This… was not a comfortable game for Nashville SC. The Boys in Gold went down within the first five minutes of the game, and emerged from the locker room after halftime to once again find themselves facing a deficit just 15 minutes later. Nashville SC did what it hadn’t been able to do much of this year: claw back from deficits, put big numbers on the scoreboard, and earn come-from-behind results.
With goals from Dan Lovitz in the first half, Hany Mukhtar just before the end of regulation, and Jhonder Cádiz deep into second-half stoppage time, the Boys in Gold managed to earn a Decision Day victory over Orlando City, taking down the hosts 3-2.
Orlando’s super rookie Daryl Dike got things started for the hosts, striking on a counter-attack to give the Lions the early lead. Lovitz responded in the 20th minute in what may be considered unconventional fashion. After his left-footed shot on a set-piece situation was blocked, he was undeterred, and hammered home from outside the penalty area with his right foot.
The teams traded blows before a curled free kick from Orlando City’s Nani found side-netting and beat NSC keeper Joe Willis. The OCSC captain – whose suspension for a red-card offense committed against Columbus in the mid-week was overturned by the Independent Review Council (the second time a Nashville opponent has been so-blessed in as many weeks) – stood over what was initially ruled an indirect kick for a dangerous-play infraction by Nashville’s Tah Brian Anunga, and made no mistake in sending it past the outstretched palm of Joe Willis.
Nashville continued to push, but couldn’t find much in the way of end-product for the majority of the second half. As a defeat (and eighth place in the Eastern Conference) seemed inevitable, though, it was a pair of substitutes who made the difference.
Hany Mukhtar, who missed the previous five games recovering from a hamstring injury, scored in a way that… may not have been the most-expected for a 5-8 midfielder. Left unmarked in the box, the German rose up and headed home a cross from Alex Muyl to knot things up. He provided the helper on the game winning goal in stoppage time, as well. With a free kick to the center of the box, he picked out striker Jhonder Cádiz. A more conventional aerial threat at 6-3, Cádiz pounded it into the hands of keeper Brian Rowe, who couldn’t keep it out of his net.
With the 3-2 victory, Nashville climbed to seventh in the Eastern Conference, inching past New England Revolution. The Boys in Gold will host fellow expansion side Inter Miami CF in the play-on round Nov. 20, after the international break. Nashville will likely be without midfielder Aníbal Godoy and winger Randall Leal, who will have to quarantine after returning from duty with Panama and Costa Rica, respectively.
For the time being, there’s plenty of time to celebrate a raucous end to the regular season – and to reflect on what can only be considered an expansion success.
- 4′ ORL GOAL – 18 Daryl Dike (right foot, counter-attack), assisted by 9 Chris Mueller
- 17′ ORL Yellow card – 21 Andrés Perea (foul)
- 20′ NSH GOAL – 2 Daniel Lovitz (right foot, rebound outside the box, from corner kick situation)
- 28′ NSH Yellow card – 21 Derrick Jones (foul)
- 29′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Aníbal Godoy (foul)
- 37′ NSH Yellow card – 6 Dax McCarty (foul)
- 45’+3 Half time
- HT NSH Substitutions
- On 22 Matt LaGrassa, off 6 Dax McCarty
- On 27 Tah Brian Anunga, off 20 Aníbal Godoy
- On 99 Jhonder Cádiz, off 14 Daniel Ríos
- HT ORL Substitution – On 13 Tesho Akindele, off 33 Jordan Bender
- 61′ ORL GOAL – 17 Nani (right-footed free kick)
- 69′ NSH Substitution – On 70 Handwalla Bwana, off 8 Randall Leal
- 71′ ORL Substitution – On 19 Benji Michel, off 9 Chris Mueller
- 72′ ORL Substitution – On 8 Jhegson, off 11 Júnior Urso
- 76′ NSH Substitution – On 10 Hany Mukhtar, off 21 Derrick Jones
- 87′ ORL Substitution – On 34 Joey DeZart, off 17 Nani
- 88′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (headed), assisted by 29 Alex Muyl (right-footed cross from left wing)
- 90’+1 ORL Substitution – On 99 Matheus Aias, off 21 Andrés Perea
- 90’+3 NSH GOAL – 99 Jhonder Cádiz (headed, from set piece), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed free kick from right edge of penalty area)
- 90’+5 Full time