The Decade’s 10 Biggest Moments in Nashville Soccer


Since everyone else is leaning hard into decade-ending content these days, it only makes sense that the Nashville Soccer Archive should do the same. It probably goes without saying at this point, but the last 10 years served as the most consequential decade in Nashville’s soccer history, and as we prepare to turn the page to Nashville as a Major League Soccer city in 2020, perhaps it makes sense to look to the recent past and see how exactly we got here. With that in mind, here’s a look at 10 of the biggest soccer moments of the decade, presented in chronological order.

Nashville Metros meet their demise (Feb. 7, 2013)
After some last-ditch efforts in 2012 to revive the Metros branding and appearance, the two-plus decade reign of the Metros atop the Nashville soccer pyramid ended with a relative whimper in 2013. As is often the case with many high-level amateur and semipro teams in this country, there wasn’t a ton of information available online prior to the 2013 season, and many found out for the first time about the team’s folding when the Metros were not included in the Premier Development League schedule release. Two weeks later, the United Soccer Leagues confirmed with the Nashville Post that the team had left for good.

“The Nashville Metros were unable/unwilling to continue to comply with certain league standards/deadlines in order to participate in the 2013 season and as a result are no longer members of USL.”

It was a sad ending for a team that had managed, against all odds, to keep ticking. Launched in 1990, the Metros were the longest continuously operational organization in USL, having played under different names, ownership groups and in a variety of different stadiums. While ending as an amateur side, the Metros were the first professional team to taste some measure of success in the city, having played five seasons in the A-League, and while the team has now been gone for several years, the impact they had on Nashville soccer cannot be overstated.

Nashville Atlas FC and Nashville FC merge (Feb. 1, 2014)
In the aftermath of the Nashville Metros, two soccer teams emerged simultaneously but separately to claim the vacated throne. It would be Nashville Atlas FC that laid the first marker, as the club’s entry into the amateur National Premier Soccer League was announced in October 2013. Elsewhere in the city, Chris Jones had taken a leadership role in a group that was looking to a member ownership model to establish a new Nashville team. Jones was largely successful in his endeavors, finding a number of business partners while seeing founding memberships roll in at a higher than expected pace, but when informed of Atlas FC had already been accepted into the NPSL, he was caught in a bit of a pickle.

“It was contentious for about 60 days,” revealed Atlas FC co-founder Nolan Pittman to “[Atlas FC was] born out of a bunch of men’s teams we put together. We had a team on the ground and kept moving up the chain in terms of competition. [Nashville FC’s] idea was more fan-based to get a team back here after the demise of the Metros. Once we looked past that and saw an opportunity to get together and hammer out our differences, we realized our collective visions were the same.”

The merger was officially announced on Feb. 1, during a U.S. Men’s National Team watch party at the now-closed Jed’s Sports Bar & Grille near Vanderbilt.

U.S. Men’s National Team tops 40,000 for Guatemala (July 3, 2015)
Over the past decade, Nashville cemented its place as a regular host to both the men’s and women’s national teams, and it was a little difficult to decide what did and didn’t belong on this list as it pertains to that, but for me, the Guatemala match represented the biggest step forward in this city’s appetite for high-level soccer.

Earlier in the decade, the USMNT played in front of over 27,000 in a friendly with Paraguay, but many would certainly not have predicted topping 44,000 just four years later, including both U.S. Soccer and the Nissan Stadium staff. As a member of the media operations team for the former, the tremendous walk-up that day was a hot topic of conversation throughout the press box, and fortunately, the trend continued throughout the decade as Nashville went from hosting occasional friendlies to meaningful Gold Cup matches and an exceedingly rare Mexico match in Sept. 2018, the first such match held in the southeast in decades. The crowds continued filing in at Nissan Stadium as well, playing a big role in re-imagining the city’s future as a soccer market.

Nissan hosts inaugural SheBelieves Cup (March 6, 2016)
Following the impressive USMNT showing in 2015 and riding the wave of another World Cup championship, the women’s team made their trek to Nashville for the inaugural SheBelieves Cup, and Nissan Stadium was treated to a pair of nail-biters, beginning with an Alex Morgan 91st-minute winner over No. 3 France in the opener and closing with an 82nd-minute penalty as Germany beat England 2-1.

Over 25,000 were in attendance for the matches, setting the stage for the USWNT to return, including this past spring as the world champions drew 2-2 with England in the SheBelieves Cup.

Nashville FC USL announcement (July 1, 2016)
While the U.S. teams were enjoying their success at Nissan Stadium, momentum was picking up for Nashville’s third soirée into professional soccer. After a vote was held, the membership of Nashville FC overwhelmingly agreed to relinquish their majority stake in the club to set up a more traditional ownership model and take the club into the professional ranks in USL. It was to be the second go-round for a Nashville professional soccer club in the USL, but it wasn’t 1995 anymore, and there was reason to be excited. The ownership had significant political backing and a grand plan of a soccer-specific stadium for the city.

While USL had actually awarded the franchise in May of 2016, NFC supporters were joined by former Nashville mayor Megan Barry and USL commissioner Jake Edwards at Bridgestone Arena to formally announce that the team going up to the professional ranks will, in fact, be NFC. Due to some legal disputes in the months that would follow, NFC later rebranded as Nashville Soccer Club and competed for one season in the semipro Premier Development League, the same once inhabited by the deceased Metros, before officially joining USL in 2018.

John Ingram joins NSC ownership group (May 4, 2017)
If I were doing this as a ranked list, this would probably rank first by some measure in terms of importance. A billionaire local philanthropist and businessman, Ingram joining Nashville SC’s ownership group aligned the club with Ingram’s MLS Steering Committee and served to supercharge what was once considered a long-shot MLS bid at the time.

