New York Red Bulls II have had a certain reputation for years: score a ton of goals, but give away plenty of scores to level things off a bit in the standings. This year, they’ve added a proclivity for being a very solid side at home, but horrible on the road.
Today, both narratives were flipped on their heads to an extent, with Nashville entering Red Bull Arena and earning a result – and doing so in a relatively low-scoring 1-1 affair.
Ropapa Mensah put the visitors on the board first in the seventh minute, 20 minutes before Vincent Bezecourt would level the score after a beautiful through ball from midfielder Christopher Lema. At that point, you would have been safe to assume more goals were coming.
Opportunities came throughout the remainder of the game – Nashville ended with 13 shots (five on goal) to New York’s 17 (two on goal) – but neither team could find the strike that would reserve all three points for themselves, and a single point for each in the standings was the final result.
While New York took over the first half after Mensah’s goal – to the tune of 11 shots while Nashville could only manage one more – the second frame was predominantly Nashville. It’d be tough to call Mensah’s bicycle kick goal (disallowed for an offside teammate on the service) just before the half the best opportunity wasted in the game. The direct route over the top availed itself, and NSC went to Mensah early and often out of the locker room. It turned into a few nice opportunities, even more so when longball specialist Liam Doyle replaced David Edgar at centerback (Edgar had received a yellow card early in the contest).
Lebo Moloto, Taylor Washington, Bolu Akinyode (whose header was pushed just wide by NYRBII’s keeper) all had good chances as well, but Nashville’s typical problem of creating many chances while finishing very few of them reared its ugly head. Still, while the Red Bulls had a couple scary chances to steal the game themselves toward the end (an offensive player blocked what should have been a goal, for example), it’s tough to be too disappointed in the process for NSC. A shot on-frame tipped just wide of the post by the keeper, or a sure-thing saved off the line by a defender will feel like they could have gone in: the progress toward an offensive breakout remains steady, if frustratingly one step slow (like Michael Cox, subbed on for Mensah in the second half, was on a potential tap-in on the back post from a beautiful cross by Taylor Washington).
Nashville buzzed the goal throughout the second half, and to a certain extent, the number of opportunities created was a function of that traditionally weak Red Bulls II defense (without that final piece of clinical finishing that makes it count on the scoreboard). At the same time, the counter-attack only moderately bothered Nashville, the vaunted Red Bulls press was not a major issue, and other than the late first-half stretch, Nashville was clearly the better team, and against a side that hadn’t allowed anyone that status in their home arena to date/
Alan Winn’s return to the lineup, and extra pep in the step from Mensah (perhaps his departure from the game was planned, so he didn’t feel like he had to conserve as much energy early?), and solid performances from Kosuke Kimura and Lebo Moloto were just a few of the positives to take away from this one. The team is still not a finished product, but as close as it’s ever been: the arrow is firmly pointed in the right direction.
Nashville will need to be on its game this weekend, when Louisville City tries to spoil Mother’s Day in the mid-state. LCFC has been one of the USL’s strongest teams to date – including a season-opening 2-0 victory over a very different-looking version of this same Nashville side – and if the Boys in Gold are able to earn a victory at First Tennessee Park, the sky’s the limit for the remainder of the inaugural USL season.
- 4′ NSH Yellow card – 11 David Edgar (foul)
- 7′ NSH GOAL – 3 Ropapa Mensah (right-footed)
- 17′ NY Yellow card – 47 Hassan Ndam (foul)
- 27′ NY GOAL – 88 Vincent Bezecourt (right-footed) from 80 Christopher Lema
- 45’+2 – Half-time
- 53′ NSH substitution – On 5 Liam Doyle, off 11 David Edgar
- 63′ NSH substitution – On 20 Matt LaGrassa, off 19 Alan Winn
- 66′ NY substitution – On 20 Amando Moreno, off 19 Alex Muyl
- 69′ NSH Yellow card – 2 Justin Davis (time-wasting)
- 70′ NY substitution – On 50 Jared Stroud, off 17 Ben Mines
- 73′ NSH substitution – On 9 Michael Cox, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
- 83′ NY substitution – On 42 Brian White, off 80 Christopher Lema