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LEESBURG, Va. – It may not last long – each of the four teams immediately below them will have at least one chance to pass Nashville SC on the table before the Boys in Gold take the pitch again – but after tonight’s 2-0 victory in Metro DC, Gary Smith’s squad finds itself at the top of the USL’s Eastern Conference.
Ropapa Mensah’s 19th-minute cross (it actually appeared to be a shot – a little foreshadowing for later in the game) was slotted home by Daniel Ríos to give Nashville the early lead, and Mensah would double it himself, again striking with the right foot from a tight angle and this time finding the far post in the 55th.
In between, Mensah – along with several of his teammates – exerted some dominance over a youthful Loudoun United sign, while the DC United reserve team was able to express its potential… but unable to handle the size, strength, and speed of the grown men on the other touchline. Mensah almost added a second assist to Ríos, crossing with his left foot (a rare lefty touch for the young Ghanaian) and finding the head of the USL’s No. 2 goal-scorer, but while Ríos’s header beat Loudoun keeper Earl Edwards Jr., it ricocheted off the post, and nobody wearing gold was there to clean up the mess.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Nashville, with yellow cards dished out to midfielders Lebo Moloto and Alan Winn – and Moloto also had a missed shot in the ninth minute that could have set the tone early. Loudoun also upped its pressure late, with seven shots in the final 20-plus minutes… after just three through the opening 72 minutes of the contest. A goal-line clearance by Ken Tribbett in the 91st minute kept the clean sheet, a nice bonus to carry along with the top spot in the table. The game also saw extensive action for striker Tucker Hume along with the return of injured midfielder Derrick Jones, who had been out of the lineup since breaking his ankle on a challenge in the May 29 US Open Cup game against Charleston Battery.
With results breaking Nashville’s way on the out-of-town scoreboard (Pittsburgh Riverhounds defeated Indy Eleven, Louisville City and Tampa Bay Rowdies settled for a draw), the chance to remain at the top of the East come season’s end looks like a far greater one than it did when the day began.
Nashville next takes the field in just over a week, hosting Louisville City FC in First Tennessee Park Oct. 8. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. local time, and could have some of the highest stakes yet this season if Nashville remains in position to hold the Eastern Conference crown come season’s end.
- 19′ NSH GOAL – 14 Daniel Ríos (right foot), assisted by 3 Ropapa Mensah (cross)
- 37′ LDN Yellow card – 8 Elvis Amoh (foul)
- 45’+2 Half time
- HT LDN Substitution – On 31 Chris Odoi-Atsem, off 3 Peabo Doue
- 55′ NSH GOAL – 3 Ropapa Mensah (right foot), unassisted
- 59′ LDN Substitution – On 9 Kyle Murphy, off 6 Gordon Wild
- 60′ LDN Yellow card – 44 Kevin Paredes (foul)
- 63′ NSH Yellow card – 10 Lebo Moloto (foul)
- 70′ LDN Substitution – On 17 Andrew Lubahn, off 44 Kevin Paredes
- 70′ NSH Substitution – On 19 Alan Winn, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
- 76′ NSH Substitution – On 12 Tucker Hume, off 14 Daniel Ríos
- 82′ NSH Substitution – On 4 Derrick Jones, off 10 Lebo Moloto
- 90’+4 NSH Yellow card – 19 Alan Winn (time wasting)
- 90’+5 Full time