Nashville SC began the 2018 USL season as one of the league’s top defensive sides. After a two-goal dud in the opener against Louisville City FC, they didn’t concede again until the fifth match of the year, and only one team (Indy Eleven, which did it twice) was able to pot multiple tallies against the NSC defense until the end of July.
The offense has never been particularly explosive, but with a defense like that, the Boys in Gold were able to not only survive, but thrive in spite of that fact. Since July 21, however, they’ve given up multiple goals to Ottawa Fury, Toronto FC II, Bethlehem Steel, and North Carolina FC.
It was the newly-established cracks in the defense that opened the way for a 2-1 loss to TampA Bay Rowdies Tuesday evening. The Rowdies got on board early when a through ball put striker Georgi Hristov in on keeper Matt Pickens. The veteran’s diving attempt prevented the goal… by taking out Hristov with no fingertips to the ball. Hristov converted the ensuing penalty kick for a sixth-minute lead.
From that point, though, Nashville would be the dominant side for the remainder of the first half. The Boys in Gold would launch seven shots – six from inside the box – while possessing 56% of the ball. An early cross from Kosuke Kimura in the 20th minute (working the wide areas of the field that Tampa’s 3-1-4-2 formation left wide open) would find Lebo Moloto to finish. NSC couldn’t convert any of their other shots, though, and this is a team that needs to be more clinical in the penalty area if the defensive performances are going to slide back.
Failing to convert on those chances – or the seven more shots in the second half, five of which came from inside the box – would come back to bit Nashville in the end. Tampa forward Junior Flemmings crossed the ball into the box, where defender London Woodberry (who came on in relief of an injured Bradley Bourgeois) would misjudge a clearing header, putting it into his own net. The 69th-minute go-ahead goal would stand up and NSC mustered only one more shot after going back down a tally.
With the loss, Nashville’s comfortable standing in the playoff positions – a standing they’ve held all year – begins to look quite a bit more sketchy. Tampa is on a solid run of form, and there seems to be no indication that NSC can rely on points against teams they should beat, including the Rowdies, who entered as one of the worst road teams in the Eastern Conference.
The task doesn’t get easier Saturday, with Charleston Battery heading to First Tennessee Park. The Battery currently occupy the fourth position in the Eastern Conference table, and have been beaten only four times all year. The last time these teams met up, Nashville took an early lead thanks to a Liam Doyle free kick, then conceded the equalizer at the beginning of the second half to earn a road draw. Even getting the single point Saturday evening looks a little less guaranteed given Nashville’s current form.
- 6′ TBR GOAL – 10 Georgi Hristov (right foot, penalty conceded by 18 Matt Pickens)
- 20′ NSH GOAL – 10 Lebo Moloto (right foot, assisted by 27 Kosuke Kimura)
- 45’+2 Half time
- 46′ TBR Yellow card – 24 Tarek Morad (foul)
- 53′ NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 22 Bradley Bourgeois
- 61′ TBR Substitution – On 7 Junior Flemmings, off 10 Georgi Hristov
- 69′ TBR GOAL – NSH 28 London Woodberry (headed own-goal)
- 70′ TBR Substitution – On 20 Martin Vingaard, off 18 Joe Cole
- 73′ NSH Substitutions – On 32 Brandon Allen and 23 Taylor Washington, off 12 Tucker Hume and 19 Alan Winn
- 82′ TBR Substitution – On 90 Kyle Porter, off 88 Kwadwo Poku
- 90’+7 TBR Yellow card – 13 Sebastian Guenzatti (foul)
- 90’+7 TBR Yellow card – 19 Daniel Vega (time wasting)
- 90’+8 Full time