Ingram’s financial commitment within the USL helped secure a premier venue within the league at First Tennessee Park, which is believed to have included among the highest rental costs in the league. It also helped Nashville make MLS moves early, which has paid dividends not only in terms of early player signings but also in terms of making major moves behind the scenes, like the hiring of former Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre.

56,232 watch Tottenham play Manchester City (July 29, 2017)
If the U.S. Soccer matches opened eyes around the country about Nashville as a soccer city, the 2017 friendly between English powers Tottenham Hotspur FC and Manchester City FC opened eyes around the world. Spurred on by a national effort to turn the match into a Tottenham home match, Spurs fans from just about everywhere joined local soccer fans and their Man City counterparts to deliver the largest single-game soccer attendance in the history of the state of Tennessee.

Unfortunately for those Tottenham fans, they filed in to see John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Brahim Diaz all find the back of the net for the Sky Blues in a 3-0 victory.

Don Garber makes it official (Dec. 20, 2017)
This one kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Taylor Twellman and Don Garber were joined on stage by John Ingram, former Nashville mayor Megan Barry, former governor Bill Haslam, and of course, Eddie George as MLS extended an official invitation to Nashville. It was the culmination of years of effort and saw Nashville go from being considered the longest shot of the 12 potential new MLS cities to the first one selected.

Nashville SC debut at Nissan (March 24, 2018)
After three years of amateur play as Nashville FC, an amateur season as Nashville SC U23, and a preseason home game with Atlanta United, Nashville played host to its first professional league match since 2001. Nearly 20,000 turned out in some ominous weather conditions, but unfortunately, the game didn’t quite live up to the occasion as it was a scoreless draw against the typically stingy Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Boys in Gold returned to Nissan later in the 2018 season, but the result was the same as Nashville and Cincinnati shared the points, this time in front of just over 18,000.

Stadium gets final Metro Council approval (Sept. 4, 2018)
Few things get Nashville fans as frustrated as the stadium drama the team has incurred over the past three years. While new mayor John Cooper has turned into a force for indecisiveness in recent months, the bulk of the stadium fight took place in the late summer of 2018. After an initial okay from the Metro Council on a public/private partnership in late 2017 paved the way for the MLS invitation, the actual meat-and-potatoes of the deal was put in place in 2018. With rampant public bickering between the anti-stadium Save Our Fairgrounds group and soccer fans, the government side of things came down to a series of public meetings, which included four in the Metro Council chamber. Fortunately, the stadium funding arrangement ultimately passed in a convincing fashion.

While pending lawsuits, a tepid mayor’s office and a number of other factors have contributed to the delay of ground-breaking on the stadium site, it’s this writer’s opinion that everything will work out in time. In a decade that began with the slow decline of the Nashville Metros, perhaps its best to think about how far the sport has come in this city over the past 10 years than it is to worry too much about a political future largely out of our control.


Before signing off for the decade, here are a few moments that didn’t make the cut for me, but are among my favorites.

  • Nashville FC first match (May 10, 2014)
  • Inter Nashville launch (Nov. 18, 2016)
  • Nashville Rhythm FC takes over for FC Nashville Wolves (March 2017)
  • Nashville hosts Atlanta United FC (Feb. 10, 2018)
  • Ian Ayre named Nashville SC CEO (May 21, 2018)
  • NSC beats Colorado Rapids in Open Cup (June 6, 2018)
  • Lipscomb men advance to NCAA Sweet 16 (Nov. 19, 2018)
  • Nashville SC branding announcement (Feb. 20, 2019)
  • Nashville beats Charleston Battery in playoffs (Oct. 26, 2019)

Music City Heartbreak: Nashville’s postseason history

Screen Shot 2019-10-22 at 11.29.14 AMThere are few things as ubiquitous in Nashville’s sports history as postseason misery. On the rare occasion that a Nashville team makes the playoffs, it will inevitably end in one of the saddest ways possible. While there will always be exceptions to this rule, the evidence is clear, whether it’s Kevin Dyson hopelessly reaching for that extra yard in Super Bowl XXXIV or Kevin Pollock inexplicably blowing his whistle in Game 6. When the postseason rolls around, there has almost always been a moment that will rock a Nashville fan to their core.

Nashville Soccer Club fans are new in the landscape but familiar to this feeling as well. After a dramatic end to the regular season in 2018, the Boys in Gold were off to see a record-setting first-place FC Cincinnati in the playoffs. All NSC did was play them even through 90 minutes to force extra time. After Cincy pulled ahead early, a magical Bradley Bourgeois goal leveled things very late into the proceedings and forced the match to be decided on penalties. Nashville made all five of its attempts, pushing things into overtime in the shootout as well, but unfortunately, a sixth conversion was to much to ask. The season ended and tears were shed.

At the time, my research wasn’t prepared to handle how that episode of soccer misery measured up in the city’s history, but it is now, and the numbers aren’t particularly pretty for Nashville fans. NSC, who has thrived in areas that so many of its predecessors have failed, will be looking to continue making history on Saturday.

This is well-traced territory around these parts, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that it took a while for Nashville to even taste the postseason in the first place. The Diamonds certainly didn’t in 1983, and it would take five years for the amateur Metros to get there, failing every season from 1991-1994. They finally broke through in 1995. It should come as no surprise at this point, the ending was hard to swallow for Metros fans. Playing in the now-defunct USISL Premier League, the team hit the road for a match at the Birmingham Grasshoppers on Aug. 4, 1995. After playing level for 90 minutes, Birmingham found the back of the net in the last minute of extra time.

A year later, things went much better as the Metros closed out their would-be final amateur season with a solid postseason run. In the first round of the tournament, the Metros picked up goals from Ken Hoey and Doug Schenkel to upset the Roanoke Riverdawgs. A week later, the team found itself in the divisional semifinals in Jackson, Miss., and former Metros star Pasi Kimpuri picked out Tony Siikala for the winner in a 1-0 victory over the Florida Strikers. The run ended just a day later as both Siikala and Kimpuri were back on the scoresheet in a 3-2 extra time loss to the host Jackson Generals.

