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 - Started, played 90 minutes in Nashville SC’s 1-0 win vs. Bethlehem Steel FC - 84.2 percent passing accuracy, 10/15 duels won.
In week three of USL action, Nashville SC took to the road against the Bethlehem Steel FC. In front of 2,220 opposing fans, the visitors seized a 1-0 win, the first in franchise history.
While the possession statistics were fairly even, Nashville had the better of play in terms of shots on target, racking up seven to Bethlehem’s four. A sixth minute penalty from Michael Cox gave Nashville the lead, which the expansion club held through the remaining 84 minutes in shutout fashion.
It was a big day for Alan Winn, who earned his first professional appearance and start in the win, going 90 minutes in attack for the victors after remaining on the bench in the team’s first two matches. Winn was effective in creating chances for Nashville, completing 84.2 percent of his passes and winning 10/15 duels. On Monday afternoon, Winn spoke with USLPDL.com to discuss his first professional appearance, his emotions during the match and earning the first three points in franchise history.
“It was awesome. I knew going into the week that Coach would start me - I didn’t know it, but I had a feeling. It was a good transition going into it, telling me we were going to play in the 4-4-2, change it up a bit because he wanted to go to my strengths on the right wing. It was a very exciting moment for me.”
“Yeah, first win in Nashville history in the USL. It was very exciting in the locker room, a big moment, but we’re always itching for more.”
“He said I performed well. I was going at players very well, taking people one-on-one, I wasn’t afraid to make a mistake up top and when we were in the defensive third I did a good job circulating the ball. It was not as difficult obviously since we were against ten men for a lot of the match, but Bethlehem still did a good job of going forward and keeping the ball, they did very well. But Coach said I worked hard and did what I was told.”
“That is to be determined. I have no idea right now. My role is to keep playing the way I play and do whatever Gary tells me to do with a pep in my step.”
“It is definitely thrilling before the game, knowing you’ll be starting and playing as a professional.
But once you’re in game-mode, when you start warming up, it just kind of fades away and it turns back into concentrating, focusing on what needs to be done and figuring out how to get three points away from home. It’s not really anything that changes in the mindset, it’s just before and after that the emotions start to kick in, but during the warm-up and the game it all stays the same as it has been since I was a kid.”
“Regardless of whether I play, start or don’t play, I usually start with a warm-up just to make sure that my muscles are loose, do some stretching, drink a lot of water and just concentrate on my set pieces and focus on my position as a player and where my starting role needs to be. I like to imagine, this is just me, what I’m going to do with the ball in one-on-one situations or some combinations I go through in my head to generate some creativity off the field and hopefully follow-up with some on the field.”
“Well the focus is on keeping our identity. We want to keep who we are as Nashville, keep our philosophies and what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively as a team. Nothing changes if we do change our formation, nothing needs to change about how we play and how we work out of the back and do things as a team. It’s just keeping the same hustle, routine and rituals so we don’t start from scratch and end up being clueless going through every week.”