As I mentioned in my match preview, both of these teams have already had 0-0 draws with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. I thought that meant that each side would be heading for another draw on Tuesday night, but I thought that each side would be able to score. But neither team’s struggling offense was ultimately able to get on the board in what was a mostly sloppy and chippy match.
Rather than go through the play by play for this one, I want to break down some of the major themes.
After playing a match against Charleston on Saturday night, Head Coach Raoul Voss made plenty of changes to his starting XI in the interest of player rotation. In total, five players made their first start for Penn FC in 2018 during the match. In addition, Prince Baffoe made his first appearance with the team when he came on as a sub in the second half. This allowed players like Romu Peiser and Tiago Calvano to rest ahead of Saturday’s match against North Carolina FC. But it also gave some of the newer guys a chance to shine against a tough Nashville SC team.
So look for something of this nature to happen again in the future. Penn FC plays a lot of weekday home games this season. In fact, they’ll be playing more of their home games Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday than they will be playing them on the weekends. Raoul clearly believes that he can sub in some of these other guys without having to worry about potentially sacrificing points, and that’s a real positive for Penn FC. In the past, the City Islanders really struggled with this and they’d often have to use much of the same eighteen guys even when they’d have three matches in a week.
The fresh faces did their best to make an impact, so maybe they’ll get more chances to play in the future. Jerry Ortiz had the biggest offensive impact thanks to his free kick duties during the first half. Penn FC had multiple free kicks from just outside the box, but Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens was up to the task of shutting them down. And a few of them ended up well off frame.
Sean Lewis also had an impressive game as he earned a clean sheet during his first start in 2018. He didn’t have too many difficult balls to worry about, but he never lost his cool when the rain started to come down and make conditions slick during the second half. His best save came at the end of the first half when Nashville was able to bounce a loose ball around the Penn FC box and Nashville’s Robin Shroot nearly blasted it in. But Lewis was right in front to knock it away for the defenders to clear.
The most promising run of play for Penn FC came at the start of the second half when the boys in blue pushed hard for the Nashville goal. Freddie Opoku dribbled into the box but went down before he could get a foot to the ball. Maybe he was pulled down, but it was pretty slippery out there. Shortly after that, Marco Franco made a run down the right before crossing to Tommy Heinemann at the far post. Heinemann got a head to it, but it went wide of the goal. This was probably Penn FC’s best goal scoring chance of the night.
As the second half wore on, it became clear that the teams wouldn’t be able to overcome the multiple forces that kept the game scoreless. The rainfall kept the ball slick, but it was also causing just about everyone to lose their footing several times throughout the half. The poor footing is also what caused the big jump in turnovers as the game wore on. In addition, the referee was whistling just about any contact, and that kept the game from developing any rhythm. Seven yellow cards were shown during the match with five of them going to Nashville.
Five games into the USL season and Penn FC remains a team that’s almost impossible to figure out. Are they good? Well they only have one loss and they’re unbeaten over their last four matches. That’s better than a lot of their other starts in recent seasons. But they still can’t get a win and they’ve only managed two goals in their first five games. So it’s not that bad, but it’s not that good either.
- So yes, Penn FC has four draws in five matches. In case you were wondering, I believe the record for most draws in a season is fourteen as set by the Ottawa Fury last season. It’s also surprising that they have so many draws already because they only had seven all of last season.
- Ropapa Mensah’s return to City Island ultimately didn’t amount to all that much. He didn’t manage to make a shot and his only major contribution was a yellow card. His teammates were sending him long passes most of the first half, but Penn FC’s Ken Tribbett kept well covered. He was subbed off in the 65th minute.