Two playoff trips, both ended in extra time.

In 1997, the Metros transitioned into the professional ranks in the USISL A-League, and they made the most of it, earning a trip to the postseason, which now featured two-legged series. On Sept. 5, the Metros welcomed the Milwaukee Rampage to the Columbia Soccer Complex, and things could not have started off better for the first home playoff match in the city’s history. Tim Geltz opened the scoring just 70 seconds into the match. However, a familiar bug-a-boo was just around the corner, with the Rampage’s Nick Igel and David Marshall each finding the net in the game’s final 10 minutes to pick up the victory. In the return leg two days later, Dan Stebbins keyed a dominant ending to the series for the hosts, linking up with Myles Stoddard for the opener in the 73rd minute and then picking up a pair of goals himself in the 81st and 83rd.

A year later, things continued in heartbreak fashion as a Martin Reynders scored a pair of second half goals to force overtime with the New Orleans Storm at Columbia/HCA Soccer Complex. The Metros, who enjoyed their best-ever season, boasting of 20 wins and a No. 2 seed, looked like they had figuratively and literally weathered the storm in the added period when the team earned a penalty. However, Steve Klein, a Brentwood native (and future Christian Pulisic academy director), missed his chance to change the narrative. The Metros lost 4-2 in the shootout.


Mercifully, the Metros re-branded themselves as the Tennessee Rhythm for the 1999 and 2000 campaigns and saved the sad times by just missing the playoffs altogether.

The 2001 season brought about the postseason coup de grâce. Playing their final professional season, the Metros scored 90th minute goals in both legs with the Milwaukee Rampage. The series, which began late due to the horrific events of 9/11, opened on Sept. 19 at Ezell Park. Steve Butcher found the net in the 30th and 61st minutes to put the visitors firmly in control. Jakob Fenger finally broke through for the Metros in the 82nd, but a minute later, Igor Soso canceled his tally out. Jaymi Bailey cut the deficit to just one as the clock hit 90. Three days later, Jeff Houser struck for the Metros, and gave the professional side its first postseason win. However, with the series tied 3-3 after two matches, things went to a shootout, and we all know what happened next. Nashville lost 4-2.

As the Metros transitioned back to the amateur ranks in the Premier Development League, they never regained a competitive foothold in their division. The Metros folded in 2012 having never qualified for the playoffs again.

The forebear of Nashville SC entered into the fold in the wake of the fall of the Metros, but the playoff success would still remain largely absent. Nashville FC’s first soirée came in 2014 with Kevin Tikhomira scoring the team’s first playoff goal in an otherwise dreadful 6-1 loss at Chattanooga FC. It would be much the same in 2015, this time with Josh Pando getting on the scoresheet for the visitors in at 5-1 loss. NFC didn’t make the postseason in its final NPSL campaign in 2016, and the re-branded amateur side Nashville SC U-23 missed the cut by the slimmest of margins in 2017.

Also in 2017, a new Nashville team entered the fold, and did so with aplomb. Inter Nashville FC avenged the city’s Chattanooga losses of previous years, going down to Finley Stadium and walking away with a 2-1 win in the NPSL’s Southeast Conference quarters over the hosts. Chaka Aruh, who scored the winner in the contest, picked up another three days later in New Orleans, as Inter earned a second 2-1 win, this time over the Knoxville Force. The next day was a cakewalk, with Inter claiming the conference title in 3-0 fashion over the New Orleans Jesters.

The following week, Inter traveled to Florida and a first-half Greg Warden goal was enough to hand Miami Fusion FC a loss and book a trip to the regional championship game. However, as this is still Nashville, all good things must come to an end. Inter lost 1-0 to the host Midland-Odessa Sockers FC.

The last two years haven’t been nearly as kind to the Antioch-based amateur club, losing 3-1 at home to Asheville City in 2018 and 3-0 in Chattanooga this past summer.

While the history is decidedly sketchy, there are, in fact, some signs that the times are a-changin’ in Nashville. First and foremost, one can’t look past the city’s WPSL side, Nashville Rhythm FC. Earlier this summer, that team accomplished the rarest of feats, knocking off the Memphis Lobos 3-1 at Father Ryan High School. It doesn’t necessarily stand out on paper and Rhythm FC still ultimately fell at Chattanooga in the next round, but they did something that all the men’s teams had failed to do before them; they won a home playoff match.

There’s also hope to be found in the men’s and women’s college programs at Lipscomb. Last year, both booked NCAA tournament trips, and they both picked up their first-ever tournament wins. On the men’s side, the tournament run, which featured postseason wins at ranked opponents Washington and Central Florida, began in earnest with the ASUN championship playoff in Nashville. Led by former Nashville SC U23 player Logan Paynter, it was the best season in the history men’s college soccer in Nashville.

This year, maybe the pro team can follow suit.


Two decades, two cities, a whole bunch of teams

o3iwhz11oelu5ymz44sytou29Be it music, sports or barbecue, the rivalry between the cities of Nashville and Memphis is longstanding and has roots much deeper than this first-year fling between Nashville Soccer Club and Memphis 901 FC. While it’s certainly easy to dismiss the upcoming match between the upstart 901 and MLS-bound NSC, the actual soccer rivalry between the two cities runs much deeper than many perceive, and much of it dates back to a time before a lot of players on the current teams were even born.

