For many soccer players, rookie seasons can be make-or-break campaigns as they try to break into the professional ranks and show they have the stuff to compete at the highest levels of the sport.
The hard work, learning curve and earning of trust that goes into breaking through can often remain unseen behind-the-scenes. But in a new season-long series, Nashville SC rookie forward and Tobacco Road FC alum Alan Winn pulls back that curtain and takes us along on his journey through his first professional season in the United Soccer League.
Welcome to the PDL Alumni Diary.
Alan Winn - On 18-man roster, did not play (coach’s decision) in Nashville SC’s 2-0 loss at Louisville City FC
In week one of USL action, Nashville SC opened with arguably the toughest matchup league-wide. For the club’s debut professional match, it faced Louisville City FC on the road in front of the defending USL Cup Champion’s raucous fans.
As one might expect, the match proved difficult to the visitors, despite an impressive showing from the traveling Roadies, who brought a strong Nashville presence to the stadium. While narrowly edging possession, the visitors were beaten out on the offensive end in terms of shots, which translated into two Louisville goals and the hosts earning all three points.
While Winn did not make an appearance in the match, he did earn the distinction of making his first professional 18-man roster, an emblem of the faith the Nashville coaching staff has in him. The following week, Winn shared his thoughts on the debut match for Nashville SC, his time with the team so far and what his excitement for week two’s home-opener.
“It was pretty standard. During preseason we had our regular two-a-days and worked really hard to get a lot of fitness in there to get ready for the long season. But it was pretty standard in that it was tactically-based and focused on the minor details on set pieces and defensive and offensive shapes to lead up to the game.”
“It was great, obviously Louisville fans were great and the Roadies for us, them coming out was a huge boost. But it’s a small rivalry, just starting up and getting bigger, so it was a great atmosphere. The pitch wasn’t the best, but I’ve certainly played on worse and that shouldn’t take away from your game-plan towards goal and to show up for the fans that came a long way to help us get a result as well.”
“It was impressive, a lot of people came out. The weather I thought was supposed to be cold and rainy, but ended up being a nice day and a good St. Patrick’s Day for sure.”
“I’m obviously very blessed to have been on that 18, to have made my first professional roster. But now it’s towards the next step, you always want to get in and make an impact for your team. So like I said, I’m very blessed to be on the 18, but now the next step is to get some minutes in the game. You control what you can control and whenever the coach is ready to call your name is called, you need to be ready for it.”
“I've got to score goals. Score goals and make movements up top. I just need to do my job as a forward and that’s all I can do.”
“Obviously it is huge. I’ve talked to our office and social media side and they say the support from the fans is unbelievable. This is a soccer city and that’s why they got the bid to become an MLS team. Going out into Nissan Stadium is a moment that I’ll cherish forever, win, lose or draw. It’s going to be stuck in my head as a great moment, and hopefully we show the fans that they’re deserving of this team and that we’re worthy of playing for them and the city. It’s going to be a very special moment.”
“I love my teammates. They’re very humbling, everybody knows their roles and what they need to do and act very professional at all times. It’s a good transition, everybody is very nice and they’re bringing all the rookies in well. It’s a new team, so there’s not this hierarchy, obviously some guys have more experience but everything has been very professional and well done.”
“My relationship has been good with Martim. We haven’t had much of a time to talk a whole lot about the PDL, but there’s been some joking around like, ‘how many goals did you score?’, ‘how was this?’, ‘how was that?’… He’s a homegrown here, so he’s at a bit of an upper-hand with how the system works. So we’ve been focusing on this season and our goals for the future.”
Alan Winn - On 18-man roster, did not play (coach’s decision) in Nashville SC’s 0-0 draw vs. the Pittsburgh Riverhounds
After a tough road loss in week one of the USL regular season, Nashville SC finally got the chance to play in front of its home crowd as it hosted the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Nissan Stadium in week two.
The home fans did not disappoint, with an attendance of 18,922 leading not only the entire USL, but setting the mark as the most attended soccer match in the U.S. over the weekend. The impressive showing was mirrored in a hard-fought battle on the field, as Nashville battled the Riverhounds to a scoreless draw, earning the franchise’s first point in front of their astounding crowd.
Winn did not make an appearance in the match, but again found himself on the 18-man roster, with his repeated availability off the bench serving as proof of his work ethic during the week. Winn then spoke with USLPDL.com about the incredible atmosphere during the match, the toughness of breaking in as a rookie and remedying the team’s offensive struggles.
“It was an unbelievable experience really, the stuff you dream of as a little kid. You go out to Nissan Stadium, which is an amazing stadium, in front of 18,922 fans, it’s a surreal moment for sure and to be a part of it is indescribable.”
“It just shows you what Nashville is all about. They were super supportive there and even beforehand. They’re behind our team and that shows a lot for this city moving forward, especially given the MLS bid. It’s crucial to have fans like that for the game, because it doesn’t only help the players, but helps the league grow, so it’s nothing but positive.”
“Not of late. We’re only two games in so it’s hard to determine anything right now. I’m happy to be in the 18, but I’m not content. I have high expectations to make an impact by getting on the field, starting and winning games. But you can only control what you can, and as a rookie I understand that I’m new here and new to this league, so things aren’t going to click right away. You need to earn your spot and trust that process and hopefully when that moment comes you’re ready to knock it out of the park.”
“I thought Pittsburgh did a wonderful job of staying organized. They had their 3-4-3 system going on and defensively they dropped to a 5-4-1, so they were very organized and structured and, credit to them, they were hard to break down. But like I said, it’s the second game, so we can sit here and say ‘oh, we should be perfect’. But if we were playing perfectly I’d be a bit worried, since you don’t want to peak too early. So it all comes with time and training, style of play, who’s on the field, and as a forward, it’s all about who is and isn’t in form and who clicks with who. So we just have to give it time. As the season goes on, we’ll hopefully get results and see who’s in form and everything will fall into place.”
“Right off the bat, everybody knows this is a new club and that we’re all coming from different parts of the U.S., different leagues and soccer backgrounds. It’s a good family-oriented team, I feel. I think I’m very close to the rest of our players and I know there are some other teams where you just go to practice and that’s it, but we have a good bond outside of soccer, and that’s important. I think the coaching staff has done well. When we need a family-type of deal, that’s put into place, when it’s time to get down to the grind, that’s also put into place. So I feel they’ve done a really good job bringing us on.”
With weeks one and two in the books, the PDL Alumni Diary will return in week three as Nashville SC visit the Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday, March 31 at 2 p.m. ET.