Editor’s note: WordPress devoured an earlier version of this post, published from the pressbox Saturday night. All that remained was the title and top image – no text – so this is a total re-write. Apologies for the technical difficulties and for the delay in getting it up. I, uh, don’t get paid a dime for writing this site, and honestly just didn’t feel like doing it.
NASHVILLE – Last time Nashville SC played against New York Red Bulls II, they earned a draw in Red Bull Arena waaaay back at the beginning of May. At the time, it was considered a solid road result for a new club, against a team that didn’t lose all that often on home turf. A rollercoaster of a season later, and the same 1-1 scoreline will be a disappointment for the Boys in Gold.
This one came at home (NYRBII is notoriously poor on the road), and after NSC had spent time as one of the best teams in the USL… but also after the long decline since midseason to a fringe playoff team. Playing against another fringe playoff team – and with more than half an hour of man-advantage soccer – you’d have liked to see better.
NYRBII opened the scoring early, when a lack of composure for centerback Justin Davis led to a takeaway, the ball played across the face of his own goal by a Red Bulls player, and Amando Moreno easily slotting home the feed from Jared Stroud alone on the back post. Against a Nashville team that doesn’t score a ton of goals, earning a fifth-minute lead can be quite the path to victory. The Red Bulls would even have a chance to double their lead in the 14th minute, when a questionable penalty went against NSC’s Taylor Washington. However, keeper Matt Pickens faked to his left, saved to his right, and denied Tom Barlow from the spot.
“I just did my homework,” Pickens said of what went into the save. “I try to do things that are going to offset him and I try to let him actually play into my hands instead of me playing into his hands.”
Nashville would level the match after a red carded foul just outside the box committed by José Aguinaga. A little set-piece trickery – Taylor Washington tipped the ball to Liam Doyle, who bumped it back to set up Michael Reed for a shot under the charging wall – led to a blast into the lower-left corner from the captain of the Boys in Gold, and we were on level pegging in the 26th.
“It was kind of funny because when it happened we kind of talked about who takes it,” Reed said. “In that area, we were discussing does Liam whip it across or does Taylor try, but they said ‘no, you do it.’ My goal was to get it on frame. Do not hit it out of bounds or hit the wall but get it on frame. When I hit it, not that I was shocked, I was excited it was a clean hit and I thought ‘Oh man, I scored’. It was weird. I’m totally excited about it.”
With the balance of the game being played with an NSC man-advantage, a winner seemed likely.
“I honestly thought that the 10-man group [for the Red Bulls] did a good a job as I’ve seen from a group of men down to press the game, to make the game still purposeful for the group and look like they could actually go on and win the game,” said Nashville coach Gary Smith. “I was disappointed with the speed of our play and our ability to deal with that high press that we’d spoken about for the days leading into this.”
It wasn’t to be, however, with a few more Nashville chances going wanting. Tucker Hume couldn’t solve keeper Evan Louro played in alone on the keeper by Alan Winn in the 34th minute, a potential own-goal was saved off the line by a New York defender in the 63rd, NSC winger Kris Tyrpak was denied a clear penalty in the 69th (with Taylor Washington earning a yellow card for dissent), and the final kick of the game was a bicycle kick by Davis into the back of the net… on which he was correctly ruled offside following the second ball on a corner kick.
Having plenty of opportunities to put one into the back of the net won’t be much consolation for Nashville, though, because they were unable to finish the deal.
With the draw and results around the conference, they dropped to ninth place in the East (tied for eighth but giving up tiebreakers to North Carolina FC). However, with three games left – two of them against the bottom pair in the Eastern Conference – they have a chance to not only claw back into playoff position, but escape the No. 8 slot, which would see them face FC Cincinnati (also their final regular-season opponent) in the first round.
“All these times are teaching moments for guys as well,” said Pickens. “It doesn’t just start here and end here at games, we go through video and we talk. We have to convey to them our situations and our experiences and how to deal with moments in the game, especially after that first goal. It’s my job to do that and it’s Kosuke’s [Kimura] job to do that. Us older guys, the veteran guy’s job to do that. It’s our role on the team.”
There’s everything to play for, and while earning a point isn’t the worst outcome, Nashville SC hasn’t made things easy on itself by erasing any doubt in the final few weeks of the regular season.
- 5′ NY GOAL – 20 Amando Moreno (left foot), assisted by 50 Jared Stroud
- 14′ NY PENALTY SAVED – 74 Tom Barlow (right foot), saved by NSH 18 Matt Pickens (conceded by NSH 23 Taylor Washington)
- 24′ NY RED CARD – 89 José Aguinaga (foul)
- 26′ NSH GOAL – 17 Michael Reed (right foot), assisted by 5 Liam Doyle (set piece)
- 45’+3 – Half time
- 46′ NSH Substitution – On 30 Bolu Akinyode, off 11 Ish Jome
- 53′ NSH Yellow card – 30 Bolu Akinyode (foul)
- 65′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Matt LaGrassa (persistent infringement)
- 66′ NSH Substitution – On 26 Kris Tyrpak, off 12 Tucker Hume
- 69′ NSH Yellow card – 23 Taylor Washington (dissent)
- 72′ NY Yellow card – 50 Jared Stroud (time-wasting)
- 74′ NY Substitution – On 68 Lucas Stauffer, off 74 Tom Barlow
- 78′ NY Yellow card – 41 Ethan Kutler (foul)
- 90’+1 NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 19 Alan Winn
- 90’+2 NY Substitution – On 40 Niko De Vera, Off 20 Amando Moreno
- 90’+4 – Full time