Both cities were marked by failed professional efforts in the 1970s and 1980s, with Memphis striking first with the NASL’s Memphis Rogues.  The reported attendance numbers weren’t considered great but seem impressive in retrospect, with the team averaging over 8,000 fans per match over their three-season run in the cavernous 50,000-seat Liberty Bowl. However, the on-field results were disappointing, with Memphis compiling a 30-62 record. There was, however, one bright spot, a run to the 1980 NASL Indoor title game, which they lost to Tampa Bay.

As the Rogues moved to Calgary for the 1981 campaign, the Nashville Diamonds entered the fold for the 1982 season. The disaster of that year is chronicled at length on this site.

The fallout from the loss of the Rogues wouldn’t last long, however, as the Memphis Americans took their place and enjoyed a modestly successful three-year stint as an indoor team before moving to Las Vegas. In 1986, Memphis Storm entered into the picture, also as an indoor team. After some success in the early years, including a top finish in the standings in the regular season in 1988, they took on the Rogues identity in 1989, and a year later, Memphis and Nashville would finally have their first showdown in soccer.

The two sides first met playing indoor, as the Metros maiden voyage into soccer began with a road trip to play Memphis and the Arkansas Diamonds. Not much is known about the individual matches the indoor iteration of the Metros played, but this much is true, it wasn’t pretty. Nashville’s first Sunbelt Independent Soccer League match was a 13-4 loss to Arkansas, and it didn’t get any better as the Metros finished 0-10 while getting outscored by 80 goals.

Memphis went on to be the class of the conference in the outdoor season in 1991, going 12-4, and the Metros were markedly better in their inaugural season, ending 7-9 with a much more respectable -5 goal differential.

The Rogues then experienced yet another name change, calling themselves the Memphis Survivors during their final indoor campaign in 1991-92, and then re-branding as Memphis United Express for the 1992 outdoor season. Both teams finished mid-table, and then Memphis underwent another name change, channeling their inner C.J. Clegg to become the Jackals, a moniker they’d continue to hold until folding in the aftermath of an eighth-place finish in 1994.

The Nashville Metros also underwent a bit of an identity crisis in the following years, moving up to the professional ranks in 1997 and then becoming the Tennessee Rhythm for two seasons before reverting back to the Metros name in 2001. A year later, they moved back to the amateur ranks, which was just in time to welcome a new Memphis team, the Express.

Coached by a former Rogues, Americans AND Jackals player, Antonio Carbognani, the Express were contenders immediately, topping the conference in year one and then advancing to the national semis the following year. Unfortunately, like the Memphis teams that came before, the brilliance was short-lived, and after limping to a last-place showing in 2005, the team folded. The Metros kept on trucking through the aughts before meeting their ultimate end in 2012.

The soccer rivalry was once again renewed in 2016, as Nashville FC, in its final year in the NPSL, welcomed Memphis City FC to the Southeast Conference. MCFC fired the opening salvo in the short-lived rivalry in heart-breaking fashion, taking home the first meeting with 1-0 on a Cameron Woodfin 89th-minute winner, but NFC had the final laugh, winning on a second-half own-goal in Memphis a month later. It marked the final meeting between the two teams as NFC became the current NSC.

In 2017, MCFC and Inter Nashville squared off twice, and that would be the last of the rivalry as Memphis changed leagues for 2018 and then folded.

Earlier this year, the new Memphis 901 FC and Nashville SC met for the first-ever professional soccer meeting between the two cities. Matt LaGrassa and Ropapa Mensah both scored in the final 12 minutes as the Boys in Gold grabbed the 2-0 victory at First Tennessee Park.

The second chapter begins tonight, and then with NSC set to move to MLS next year, the future of the rivalry will once again become an open question.


Back to the Future: Tucker Hume

0524 Fury5.JPGEvery week around these parts, the Nashville Soccer Archive will be looking to put Nashville Soccer Club’s upcoming match into some historical context. This week we’re going to look at a central figure in the recent history of both Nashville SC and Ottawa Fury FC, Tucker Hume.

A towering forward in his second year in Nashville, Hume has enjoyed the kind of soccer story that’s easy to get behind. Initially a star for Division II Rollins College with his twin brother Walker, the Texas native first grabbed attention with his play in the summer of 2013. Playing in the same league that was once occupied by the Nashville Metros and the early incarnation of the Ottawa Fury, Hume established himself as an important player with the Austin Aztex. While under the direction of Paul Dalglish, the son of Liverpool legend Kenny, and alongside future No. 2 MLS SuperDraft pick Khiry Shelton, the Aztex ran rampant through the league, finishing the regular season 11-2-1 with an eye-popping +30 goal differential. Austin then went on to out-score their opponents 10-1 in the PDL playoffs, earning the club’s first and only title in the process.

The Hume twins returned from that summer to make an enormous impact for Rollins, with Tucker scoring 10 goals and assisting another six. Not to be out-done, Walker earned the league’s defensive player of the year award. Both then left the Sunshine State for a more traditional soccer power, the University of North Carolina. While each enjoyed successful, if staggered first years, with Walker contributing to a successful 2014 campaign and Tucker earning team MVP in 2015, it seemed as if things were lining up for a storybook ending for their senior year in 2016.

As each brother had felt the pain of NCAA tournament eliminations already in their career, Tucker proved the catalyst for a deep tournament run. After scoring a first-half equalizer, he headed home a 105th-minute winner to guide the Tar Heels past Florida Gulf Coast in the opening match. On the heels of a 1-0 win away at Syracuse, Drew Murphy sent UNC to Houston and the College Cup semifinals with a 102nd-minute strike to beat Providence. The Humes, who had played together at two different colleges and three different PDL teams, would now be ending their senior years playing in the College Cup. In Texas.

bbab9e06-f1fa-446c-ba97-83320033cda8.sized-1000x1000Unfortunately, standing in the way of the brothers was defending national champion Stanford. Fresh off a Jordan Morris-led College Cup win in 2014, the Cardinal were rolling once again, but the Tar Heels didn’t go without a fight. Both teams battled to a scoreless draw. UNC even made its first nine penalty kicks. However, Stanford made its first 10.

