RICHMOND, Va. – Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. Saturday evening, Nashville SC was certainly both. The Boys in Gold romped over the USL’s worst team, the Richmond Kickers, with a fortuitous bounce on each of the first two goals.
In the 20th minute, Ropapa Mensah’s ball across the face of goal was deflected by Kickers goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg. It popped into the air… and directly into the path of striker Tucker Hume, who calmly nodded it home. In the 29th, a second Mensah cross again found a Richmond player first… but Mekeil Williams’s attempted clearance instead found the foot of Nashville captain Michael Reed, who got one of the most accidental goals he’ll ever score when it ricocheted directly into the net.
By comparison, Alan Winn’s capper was pedestrian. He ran onto a through ball from Matt LaGrassa in the 56th minute, and opened his hips to hit the right-footed shot across the frame past an on-rushing Spangenberg.
The numbers may not seem like Nashville was all that dominant. The Boys in Gold had only 41.3% of possession, only took six shots compared to 16 for the Kickers, and generally didn’t own the ancillary stats. However, much of Richmond’s productivity came from a Nashville team with a lead willing to absorb pressure and counter – knowing the Kickers would prefer to do the same, and are uncomfortable on the front foot – and the only Richmond shot on-target was a long free kick that was easily corralled by NSC keeper Matt Pickens.
Nashville’s early tactics were as exciting a brand of soccer fans have seen all year: for the second straight game, large stretches of a 4-3-3 formation with Tucker Hume the target striker and Ropapa Mensah on the right were used (Alan Winn, an in-cutting winger replaced left Ish Jome on the left this week). It paid off, with Mensah failing to register an assist despite two passes that resulted directly in Nashville SC goals. Mensah is a quintessential “tries shit” player (to use the parlance of Bruce Arena), and it’s easy to both see why the conservative Gary Smith has been hesitant to use him in situations where a turnover could be damaging… but it’s also easy to see that a little bit of risk-reward amplification may be just what this team needs to unlock more offensive production.
Mensah went the full 90, but the substitutions were more on the conservative side (understandable, given they didn’t come until NSC had been sitting on a lead for a quarter-hour), with defender Ryan James replacing LaGrassa – though he played in a midfield role at the beginning of his time on the field – midfielder Robin Shroot replacing Reed, and defender London Woodberry going on for Hume.
With the win, Nashville places itself in prime position to make a run for the playoffs. The side currently stands seventh in the East, but has a game in hand on each of the three teams ahead of it in the standings, and could clinch the postseason as early as tomorrow evening. Toronto FC II will take the trip south to First Tennessee Park, and Nashville will be looking for revenge after a loss in Rochester in July.
- 20′ NSH GOAL – 12 Tucker Hume (headed, rebound)
- 29′ NSH GOAL – 17 Michael Reed (left foot/knee, rebound)
- 40′ RIC Yellow card – 28 Greg Boehme (foul)
- 45’+2 – Half time
- 46′ RIC Substitution – On 92 Giuseppe Gentile, off 28 Greg Boehme
- 56′ NSH GOAL – 19 Alan Winn (right-footed), assisted by 20 Matt LaGrassa
- 62′ RIS Substitution – On 14 Tudai Imura, off 25 Brandon Eaton
- 70′ NSH Substitution – On 27 Ryan James, off 20 Matt LaGrassa
- 76′ RIC Substitution – On 10 Scott Thomsen, off 17 Oscar Umar
- 80′ NSH Substitution – On 8 Robin Shroot, off 17 Michael Reed
- 81′ RIC Yellow card – 38 Prince Agyemang (foul)
- 82′ NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 12 Tucker Hume
- 90′ RIC Yellow card – 92 Giuseppe Gentile (foul)
- 90’+5 – Full time