A thorough viewing of Charlotte’s resumé to date certainly indicated that the Independence were not the powerful side implied by their league-leading form and goal-scoring prowess to date. However, it still would have been a surprise to see them simply dominated by a Nashville SC team that entered the evening standing seventh in the Eastern Conference.
Fast-forward 45 minutes and 21 seconds, and that’s exactly how the first half played out.
Even before Alan Winn got on the board in the 24th minute, Nashville SC dominated play. The Boys in Gold finished the half with 51.8% of the possession in the first half, but it was even more slanted in their favor early in the game, when the ball hardly seemed to cross midfield. Dangerous runs from Lebo Moloto and Winn, hold-up play from Michael Cox, and a swarming high press kept the Independence on the back foot.
Then, at long last, NSC finally got on the regular-season scoring ledger without needing a penalty kick. Right back Kosuke Kimura – who played just 22 minutes in a substitute role last week but returned to the starting lineup this evening – sent a ball over the top up the right sideline. A miscommunication by two Charlotte defenders (including one of them simply falling down) saw Winn get on the end, race toward the corner of the penalty area, and cut to his left foot to coolly slot it past Charlotte keeper Andrew Dykstra.
With that, Nashville was on top. Whereas last week’s win over Bethlehem Steel saw them simply hold onto an early lead over a side that went down a man in the sixth minute, NSC was not content to sit back and protect tonight. They kept the pedal down, with several other chances for the next 10-plus minutes.
Charlotte found its footing later in the half, with a would-be goal by striker Caleb Calvert ruled offside, and a bit more time spent in the offensive third. A speculative shot just before the halftime whistle went well high of Matt Pickens’s net, and the Boys in Gold are in the locker room with a one-goal lead.