From there, the path of the Hume brothers diverged. Walker was a second-round draft pick by FC Dallas the following January. Tucker, well, his phone wouldn’t ring for a few more days, but it was a familiar voice was on the other side. As the Humes began making waves at UNC, their old coach, Dalglish, had moved up to the professional ranks to take a job with Ottawa Fury FC, and he was in need of another striker.

“I’ve worked with Tucker before and he scored huge goals for me when I was in the PDL with Austin,” Dalglish said of the signing. “He did the same throughout his college career, he always came up big in key moments. He’s a big target striker with a good habit of scoring goals at a key time and he has the type of character we want in our squad.”

Ottawa, which was set to play its first USL season after a spell in the tumultuous NASL, got an immediate return from Hume, as he found the back of the net an astonishing four times in their first preseason match. However, he’d only go on to score three in the regular season. Although true to Dalglish’s word, nearly every goal was of consequence. His first came in a 4-3 victory over New York Red Bulls II on May 20, and sure enough, just seven days later, he netted a 73rd-minute winner against Richmond. In July, he rescued a point with an 89th-minute equalizer against Rochester. However, things weren’t going so well for Dalglish, as he would resign from his position as coach and general manager in August.

Hume’s time in Ottawa done, he signed with upstart Nashville SC, and while he may not have been on the same team as his brother anymore, he was ultimately joined by former UNC roommate Alan Winn, who had spurned a deal with the Colorado Rapids of MLS to join him in the Music City. While his playing time was decidedly limited at times, Hume’s reputation for big goals continued as he grabbed his first with an 85th-minute equalizer at FC Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. With his height and Nashville’s all-yellow strip, Hume had previously been called “Big Bird” by FCC fans, and that continued throughout the match. After the goal, in what may have been the most memorable celebration of 2017, the lanky Texan put his arms out and flapped in the direction of the Cincy supporters. It was a breakout moment for Hume, who went on to score six more goals over the final 10 matches, closing his account with a fifth-minute tally against Cincinnati once again.

This season, Hume has scored just one goal so far, a 67th-minute strike on April 6. It happened in Ottawa.


Back to the Future: Connecticut vs. Nashville

Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 9.24.28 AMThis marks the first of a new feature here at Nashville Soccer Archive, in which the upcoming week’s match-ups are looked at in a historical context. This week, Nashville SC hits the road to take on Hartford Athletic.

As I work on a website like this, timelines and years can sometimes run together, and occasionally one can lose sight of what happened when or if two teams from a league ever actually played against each other, which didn’t always happen in a number of these minor league soccer seasons. So as I was contemplating Nashville SC’s match with Hartford this upcoming Sunday, I couldn’t help but try to remember if a Nashville team had ever played one from Connecticut.

The Metros, a major focus of this website, were the second professional soccer organization that played in or around our beloved Music City. A team often dealt setbacks, both structurally or financially, they somehow survived year-after-year for more than two decades, and what’s often lost in the cloud of their ever-shifting leagues and sometimes even team names, is that they spent five full seasons playing professional soccer under the same umbrella that has become the modern-day USL. Amid what would be their final professional season in the A-League, the team welcomed another oft-forgotten squad to Ezell Park, the Connecticut Wolves.

Neither team was particularly great that season, with both teams finishing the middle of the pack of their respective conferences, but the match proved competitive. Thanks to the reporting of The Tennessean‘s Harold Huggins and The Hartford Courant, we know that the New Britain-based Wolves spent the majority of the match on the front foot, going ahead on a Temoc Suarez goal in the 27th minute. The Wolves would stay the aggressors throughout, ultimately out-shooting Nashville 21-9, but luck was on the side of the Metros as Nashville head coach Brett Mosen would admit after the game. Jaymi Bailey fired in a deflected equalizer in the 69th minute, and former Lindsey Wilson College star Jakob Fenger capped the comeback with an 83rd-minute strike to put the Metros on top.

Nashville, which entered the contest with a modest 6-7-2 record to that point, caught fire following the result and went on to win seven of the ensuing eight matches to book a spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, that would be all the team could muster from its final professional season, falling 4-2 on penalties to the Milwaukee Rampage in the first round of the A-League playoffs.

The Metros dropped to the amateur Premier Development League in 2002, where they would stay until their demise following the 2012 season.


Dan Gaspar and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo

Connecticut, which had been on track for a memorable season that featured a 3-2 Open Cup victory over Carlos Valderrama’s Tampa Bay Mutiny, saw the remainder of the season go into a tailspin. The Wolves would win one of their final nine matches to end fifth in the Northern Conference. It marked the last year for the Wolves in the A-League as well, as they dropped to play one final campaign in the USL D3-Pro League before folding in 2002.

While the Wolves may have seen their moment in the sun end, the same can’t be said for their head coach, Dan Gaspar. A veteran assistant coach under current Colombian national team coach Carlos Queiroz, Gaspar followed him to stops with the Portugese youth national teams, Portugal’s Sporting CP, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS and Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight before settling back in his native Connecticut for stints with Central Connecticut State and the Wolves. Later, Gaspar would once again join forces with Queiroz on the Portugese national team staff from 2009-10 and then with Iran from 2011-17.


A Gem of Program

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 11.21.11 AMA little late night eBay never hurt anyone, and in this case, it resulted in the acquisition of a very cool piece of Nashville history, the game program from the Diamonds’ first ever match, which was a 2-0 victory over the Carolina Lightnin’. So, in the interest of furthering the cause here, I’ve scanned and uploaded the document for everyone to thumb through. This is the first piece of real Nashville Diamonds memorabilia that I’ve ever actually put my hands on, so I’m pretty excited about it.

