When Luke Spencer scored a 79th-minute equalizer for Louisville City in First Tennessee Park tonight, there was a certain sense of “here we go again” for Nashville SC. All-too often last year – and even at times in 2019 – the Boys in Gold squandered leads to drop key points on the table.
Here we did go again, but it was Nashville SC’s late-game magic that was the recurring theme tonight. A free kick from deep in their own territory saw Nashville put centerback Forrest Lasso on the ball. His long service found his centerback partner Jimmy Ockford streaking into the box, and Ockford’s powerful header found the upper corner. 2-1 Nashville in stoppage time, and 5,837 fans went home happy.
Nashville took the lead just five minutes into the game. Ropapa Mensah’s low cross inside the box went just past the outstretched foot of striker Daniel Ríos, but Justin Davis was able to corral the loose ball, and slide it to Taylor Washington, who pounded it home.
The rest of the first half would play out with a significant bit of tension, each side earning just a single yellow card, but a couple skirmishes breaking out, with center official Lukazs Szpala having to play the role of boxing referee as much as a soccer one. He made his statements in the second half by going to the book, issuing six total yellow cards as tensions continued to run high.
The second half also saw the Boys in Purple begin to tilt the field toward the goal of their hosts. They ultimately put up 10 shots in the latter portion of the game, three of them drawing important saves from Pickens (and a few more drawing important clearances from NSC centerback Lasso, a deserving man of the match).
It was the substitute Spencer who managed to put his head onto a loose ball floating around in Nashville’s box that looked like it would rob Nashville SC of an important three points.
However, Nashville’s propensity for late heroics – entering the game, they’d scored 10 goals in the 75th minute or later this season, including two in stoppage time – got one of its most memorable moments yet. Ockford’s goal – after his would-be set-piece winner against Birmingham Legion was (correctly) ruled an own goal and removed from his statistical record – gave Nashville everything the Boys in Gold needed: all three points.
With the win, Nashville returns to No. 2 in the Eastern Conference table with just two games remaining. The team has sealed a finish in the top-5 or better, and with remaining games against North Carolina FC and Atlanta United 2, they hope to capture the final six available points, locking down the second position on the table.
They next hit the field for that NCFC contest Saturday evening at Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans (and of Nashville SC in its first two years as an MLS franchise beginning in 2020). Kickoff at 7:00 p.m. should see a raucous atmosphere with a fanbase that sees some of the biggest goals for the year coming into focus.
- 5′ NSH GOAL – 23 Taylor Washington (left foot), assisted by 2 Justin Davis
- 41′ LOU Yellow card – 22 George Davis IV (foul)
- 45’+1 NSH Yellow card – 21 Darnell King (dissent)
- 45’+3 Half time
- HT LOU Substitution – On 29 Antoine Hoppenot, off 21 Shaun Francis
- 51′ LOU Yellow card – 5 Paco Craig (foul)
- 59′ NSH Yellow card – 10 Lebo Moloto (foul)
- 62′ NSH Yellow card – 30 Bolu Akinyode (foul)
- 65′ LOU Substitution – On 9 Luke Spencer, off 22 George Davis IV
- 74′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 4 Derrick Jones, off 23 Taylor Washington
- On 22 Bradley Bourgeois, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
- 77′ LOU Substitution – On 14 Abdou Mbacke Thiam, off 36 Paolo DelPiccolo
- 79′ LOU GOAL – 9 Luke Spencer (headed), no assist
- 81′ NSH Yellow card – 14 Daniel Ríos (foul)
- 87′ NSH Substitution – On 11 Kharlton Belmar, off 10 Lebo Moloto
- 90’+2 LOU Yellow card – 80 Devon Williams (foul)
- 90’+2 NSH GOAL – 15 Jimmy Ockford (headed), assisted by 33 Forrest Lasso (set piece)
- 90’+4 NSH Yellow card – 11 Kharlton Belmar (foul)
- 90’+5 Sull time