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Nashville SC could – temporarily, at least – have gone top of the Eastern Conference table with a win in Saint Louis Saturday evening, but it wasn’t the night for the Boys in Gold. Without striker Daniel Ríos for the third straight game as the future MLS player nurses a groin injury, Nashville SC couldn’t solve the Saint Louis FC defense, and fell 1-0 in The Gateway City.
Russell Cicerone found the winner for the hosts in the 77th minute, intercepting a headed pass in Nashville’s end before cutting onto his left foot and striking into the bottom corner from outside the penalty area.
It was a deserved winner for Saint Louis FC, which settled into the game after the halftime break. By harassing Nashville’s backline on the counter-press, STLFC was able to generate some dangerous moments in the offensive end, and the payoff was a long time coming. Indeed, a 4-on-3 break minutes earlier may have been the more likely scoring opportunity, but Collin Fernandez’s shot was airmailed wide under pressure from Nashville centerback Bradley Bourgeois.
On the night, though, it was the offense that was Nashville’s bigger problem. The Boys in Gold managed only 12 shots in the game, and only five of them inside the box. A second consecutive outing in a 3-5-2 formation saw a struggle to get possession in dangerous areas, much less turn that into shots.
A late injection of speed on the wings in the form of Alan Winn and Kharlton Belmar couldn’t change the tide, and a 90th minute substitution, Tucker Hume, saw the big man earn only two touches, neither of them in an area where he could turn and shoot. A re-evaluation of what went wrong will certainly lead Gary Smith to some tweaks going forward, but most important for Nashville will be getting Ríos back. Despite his recent absence, the Mexican remains in second place in the race for the USL Championship Golden Boot.
With the loss, Nashville remains in third position in the USL Eastern Conference, but with more games played than every other team in the top five, they may slide when those sides catch up.
Fortunately for Nashville, a nine-day break will give them a chance to get fully rested, even if it will likely lead to a drop in the standings. That could see the return of not only Ríos in the next game, but perhaps even midfielder Derrick Jones, who has practiced recently after suffering a broken ankle in May, but has yet to make a gameday squad as he approaches full health. Nashville will host Birmingham Legion FC Sept. 17, with the game taking place at 7 p.m. at First Tennessee Park.
- 12′ STL Yellow card – 5 Paris Gee (foul)
- 42′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Matt LaGrassa (foul)
- 45’+2 Half time
- 54′ STL Substitution – On 13 Kadeem Dacres, off 99 Mastanabal Kacher
- 59′ STL Substitution – On 22 Kyle Greig, off 18 Caleb Calvert
- 67′ STL Yellow card – 17 Oscar Umar (foul)
- 71′ STL Substitution – On 12 Guy Abend, off 17 Oscar Umar
- 77′ STL GOAL – 9 Russell Cicerone (left foot outside the box, unassisted)
- 78′ NSH Substitution – On 11 Kharlton Belmar, off 10 Lebo Moloto
- 82′ NSH Substitution – On 19 Alan Winn, off 6 Ken Tribbett
- 90′ NSH Substitution – On 12 Tucker Hume, off 9 Cameron Lancaster
- 90’+5 Full time