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A road draw against New York Red Bulls II is hardly something to be ashamed of: prior to Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Nashville SC, the Baby Bulls were 3-0 in Red Bull Arena, with 12 goals scored and just three conceded. All things considered, taking the first points away from NYRBII in their home arena and holding them to their lowest scoring output in Harrison are positive signs for the Boys in Gold.
The way it unfolded, though, will naturally lead to some frustration. NSC had 13 shots – five of them on the frame – and numerous other opportunities in the box that didn’t result in a shot being taken. They couldn’t find the back of the net after a seventh-minute strike from Ropapa Mensah, though.
“We looked resilient and showed aptitude and created multiple opportunities to win the game,” said manager Gary Smith. “Unfortunately, our biggest problem is hitting the back of the net. We are keeping teams at bay. We did a marvelous job of holding a dangerous team to just one goal, but we leave with mixed emotions.”
Mensah himself remained a threat throughout: in his best game wearing the NSC crest, he had numerous opportunities. The goal was created out of thin air by a heady interception in the high press, and he had a couple other runs in on the keeper that challenged NYRBII’s Evan Louro to respond. Mensah had five total shots, three of them on the frame, and came away with a justifiable man of the match honor.
“I think the team is on the right path now, and with the help of the manager, I am confident in scoring more,” the 20-year old Ghanaian said. “The offense is getting better because we have been working really hard at training building that chemistry.”
Still, a 27th-minute equalizer – combined with the inability to find a second goal – from the Red Bulls prevented Nashville from taking all three points on the road. Even that was hardly something to be ashamed of. It took an impeccably-placed pass by Christopher Lema and a Nashville defensive mistake to allow Vincent Bezecourt to level the scoring.
The competition was indeed even higher-level than you could have predicted for Nashville: 17-year old Ben Mines had played for the Red Bulls’ senior MLS side just four days earlier, showing that he’s a legitimate talent, and not just with a “for the USL” caveat attached. He’s played most of his minutes with NYRBII this year, but the quick turnaround made the inclusion of one of the top prospects in the system a surprise (as was an appearance by USMNT prospect Stefano Bonomo, who had been resting in recent weeks).
Of course, Nashville’s goal isn’t to head into Red Bull Arena and come away thinking “we looked decent against a good team.” The goal is to win games and move up in the USL table. They’ll have a tough test in that regard coming up next. League-leading Louisville City FC visits First Tennessee Park next Sunday.
“Every week we grow and every week we get better,” said midfielder Taylor Washington. “We had a few opportunities today. We will go over the video and come back into training and go to work. It’s good to take a point away from Red Bull Arena, and we are ready to come back and play in front of our fans against Louisville.”
The 5:00 p.m. game has special Mother’s Day ticket pricing still available, and Nashville SC relishes playing in front of its home crowd. Could a return to winning form come in one of the toughest tests yet of the young season?