NASHVILLE – By about the 40th minute in First a Tennessee Park Saturday evening, the outcome of Nashville SC’s final USL Championship regular-season game was not in doubt. A 23rd-minute goal from Forrest Lasso was ultimately the game winner, while a Daniel Ríos pair in the 32nd and 39th minutes all-but assured that NSC would climb – at least for the time being – to the top of the Eastern Conference table.
Instead, the suspense was more about individual accomplishment. Could Ríos add two more to win the USL’s Golden Boot? (No). Could Matt Pickens keep a clean sheet to comfortably win the league’s Golden Gloves Award? (Yes).
In front of 6,773 fans, Nashville SC rode out the final 50-plus minutes to complete the 3-0 victory, and wrap up the franchise’s tenure in the USL regular season before moving to Major League Soccer next year.
With top assistant coach Brett Jacobs pulling through strings in the absence of head coach Gary Smith – who served a one-game suspension after a dismissal from the team’s previous game, against North Carolina FC – the Boys in Gold didn’t need any tactical or man-management wizardry to win the game. Jacobs’s skill in leading the team didn’t need to go on full display for a comfortable win over ATL UTD 2.
The win means Nashville is a major scoreboard watcher Sunday afternoon. If Birmingham Legion can defeat – or draw – Pittsburgh Riverhounds, NSC is the Eastern Conference champion. Otherwise, the Boys in Gold will play second fiddle to the Hounds, and hope to make up for it with a strong playoff run. They’ve certainly positioned themselves well for that run, and enter the postseason on a strong run of form: Ríos’s second and third goals since mid-August brought him to 20 tallies on the year – runner up to Phoenix Rising’s Solomon Asante in the league – and helped him regain some confidence entering a win-or-go-home situation.
Nashville will host the winner of a Wednesday play-in game next Saturday at 7 pm from First Tennessee Park. With a win, every goal would remain ahead of the team, continuing on the quest to leave the USK with some silverware.
- 20′ ATL Substitution – On 29 Bienvenue Kamikamana, off 40 Brandon Clagette
- 23′ NSH GOAL – 33 Forrest Lasso (headed) assisted by 2 Justin Davis (corner kick)
- 31′ NSH GOAL – 14 Daniel Ríos (right foot), assisted by 30 Bolu Akinyode (through ball)
- 39′ NSH GOAL – 14 Daniel Ríos (right foot), unassisted
- 41′ ATL Yellow card – 11 Laurent Kissiedu (foul)
- 45’+2 Half time
- HT NSH Substitution – On 23 Taylor Washington, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
- 63 NSH Substitutions: On 4 Derrick Jones, off 10 Lebo Moloto. On 9 Cameron Lancaster, off 14 Daniel Ríos.
- 67′ NSH Yellow card – 2 Justin Davis (failure to retreat)
- 79′ ATL Substitution – On 41 Jordan Matthews, off 7 Luiz Fernando
- 90’+2 Full time.