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Second place on the table. That’s where Nashville SC stands after taking down Tampa Bay Rowdies in Saint Petersburg, Fla. Saturday evening. the Boys in Gold earned an early goal from Lebo Moloto, and got a game-winner as pretty as any you’ll see in USL to take all three points from the previous No. 2 Rowdies in a 2-1 decision.
Nashville got on the board first, shortly before halftime.
Striker Cameron Lancaster drew a foul near the top of the Tampa Bay box, and while his ensuing 44th-minute free kick under the wall was kept out by Rowdies keeper John McCarthy, the Tampa defense was asleep on the job, allowing Lebo Moloto free run to bang it home.
Despite the 1-0 halftime deficit, Tampa wouldn’t take long to get on the board, as well. They’d draw level just four minutes into the second half, with Sebastian Guenzatti tapping home a rebound. Kwadwo Poku’s initial effort was saved by Nashville keeper Matt Pickens, but the veteran – and former Tampa Bay Rowdy (Rowdie?) – was only able to spill the shot across the face of his goal, where Guenzatti was available to bring his team back even.
With a whole new ballgame, Tampa Bay seized control of the second half, dominating possession and shots (by a massive 16-2 margin). What they did not have, however, was anyone who could do the Kharlton.
Winger Kharlton Belmar has been forthcoming about how disappointed he is with his statistical output over the course of this season. He’s been more productive lately, but nothing has been as beautiful – or as meaningful – as his counter-attacking volley to give Nashville the lead in the 79th minute.
With an assist from centerback Bradley Bourgeois (another Nashville player who may not be the happiest about how his year has gone, with a demotion from first-choice defender to rotation player), Belmar’s goal is a lock for the USL’s strike of the week, and it may go down as Nashville’s most beautiful strike of the year.
With injuries to striker Ropapa Mensah and goalkeeper Matt Pickens (who bled profusely from the mouth after taking an inadvertent sliding knee to the face from Tampa’s Lucky Mkosana), the game didn’t finish perfectly for Nashville, but there will be no complaints about taking all three points in what has traditionally been a difficult place to play.
The win puts Nashville two points clear of Tampa in the East, and while the Boys in Gold have played 1-4 games more than the teams looking up at them in the standings (and one more than league-leading New York Red Bulls II), they can’t be caught from behind until next Saturday at the earliest.
An important victory in a six-pointer against the Rowdies puts NSC in solid position to hold serve and host a first-round playoff game in its second and final year in the USL Championship. Hopes for a title to take to MLS next year got a major boost in Saint Petersburg tonight. It’s now on the team to keep the train rolling.
- 44′ NSH GOAL – 10 Lebo Moloto (right foot), rebound from free kick (9 Cameron Lancaster)
- 45’+2 Half time
- 49′ TBR GOAL – 13 Sebastian Guenzatti (left foot) rebound from shot (88 Kwadwo Poku)
- 62′ NSH Substitution – On 19 Alan Winn, off 10 Lebo Moloto
- 71′ TBR Substitution – On 77 Lucky Mkosana, off 15 Andrew Tinari
- 71′ NSH Substitution – On 11 Kharlton Belmar, off 9 Cameron Lancaster
- 79′ NSH GOAL – 11 Kharlton Belmar (right foot volley), assisted by 22 Bradley Bourgeois (through ball)
- 80′ TBR Substitution – On 80 Shawn Barry, off 4 Tarek Morad
- 84′ NSH Substitution – On 2 Justin Davis, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
- 90’+3 TBR Yellow card – 77 Lucky Mkosana (foul)
- 90’+10 Full time