Through 93 minutes and 20 seconds of play, it looked like Nashville SC would be robbed of a result by a poor decision from the center official. Bolu Akinyode had different plans.
The Nashville central midfielder saw the ball ricochet off his chest, played it with the left knee, and wound up with the same leg, whipping it through the laces. A fortunate deflection from Charleston Battery defender Kyle Nelson wrong-footed Battery keeper Joe Kuzminsky, and justice was served in front of 6,662 fans at First Tennessee Park in a 2-1 home victory.
Just minutes earlier, a wrongly-adjudicated offside had robbed Nashville SC of what had looked like the game-winner. After receiving a forearm shiver from an opposing defender (who would later coincidentally be credited with the game-losing goal for his team), Lebo Moloto had intercepted a backpass from another Battery defender, dribbled around Kuzminsky, and put the ball into the back of the net. While Moloto had been in an offside position, a teammate didn’t play the ball, but the linesman and center official would deliberate long after the goal celebration and ultimately make the wrong call.
Three days after a weak red card cost NSC the game against New York Red Bulls II, it would have been a second brutal gut punch for a team that’s been on the wrong side of poor officiating too much for one season, let alone one week.
The game started strongly for Nashville, with the Boys in Gold dominating the first half in shots and possession. However, Charleston would strike shortly before the halftime break when winger Kotaro Higashi received a pass from Romario Piggott, touched it past the Nashville back line, and slotted home with a smooth left foot.
Feeling the better side, but trailing by a goal, Nashville likely didn’t have the warmest and fuzziest feelings in the locker room. It would take just over 10 minutes to draw back level. A solid run down the right flank by fullback Darnell King saw him cross into the box, where Ropapa Mensah, just days after his 22nd birthday, nodded the ball past Kuzminsky.
With a new game in the 56th minute, the teams traded chess moves, with Charleston a far more game opponent than they had been before the break. No longer would they be hoping to score against the run of play, they were able to hold their own and then some against a Nashville team that subbed on three speedier players – Kharlton Belmar, Taylor Washington, and Alan Winn – to try to find a winner.
The key player in giving them that opportunity was keeper Matt Pickens, who made just one save for the game, but an important diving effort in the 84th to allow Nashville the opportunity for the hectic end to proceedings.
With Akinyode’s goal and Nashville’s win, the Boys in Gold move up to No. 3 in the Eastern Conference table, just one point behind second-place Tampa Bay Rowdies. It may be fate that they next head down to Florida’s Gulf Coast for a match against the Rowdies in a week’s time. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, though a win for either team won’t be enough to take them to the top of the table, with each at least four points back of New York Red Bulls II (with the Baby Bulls also playing twice before Saturday).
- 43′ CHS GOAL – 25 Kotaro Higashi (left foot), assisted by 8 Romario Piggott
- 45’+2 Half time
- 56′ NSH GOAL – 3 Ropapa Mensah (head), assisted by 21 Darnell King (cross)
- 60′ CHS Yellow card – 4 Taylor Mueller (foul)
- 63′ CHS Substitution – On 20 A.J. Paterson, out 14 Jarad Van Schaik
- 65′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Matt LaGrassa (foul)
- 71′ NSH Substitutions
- On 11 Kharlton Belmar, off 9 Cameron Lancaster
- On 23 Taylor Washington, off 15 Jimmy Ockford
- 75′ CHS Substitution – On 19 Dante Marini, off 11 Zeiko Lewis
- 82′ CHS Substitution – On 13 Nico Rittmeyer, off 25 Kotaro Higashi
- 82′ NSH Substitution – On 19 Alan Winn, off 21 Darnell King
- 90’+3 NSH GOAL – 30 Bolu Akinyode (left-footed volley)
- 90’+5 Full time