excited about. Deft little back passes and flicks of the ball oozed with confidence and creativity. If the Hounds can shake out the early season cobwebs and hone their finishing a little more they’re going to have their way with a lot of teams in the East.
Unfortunately, despite the early second half onslaught the Hounds weren’t able to put one in the net. After a while we saw the pragmatic coaching of Lilley appear and the Hounds noticeably shifted from trying to get the win to keeping the draw. This is where the Lilley defense meme really rears its head. If he doesn’t feel like he’s going to get that win, come hell or high water he’s going to at least get a point. It’s effective and most importantly it works. Not giving up the late goal and taking points is a big culture shift for the Hounds, and on we’re all about. It’ll pay dividends when it’s late in the season and we’re fighting for a playoff spot. Even though it was “just” a draw, seeing the Hounds adjust to the game and player better as it went on gives me a lot of confidence going into this weekend’s home opener.
The only dangerous change Nashville had was on a late corner that floated past everyone. Thankfully Adewole did his best brick wall impression and stopped a beauty of a scissor kick from Moloto. Lynd owes him a beer this week.
As the game went on François and Parkes really started to click. With a little more chemistry, and François shooting a couple inches more to the left, they could be a very dangerous pair.
Surprised to not see Chin on the bench.
Kerr wore the red badge of courage for part of the second and looked bad ass doing so.
The new kits look sharp in action.
Great turn out at our watch party at Smokin’ Joes. We packed it in a little more than expected, but it was a great atmosphere and good times had by all. We’ll have to do it again the next time the Hounds are away and on the CW.