Coach Brett Mosen can't afford to ignore any detail while coaching the Nashville Metros.
That's why he adjusted his side's game plan when he noticed that the field at Charlotte [N.C.] Memorial Stadium was somewhat smaller than at some other venues.
Did the adjustment work? Well, forward Jeff Houser gave Nashville their first A-League hat-trick ever in a 4-2 Metros win over the Charlotte Eagles Friday night, so it's more than fair to say the move was an unqualified success.
"Charlotte's a tough team, and they'll certainly upset a few teams on their home pitch," said Mosen, noting that the new Eagles franchise had already beaten the Charleston Battery earlier this year at home. "They have a small field, with very little space on the sides. Thankfully, we were able to figure out a way to handle that situation.
"It shows what great character we've got on this team. We went out with a mission and got it done. Nobody stopped working out there."
Houser's three-goal scoring spree came after Mosen decided to move the recently re-signed Danny DeVall into midfield from a defender's position. That move made space for Houser and fellow forward Jakob Fenger to put some serious moves on Charlotte's defense before the 2,115 fans present for the match.
It didn't take long for Houser to draw first blood. He took a pass from midfielder Jaymi Bailey, got inside the box and put the ball in the net for a 1-0 Metros lead during the game's sixth minute.
"Every week Jeff plays he keeps improving and I'm seeing a better player every time we go out there. He's enjoying it and we're enjoying watching his contributions to the team," Mosen said.
Charlotte answered eight minutes later when forward Dustin Swinehart took a rebound off Metros goalkeeper Cole Burgman's chest and put it past him to level the score at 1-1.
The Metros weren't going to end the half without the lead, however. Newly acquired midfielder Brian Hinkey knocked a 25-yard kick that soared toward paydirt, hitting the crossbar before bouncing straight up and spinning backward off the line into the goal for a 2-1 Nashville advantage in the 27th minute of play.
Nashville looked as if it might have settled the issue just four minutes into the second half when Fenger drew three Eagles defenders to him before feeding Houser for a wide-open shot from 22 yards out that made it 3-1 in favor of the Metros.
Swinehart, however, had other ideas. He gave Charlotte another goal in the 57th minute when the Metros defense failed to clear a long throw-in into the box. The ball bounced around between several players before it reached the star forward, who then booted it past Burgman to pull the home team back to a one-goal deficit at 3-2.
Fenger and Houser were once again too much for the Eagles defense, though, and they sealed the win in the 73rd minute. Fenger broke away from midfield with the ball, held it until a defender ran past him, and then passed it to Houser. Houser's third goal of the contest found the net from 10 yards out to make the final tally in the 4-2 win.
The Metros (2-2, nine points) played a U.S. Open Cup qualifier Sunday