In the shadow of an adapted Mexico flag, the only Mexican on the pitch celebrates his second goal of the evening. Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Nashville SC has become a team that, game-in and game-out, simply shows up to work and handles its business. That was the case once again Saturday evening, with a comfortable brace from striker Daniel Ríos and a long-range hit from winger Kharlton Belmar providing the scoring for the winning team.
Even a blast from Charlotte’s Enzo Martinez (who would be booked for dissent, and narrowly avoid a second yellow for the same infraction on multiple occasions later in the contest) wasn’t too major a downer on the night, given that NSC was able to find the game-winner – and then an insurance goal – after it. That’s right: the end of a 489-minute streak not being scored upon was a matter at which the team could shrug and move on. That intimidation factor was certainly nice to have in the back pocket, but the team’s goals go well beyond any single statistical achievement.
Ríos got things going very early, with a seventh-minute strike after an extended scripted play from a corner kick. Taylor Washington’s second ball found Ríos unmarked in the penalty area, and he easily hammered it home into the top netting. The Boys in Gold couldn’t take advantage of a couple subsequent opportunities, and Charlotte would find the equalizer in the 23rd minute. Veteran striker Jorge Herrera collected a cross inside the box, and laid off to Martinez, whose strike from the top of the box wrong-footed NSC keeper Matt Pickens.
The tension left the scoreline pretty early in the second half, but remained manifest on the field, with high tempers flaring after Alan Winn was brought down in the box to earn a penalty. Martinez would ultimately receive his yellow card for arguing the call. When the penalty area was cleared, Ríos finally stepped to the spot and sent Charlotte keeper Brandon Miller the wrong way, and rolled the ball into the bottom-left corner to provide the winning goal with 56 minutes showing on the clock.
A season that’s had some individual frustration for Kharlton Belmar got a bit of payoff – just his second goal of the year, a stunning fact for a player whose effectiveness has been obvious to the eye test – dribbling to the center of the pitch and benefitting from a slight deflection (which disrupted Miller’s timing) on his shot from the top of the 18. NSC manager Gary Smith inserted another player who’s having a frustrating year in the 85th, oft-injured striker Cameron Lancaster. Seeing his first action since suffering a July 6 injury against his former club, Louisville City FC, Lancaster had a handful of enticing runs, but couldn’t quite find that magical moment.
Another recently injured player, midfielder Matt LaGrassa, saw action last weekend, but he earned his return to the starting lineup for the first time since suffering injury in the same game Lancaster did, playing 61 minutes before ceding to Bolu Akinyode.
With the win, some of Nashville SC’s larger goals come into clear focus: the Boys in Gold have a chance to climb to the top of the Eastern Conference table (albeit with more games played than some of the fellow contenders) Wednesday. Their abandoned June 26 game against New York Red Bulls II will be replayed in its entirety, and a win would see Nashville edge the Baby Bulls for the top spot on the table – as long as the Tampa Bay Rowdies don’t beat North Carolina FC an hour earlier. Ríos also kept pace in the Golden Boot race, answering two goals by Phoenix Rising’s Solomon Asante with two of his own to remain just one behind Asante for the Boot lead.
The Boys in Gold are seeing a potentially special season unfold, and the next stage of that journey comes at 7:00 p.m. CDT from First Tennessee Park in the midweek.
- 7′ NSH GOAL – 14 Daniel Ríos (right footed), assisted by Taylor Washington (second-phase set piece from corner)
- 18′ CLT Yellow Card – 11 Valentin Sabella (foul)
- 23′ CLT GOAL – 19 Enzo Martinez (right foot, outside the box), assisted by 10 Jorge Herrera.
- 45’+2 NSH Yellow card – 15 Jimmy Ockford (foul)
- 45’+5 Half time
- 51′ CLT Yellow card – 22 Joel Johnson (foul)
- 55′ CLT Yellow card – 19 Enzo Martinez (dissent)
- 56′ NSH GOAL – 14 Daniel Ríos (right-footed penalty kick, earned by 19 Alan Winn)
- 60′ NSH GOAL – 11 Kharlton Belmar (right foot, outside the box), assisted by 20 Matt LaGrassa
- 61′ NSH Substitution – On 30 Bolu Akinyode, off 20 Matt LaGrassa
- 63′ CLT Substitution – On 7 Dominic Oduro, off 8 Isaac Angking
- 72′ CLT Substitution – On 9 Niki Jackson, off 11 Valentin Sabella
- 72′ NSH Substitution – On 27 Kosuke Kimura, off 19 Alan Winn
- 84′ CLT Substitution – On 21 Zyen Jones, off 20 Abdoulie Mansally
- 85′ NSH Substitution – On 9 Cameron Lancaster, off 14 Daniel Ríos
- 86′ CLT Yellow card – 86 Afrim Taku (foul)
- 90’+4 Full time