BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — As its first game in Major League Soccer approaches, Nashville SC is expected to be a solid defensive club. The reputation of head coach Gary Smith from his previous stint in the league with the Colorado Rapids, a major trade for US international center back Walker Zimmerman from LAFC, and the presence of veteran holding midfielders Anibal Godoy and Dax McCarty combine to give the team a defense-first vibe.
The idea that Nashville SC won’t be able to score goals may naturally serve as a tacit insult to the likes of forwards Dom Badji, Abu Danladi, and Daniel Rios, among others. For his part, Badji know that there’s no sense in worrying about doing his talking anywhere other than between the lines.
"I don't really take it personally,” he said of the criticisms of Nashville’s attacking personnel. “Obviously as an attacking player, I have a job to play: create goals, score goals. It's not anything personal, I've had it my whole career, and as an attacking player, honestly you should have that drive every time you're out on the field.”
There’s certainly still work to do in forging the type of chemistry that will allow the Boys in Gold to create magic on a consistent basis. Fans may end up being more satisfied than they expect with the talent up top. One of the players serving them the ball certainly has been.
“I've been pleasantly surprised with some of our attacking players, and guys that I didn't know much about,” McCarty said. “I've spoken about that going into it: I think that there's a real sense of urgency with this group that we want to start off our first season on the right foot."
That doesn’t mean everything is clicking just yet. Smith is hoping to see his side click on another level once the lights come on.
“We had a pretty decent return in preseason, but there were one or two moments I certainly felt as though we could have taken advantage of,” the coach said of his team’s six preseason friendly matches. “For sure, the weekend's game will be different to any one that we've played up until now. We're going to find a lot about ourselves, I think, at the weekend."
Badji sees progress being made in that department ahead of Nashville's MLS opener against Atlanta United on Saturday (8 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).
"The connections are good,” he said. “It's been tough, I've played different positions [in camp], so you're kind of working with different players. But up top, working with the attacking players has been nice. We've had a couple games where we've combined really well. We're starting to know each other's movements and habits. It takes a little bit of time, but we're definitely making progress."
With Designated Player Hany Mukhtar pulling the strings from an attacking midfield position, along with talented wing options, Badji and the rest of the forward corps will have a spotlight on them until Nashville’s scoring prowess is proven during the course of the season. With few doubts about the defense that the team will put on the field, complementing that stout back end with goals for Nashville SC will be a major key to first-season success.