Major League Soccer

Gary Smith on Nashville's inexcusable performance vs. Houston Dynamo

Lizzy Becherano
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith could not excuse the team's performance vs. Houston.
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith could not excuse the team's performance vs. Houston. / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Houston Dynamo defeated Nashville SC 2-0 on Saturday at PNC Stadium in a dramatic match that saw goals from Darwin Quintero and Adalberto Carrasquilla find the lead before a red card to Adam Lundqvist forced the hosts to defend with 10 men.

Houston’s victory cemented their sixth-place spot on the Western Conference table with a record of 4-3-4 and 15 points in 11 games. Nashville, on the other hand, were knocked down a peg with the defeat, standing in eighth. 

While Nashville is still expected to secure an MLS Cup Playoff spot given their talented roster and string of recent victories, head coach Gary Smith simply could not excuse Saturday’s performance.

“The display from an awful lot of individuals that were on the team is nowhere near the standard that we’ve been able to set time and time again,” Smith said. “Is that because of the exploits of Wednesday night, the emotions? Maybe. Was it for a lack of consistency from some of the guys that have come in? Possibly. Was it the changes and the lack of connection in the group? Also maybe.

“I think you’ll understand I’m going down a route of making excuses there and the simple fact is against 10 men for [55] minutes we were unable to show enough cutting edge, enough quality, enough good choices or inspiration. … The only thing I can say is I’ve not seen a performance like that before and I truly hope I don’t see one again.”

All three Designated Players took the field for Nashville, seeing Walker Zimmerman, Hany Mukhtar, and Ake Loba work together to propel players forward. The head coach also brought in several substitutes during the second half to combat the Houston Dynamo’s 10 men, but Smith was not impressed. 

“There’s a lot of players that should be offering more than they have,” Smith added. “That’s not just the guys that started. It is the guys who came into the game, they were unable to lift the group on the field and with an extra man. That always makes life and emotions that much more pointed because you played against 10 men and we really haven’t done enough to question that group.”

With several months left in the 2022 Major League Soccer season, Nashville SC must use the defeat as a reality check before advancing. While the head coach insists the game stands as an anomaly, Nashville must work through it to clinch a postseason spot. 

“​​I’m having a conversation here with you guys today that I don’t normally have and this is not very enjoyable, as you can well imagine,” Smith said. “I’m pleased that I don’t have to sit here too often and talk in this manner and feel this way. But today was the first time I’ve seen a group of players that we’ve put on the field who have been nowhere near the task at hand, nowhere near it. There was no urgency, there was no drive or ambition about our play.

“… We paid a price for that. You cannot compete in this league and come in below par. Teams will beat you and they have tonight.”