Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith targets MLS playoffs

Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith targets playoffs as ultimate goal.
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith targets playoffs as ultimate goal. / Andy Mead/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Nashville SC held the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 1-1 draw on Saturday at GEODIS Park as Teal Bunbury equalized Javain Brown’s efforts.

The tie leaves Nashville in sixth place on the Western Conference table with 32 points in 23 games and a record of 8W-7L-8D. With only 11 games left to be played, head coach Gary Smith has just one goal: the MLS playoffs.

“There is so much to fight for here. We’ve got so many games that we can look forward to, but they’re not going to be easy. Nobody is going to give us points, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t give any to anyone else,” Smith said after the match.

“It’ll be a real challenge in this Western Conference given what we’ve got to deal with to be above that line. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if we’re above the line at the end of this season, it will be the biggest achievement of this group since I’ve been here.”

Expectations are high for Nashville after qualifying for every postseason since their Major League Soccer debut in 2020 as an expansion team. The team dominated the Eastern Conference, but they have since been switched to the West for the season, inspiring several new challenges.

The team also kicked off the 2022 campaign with an eight-game road swing, seeing just three victories. Though their record has since improved, Smith insists more consistency is needed from the squad in order to reach the playoffs.

“It’s about consistency. We have produced some really nice moments. We have put ourselves in a good position again. But you’ve got to back that up with a consistent level of performance with and without the ball,” Smith said.

“When it doesn’t reach a standard, you allow the other team to get back into the game and you know full well, there’s no easy game in MLS. So if you don’t take advantage of being in front, take advantage of the confidence you should have, the way we started, you allow the other team to get a little bit of a stranglehold.”

But their next few games won’t make for easy wins. They return to the pitch on Wednesday when traveling to face the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

“We’ve got to find that ruthless streak again,” concluded Smith. “That’s what being at home is all about. We’ve just slightly shifted away from being that team [where] we’re very, very difficult to play against at home. We’ve got to find that again, that groove.”