Click here to browse online and here to download.

2018 Inter Nashville FC year-in-review now available

2018 infc review coverMuch like last week’s publication for Nashville SC, I’ve put together the available information to this point on the 2018 Inter Nashville FC campaign into an easy-to-navigate PDF. This information will gradually move to web form too as time goes on. Due to the lack of widely available information on NPSL and Open Cup statistics, this should be considered incomplete, but the important bits (i.e. lineups, goals scored and results) have been compiled as completely as possible. There should be more updates to come with this project! You can check it out and download it here.


2018 Nashville SC statistical year-in-review now available

2018 nsc review coverPart of the mission of this website is providing a comprehensive history of soccer in Nashville, and while much of the focus is on teams like the Metros and Diamonds, Nashville SC is also a huge part of this history. NSC also the easiest in which to compile statistics, so I’ve done just that in a simple easy-to-navigate PDF. You can check it out and download it here.


An incredible opening act for NSC

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(This website was created to tell the story of the history of soccer in Nashville, and as Nashville Soccer Club has just completed its first season, I’ve decided to use this platform to tell my story of how things went down in the Music City.)

It’s a familiar scene for this writer on this late evening in October. It’s a sense of both frustration and satisfaction. Of both elation and sadness. We have a professional soccer team, but that season has come to an early end. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and also of quiet excitement for what is to come for Nashville Soccer Club.

As the members of this group of fans spill out of a van into the crisp late night air of downtown Nashville, the obligatory hugs and handshakes begin. It’s an awkward moment, the end of a season, especially after sitting with a negative result for several hours. After nine months together, we’re not only literally heading in our own ways, but also in a figurative sense, until things get started again next year. In a lot of ways, it parallels my own experiences getting off the bus with my beloved Ball State men’s basketball team after losing in the season-ending conference tournament. We would unpack, we would say our goodbyes, and for some, we would see them again shortly thereafter. For others, well, who could predict what the future holds.

To me, this is one of the many things that makes being a soccer supporter in America so different from that of other sports in our culture. That’s not to say there aren’t die-hard fans in other sports, but rarely do you see this end-of-season ritual play out for fans in the same way it does for a team, and that’s exactly what is happening, which only serves to make this experience all the more bittersweet.

And what a wonderful experience it was.


NSC’s ownership group joined in the post-meeting celebrations last November.

For many teams in the USL, the build up to a regular season began in earnest in January and February. For us, it was almost exactly a year ago. This is a unique story. It doesn’t begin with Nashville Soccer Club. It begins with the future of this sport in Nashville, and that’s what makes the year all the more special. Last November, we thought we had developed a strong foundation our team going forward, Tennessee’s first purpose-built professional soccer stadium. It was a night to remember, but in retrospect, it was to become a plot point on an evolving storyline. As we walked out of the Metro Council meeting and into a late fall evening in Nashville, our future seemingly sealed, the mind could only turn to what was next, Major League Soccer.

Nashville, once considered by many a long shot for a berth into the nation’s fastest growing professional sports organization, had now become an odds-on front-runner. Sure enough, in the month following the vote, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made his way to the Music City to confirm Nashville’s invitation to the league. It was December 20, and for me and many others in the Middle Tennessee soccer community, it was the best possible early Christmas present.

A worry lifted from our shoulders, many of us began to look forward to NSC’s inaugural season. It was to be the third-ever professional team in the city, and unlike its predecessors, the appetite for the sport was at an all-time high. The signings were interesting, and eager to build off the buzz of the MLS announcements, the supporters groups began to swell and by the time Atlanta United made it to town on Feb. 10, the excitement of a new season was overwhelming.

In many ways, the excitement wasn’t matched on that cold, rainy day, but following a surprise announcement and reveal of the signature gold shirt, shorts and socks the team would be wearing, the weather and result didn’t seem to matter to the nearly 10,000 fans in attendance. It also served as the introduction of 20-year-old wonder Ropapa Mensah, a Ghana native who will forever live as NSC’s first-ever goalscorer. It was quite an opening salvo.

My personal experience of that opening day was certainly a little different than that of the average fan. Having come from a college sports background and already somewhat familiar with some of the team’s administration behind the scenes, I had a role in the press box. On one hand, it was a welcome experience to be helping out doing a job that I loved for many years, but on the other hand, I did miss out on the experience that I had set up for myself with season tickets behind the goal. This internal conflict was ultimately settled by the league, which would be taking care of the stats side of things once play turned over to the regular season. My first time in the stands would come, but I’d have to wait a month for another match day.

Following an eventful preseason that included wins over MLS opponents as well as a dramatic 2-2 win against burgeoning rival FC Cincinnati, a bus was booked to take supporters up to Louisville for the season-opening contest against our purple rivals to the north. While I was quite happily an independent supporter, this was my first extended time with the Roadies, a non-profit group that had previously supported the fan-owned predecessor to NSC, since a one-off road trip to a match on Vanderbilt’s campus two years ago.

In what would become a trademark for the Roadies going forward, the bus arrived right in the heart of Louisville’s tailgating area, and dozens of gold-clad Tennesseans streamed into the area to share stories and beverages as well as further develop a shared dislike of a certain other USL club.

Much like the Atlanta match, the result didn’t play out the way that anyone on the bus would have liked. A 2-0 loss to the defending league champions, but aside from that, it was a moment in history. The first real match for this new club, and perhaps more importantly for myself, an introduction to the people I’d be spending my next nine months alongside.

The next day, I paid my dues and joined the Roadies.

We would return home for a similarly uninspiring result on the field, a scoreless draw, but the story off the pitch was once again magnificent. Nearly 20,000 fans entered Nissan Stadium that day, making it one of the largest home debuts in league history, but after two matches, this promising first year side had yet to score a goal.

