NASHVILLE – Typically the “all it takes is one” lede comes with a story about a 1-0 Nashville win. The opposite is true tonight: while FC Dallas created some moments of (pretty serious) danger, their goal against the run of play stood up as the only tally of the game when Nashville was unable to find that moment of magic. A 1-0 victory for the visitors became Nashville SC’s only loss since February 29 – which, it must be noted, was eleventy years ago – at Nissan Stadium.
Ryan Hollingshead’s run in-behind in the Nashville defense was the difference. The veteran left back was able to lean off the back shoulder of Nashville’s defenders – close enough that the lack of a full VAR check was surprising (though he ultimately appeared to walk the line perfectly) – and corral a long ball before sliding it under Joe Willis.
Each team had several other chances to add a goal – Nashville SC ended with 12 shots and four of them on-target, while six of Dallas’s 10 shots (including the goal) tested Joe Willis – but neither could solve the final piece of the puzzle.
A five-man backline for Gary Smith made NSC’s plan clear from the beginning: absorb pressure and try to hit Dallas (against whom the Boys in Gold earned two wins and a draw in previous games this season) on the counter. That Hollingshead drew first blood on the counter didn’t change Nashville’s tactics, and neither did a 28th-minute injury to centerback Jack Maher, forcing Nashville into an early substitution. A like-for-like replacement with CB Jalil Anibaba saw Nashville trudge along with more of the same, and results that weren’t significantly improved.
Second-half substitutions provided some life for Nashville, with Jhonder Cádiz coming on at halftime and attempting two shots, while Alex Muyl’s lone attempt was a rebound from a goalmouth scramble that seemed destined to knot things up. Another second-half sub saw the debut of recent signing Handwalla Bwana (traded from Seattle Sounders). Though he was unable to make a difference, Bwana didn’t look a step out of place, and could be a useful piece going forward.
With the loss, Nashville’s placement in the final Eastern Conference table is not longer in the team’s own hands, though the options for that finish – sixth through eighth – are no different than they were entering the contest. The Boys in Gold may be better off in seventh or eighth, with less forced rest, and a home playoff game to build some momentum going forward.
NSC will fire its next salvo in the table on Decision Day, with a trip to Orlando City SC. The game – like all in the Eastern Conference – kicks off at 2:30 CST, and even if a win guarantees nothing for Nashville, getting the upper hand on what should be a long-term rival will be an important goal.
- 19′ DAL GOAL – 12 Ryan Hollingshead (left foot), assisted by 7 Jesús Ferreira (chipped throughball)
- 28′ NSH Substitution – On 3 Jalil Anibaba, off 18 Jack Maher (injury)
- 45’+3 Half time
- HT NSH Substitution – On 99 Jhonder Cádiz, off 14 Daniel Ríos
- 69′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 29 Alex Muyl, off 22 Matt LaGrassa
- On 70 Handwalla Bwana, off 8 Randall Leal
- 71′ DAL Substitution – On 15 Tanner Tessmann, off 7 Jesús Ferreira
- 77′ NSH Substitution – On 21 Derrick Jones, off 27 Tah Brian Anunga
- 80′ DAL Substitution – On 11 Santiago Mosquera, off 16 Ricardo Pepi
- 84′ DAL Substitution – On 3 Reto Ziegler, off 5 Thiago Santos
- 90’+6 Full time