Professional soccer has gone back to the future as the Nashville Metros open their 2001 A-League season tonight.
Back to Ezzell Park after two years in Franklin as the Tennessee Rhythm. Back with a roster that contains only two players from last year's 6-22campaign. Back with a captain who gained experience with the Metros in 1996 as an amateur before turning pro.
And back with Brett Mosen, who first coached the franchise in 1995 before returning last year to helm the state's top pro side.
"I think the difference between this year and last year is that we have players who've played at a higher level, who have more experience. We've got players with A-League and MLS experience," Mosen said. "Last year, we had some players who hadn't been through the league, and didn't know what it was like. These guys know what it takes."
The Metros are in Virginia for a 6 p.m. match against the Richmond Kickers (1-0, 4 points) which will be simulcast on their web sit(http://www.nashvillemetros.com). They will play the Kickers again on May 4 in a home-opening match that begins at 7 p.m.
"It's nice to be back here," said Mosen of the return to Ezzell Park for the franchise's 14 home games this year. "I think it's great for the fans."
The now-defunct Hampton Roads Mariners were one of the teams Mosen has helmed during his coaching career, and some of this year's squad additions come from that former franchise. New team captain Steve Kraemer, a midfielder, is one of those players.
"This is my fourth (A-League) season, so hopefully I'll bring my experience to this. I'm not the most experienced player here ... but I got to play with some really good players at Hampton Roads the last two years, so maybe that will help," said Kraemer, who became acquainted with Nashville during his stint as an amateur player here five years ago.
"I don't think just one person is going to turn this around, though. It has to be a team effort. We've got a good group of guys here, and we've started to gel during the last week, so hopefully that will bear positive results."
"I've had a lot of these players with me at other places like Hampton Roads, and to finally get them together here in Nashville is great. It's a good crew," said Mosen, who acquired speedy strikers Gabe Valencia and Jakob Fenger in addition to Kraemer and fellow midfielder Jaymi Bailey from last year's Mariners unit.
Another former Mariner, Chris Brady, played here last year and will see playing time after he recovers from a knee injury. He and fellow defender Ben Fisher are the only returnees from 2000.
"We've got players very capable of going forward, and that's very exciting. I'm a very attacking-minded coach, and I've got the players to do that."
Kraemer echoes his skipper's assessment. "We're going to want to attack. Everybody here likes to get forward, so we'll try to get forward whenever possible," the former University of New Mexico starter said.
"We're not the sort of team that just wants to knock the ball around and look pretty doing it. We can hold the ball when we need to, but we want to put pressure on the other team. We might go out and play differently against certain teams, but basically attacking is what we'd like to do."
The Metros were certainly in the attack mode last week with a 4-1 exhibition win against the University of Memphis as Fenger and former Columbus Crew midfielder Dominic Schell each scored twice for Nashville. They know, however, that tonight's match will require much more of them.
"Those of us that have played in this league before know a good deal about the league and the teams we'll play in (the Central) Conference like Richmond and (the) Charleston (Battery). This is a fast-paced league where you have to be super-fit, make hard tackles and have good skills," Kraemer said.
"I don't think this league gets the credit it deserves. There's a lot of fantastic players. It's quite a step up from college, and we'll have to get some of the new players conditioned to this level," he said.
Among the new players expected to contribute to the Metros' fortunes this year are goalkeeper Cole Burgman, who celebrates his 24th birthday today by making his first pro start; Hendersonville product Nick Glaser, a midfielder who was the team