Now, I’d be lying if I said what came next was a completely spontaneous decision, but with my current position with Middle Tennessee State University, I have the ability to take days off a little more regularly than I ever could in my previous life. So driving home from Nissan following that draw, I started to examine the positives and negatives of taking off the last day of the following week to drive to Bethlehem, Pa., to see Nashville’s third match.

An admittedly new fan of the club, it seemed like a crazy idea, and I put it away almost as soon as I thought about doing it. However, as the week began to wind down, the pull of being potentially one of very few Nashville fans to see what could be the team’s first goal and win proved almost gravitational. With the added mix of the match being in Bethlehem, which is perhaps one of the most historically relevant soccer cities in the United States, I couldn’t fight it anymore. I didn’t really tell anyone until I dropped it in a tweet shortly before hitting the road.

The trip was my second of many on the season, and it was perhaps the most special. After making a long-anticipated visit to the former home of the original Bethlehem Steel team, I made my way to a local soccer bar, Golazo House, to swap stories with some of the bartenders, ultimately leaving my mark on the establishment with a Nashville scarf before crawling into bed with high hopes for the ensuing morning.

Having found out that I was the only person from Middle Tennessee to make the trek, I settled in a far corner of the ground with a flag. Nashville’s manager, Gary Smith, made his way over right at kickoff, and I let him know that I needed to see a goal that day. He said he’d make sure of it. A few minutes later, I got my wish. A decidedly dodgy penalty call went our way, and Michael Cox buried it. I don’t totally remember my immediate reaction, but a number of players from the NSC bench ran over to celebrate with me in the corner. I lost my voice almost immediately.


Liam Doyle, back when he still had hair,  presented me the match ball in Bethlehem.

After weathering a number of Bethlehem attacks, the match would finish 1-0. I came, I saw, they conquered. As the players were leaving the field, one of them, defender Liam Doyle, walked up and asked if I wanted the game ball. Of course, I wanted it. He went to the locker room and the whole team signed it. It now sits in a place of honor in my office at MTSU, and while I’ll always cherish the ball, it’s the memory I wanted.

In doing the research I’ve done for this website, the thing that stands out most is how little record there is for these matches and memorable moments for a club. As long as I live, I’ll still be one of the only people in the stadium that saw my club’s first victory, and I am going to always take a lot of pride in that.

It’s important to remember that while all of this is going on, our stadium fight had started to return to the halls of the Metro Council in Nashville. Just days before that trip to Bethlehem, roughly a dozen of us heeded a last minute call to make our presence felt for a council meeting in which one member, Steve Glover, was attempting to hit the brakes on the previously agreed to parameters. Without getting too much into the details, the push was to take the Fairgrounds, the site identified in the initial deal, off the table and agree to look elsewhere. The tactic was basically to delay the stadium long enough that the MLS team goes away. His efforts failed.

This last-minute call for support from the MLS folks in Nashville proved merely a preview for what was to come. With a mayoral resignation and an impending budget crunch, some members of the council were trying to walk back the commitment made in November. There was a conflict ahead, but for the time being, a lot of us returned our focus to the pitch.


A week after the Bethlehem road trip, Nashville made its way back to the friendly confines of First Tennessee Park to record its first home victory, a 2-0 decision over Charlotte, and it was a win punctuated by Justin Davis downing a can of beer with the team’s supporters. It also marked the continuation of what would become a tradition for the players, both home and away, of greeting their supporters with handshakes, hugs, photos and autographs behind the goal. It was yet another sign of the special relationship this team was developing with its fans.

The positive results would continue to mount for the team as it entered a crowded summer slate, which included a memorable run in the U.S. Open Cup that helped Nashville claim the nation’s longest unbeaten streak for a few incredible weeks. Following wins over Inter Nashville and Mississippi Brilla, the stage was set for a showdown between NSC and the Colorado Rapids of MLS, a match made all the more notable by what it meant for current NSC and former Rapids players Kosuke Kimura and Matt Pickens as well as for former Rapids manager Smith. All three pushed Colorado on to a magical MLS Cup run 2010, which still stands as the only trophy won in the team’s 22-year history.

Truthfully, the MLS side was no match for a hungry Nashville club as the Rapids didn’t place a single shot on target. Mensah, a man in the midst of developing a big goal reputation, iced the game with a 78th-minute strike on his first touch of the match. In a season full of moments, it continues to stand as one of the biggest. Just 11 days later, Mensah would deliver again, scoring a match-winner on the last touch of the game. In a meeting with NSC general manager Court Jeske a week later, he described both as “water cooler” moments for the club around the city of the Nashville. We were building something.

However, as is often the case following a hot first half of a season, the dog days of summer began to wear at NSC’s results, and while there were certainly highs, like another huge crowd for a draw with Cincinnati or Taylor Washington’s late winner over Atlanta, the team entered the fall in need of results to put the expansion club into the playoffs.

Results were getting a little worrisome off the pitch too. The stadium fight had reached full bore again as the summer began to die down. Opposition as healthy as it had ever been and boosted by the changing political landscape of the city, we were in for another battle.

Anxious to move forward, the team adjusted its proposal to friendlier terms for the city, and talks continued for a first-of-its-kind community benefits agreement that guaranteed, among other things, a wage floor, affordable housing, daycare and jobs for some of the folks left behind in Nashville’s economic boom. Meanwhile, the opposition, a group that claimed to represent the wishes of the Fairground vendors and current users, organized to fight the team at every stop. It was time to mobilize soccer fans in Nashville once again.


Here I am trying my best to present the case.

The final push would include advocacy for four bills that were in front of the 40-member council, and that began in early August. The magic number was 27. Supporters groups from around the city planned shows of their support over the course of the month-long voting process, beginning with a marathon session in early August that saw us wait until well after 1 a.m. for the first vote. The second reading and a special public hearing would take place two weeks later and see a huge amount of people from Tennessee pledge their support for the stadium.

In addition to the team’s promise to pay for much of the stadium, a key rallying cry for the supporters of the project was soccer’s ability to unite the city in ways that other sports could not. It’s this commitment to diversity that served as a wedge as the meeting wore on. I will openly acknowledge that there were certainly legitimate reasons to oppose the deal, but as the opposition’s speakers wore on, it became more and more apparent that the core of this fight was yet another proxy battle that “Old Nashville” was waging against a younger, and perhaps more diverse, “New Nashville.”

At the end of the night, the argument did not prove convincing.

On Sept. 4, we went to another council meeting. We came out several hours later with a resounding yes. There will be a soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds. Aided in large part by a powerful ownership group, we had let our voices be heard and we changed the future of soccer in Tennessee.

Stadium in hand, there was still a season to complete, and following that big win on Nashville’s Public Square, I decided that I couldn’t wait two weeks for the next home game, so I hit the road again. While it wasn’t as historically relevant as that Bethlehem trip, it was nonetheless a memorable one, as I set out for Cary, N.C., to watch the Boys in Gold take on North Carolina.

Both teams firmly on the playoffs bubble, it proved a crucial meeting, and things weren’t going well for the gold side. Once again the only Nashville fan in attendance, I watched the team fall behind by two goals twice before a tremendous late rally tied things up 3-3. The result rocked a North Carolina side desperate for a victory and saw Nashville build some confidence with its highest-scoring road contest of the season. Also, following 90 minutes of yelling, talking to myself and being taken on an emotional rollercoaster, I’m fairly certain that I walked out that stadium with a significant portion of my section thinking I was crazy.

After a season of decidedly inconsistent scoring form, the match propelled NSC to its highest scoring month of the year, and they’d score multiple goals in four of the last five matches to lock up a spot in the playoffs. The last day of the season also brought about another memorable draw as NSC once again battled from behind with regular season champion FC Cincinnati to level things at 3-3 on a Bolu Akinyode shot in the 90th minute.

Including the preseason, it marked the fourth draw for NSC against the league leaders, three of which were sealed with goals inside the last five minutes of the match. A day later, Nashville’s playoff fate was determined. They were going back to Cincy.


That day in Cincinnati is perhaps worth a 3,000-word retrospective of its own. Of course we were playing Cincy. At times pitted against each other in the fight for MLS expansion, there was a bitterness that underscored interactions between supporters of the two clubs for over a year. Separated by less than five hours and with the two largest fanbases in the USL’s Eastern Conference, that would boil over at times, not just between fans, but on the pitch as well. And all that was perhaps made more frustrating by the fact that neither team could beat the other.

However, a lot of the longstanding bitterness had worn away by the time it got to match day. Cincy, now with a stadium and MLS confirmation of its own, had become a more welcoming atmosphere for Nashville fans and there was a sense of mutual respect. Save a few notable exceptions, the Roadies were treated like guests of honor at both Nippert Stadium and the pre-game bar of choice for The Pride, Top Cat’s.

The match? An instant classic. Once again, both teams piled on the chances, but neither pulled ahead. After 90 minutes, we were still deadlocked. A Cincy goal that seem destined to be the breakthrough early in the first extra time period was wiped out once again by an arcing deflected shot from Bradley Bourgeois, this time just five minutes from the final whistle. The scene among the Nashville supporters was pandemonium. Five matches played, five matches drawn.

And so this would be settled from the penalty spot. One team was going home heartbroken, the other elated. For Cincy, it meant advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time ever. For Nashville, it meant not only eliminating their chief rival over the course of the season, but then making them wait until 2020 for a chance to exact revenge. Both sides made all five of their first spot kicks because, after all, it wouldn’t be Nashville/Cincy if we didn’t go to sudden death. Justin Davis, a fan favorite from day one, missed his kick. Cincinnati did not waste the opportunity. The season was over.

Just like they had following every match, Nashville’s Boys in Gold made their trek to the supporters, and together they both mourned the immediate end of the season and celebrated what they had accomplished. The last to enter the area, Davis, was welcomed warmly into the arms of fans, and they continued to sing his name as he left for the locker room.

“We love you, Justin! We do! Oh Justin, we love you!”

The season was important. The wins were important. But truthfully, the real story was always what was happening off the pitch. This team and its fans had fallen for each other, and no single moment from that match was going to wipe that away.

The future remains bright in Nashville. In fact, one might even say it’s golden.

Welcome to the Nashville Soccer Archive

Perhaps an introduction is necessary?38171292_10105960432297898_5965356124105342976_n

My name is Clay Trainum, and this site is a labor of love to compile the first comprehensive history of professional and semi-professional soccer in Nashville.

In a previous life, I was a sports information director for a number of universities throughout the Midwest and the South, and with the rebirth of professional soccer in Nashville in 2018, I was profoundly underwhelmed with the existing information on the previous teams that played in the Nashville area. With regular access to newspaper archives and a lot more free time now that I’m out of sports full-time, I set about to change that, so here we are.

This project, which is a little more daunting than I initially thought it would be, will likely take several months, if not years, to get it to the place that I would like it to be, but it’s something I very much look forward to completing.

At this point in time, my research has focused singularly on the Nashville Diamonds, a professional team that was both poorly managed and significantly ahead of its time. So far, I have mostly depended on the local Nashville newspapers, The Banner and The Tennessean, as well as the local papers from the opponents of the Diamonds. As time goes on, I will hopefully be adding to their story by hearing from the players that made up the team as well as from some of the writers who covered the tumultuous campaign.

If you have questions, or better yet, photos or further information on the 1982 Nashville Diamonds, please drop me a line at clayvtrainum at gmail dot com.