Randall Leal photo from file. Courtesy Nashville SC/Major League Soccer
For about a minute and a half, it looked like Nashville’s ability to hold onto a lead was going to evaporate in perhaps the most-important moment. Austin FC’s Jared Stroud had put his team level with Nashville SC on a solid strike… until the VAR bat signal went out. Upon further review, Stroud received the ball in an offside position, and the goal was no more. Back to a 1-0 Nashville lead – and one that would stand up as the final score in front of 22,421 fans.
The Boys in Gold went ahead in the first half on a beautiful bit of combination play – Aníbal Godoy forced a turnover in midfield and sprung striker Jhonder Cádiz down the sideline. Although Randall Leal’s volleyed finish from the Cádiz cross wasn’t pure (bouncing into the net after his contact was iffy), they all count in the end, and the Costa Rican gave his team victory. It was Leal’s second goal of the year – and a bit of payback from Cádiz, after Leal had assisted both of the big Venezuelan’s goals earlier this year.
An up-and-down second half saw the Boys in Gold settle into a defensive posture a little too early, allowing Austin to build possession and find some shooting opportunities. However, aside from Stroud’s ruled-off goal, only one Verde shot managed to trouble Joe Willis’s frame, and he tipped Daniel Pereira’s attempt from distance over the bar.
NSC grabbed momentum thereafter, with a pair of solid chances from Dominique Badji unable to beat Austin keeper Brad Stuver. The veteran also saved attempts from Aníbal Godoy and Luke Haakenson in the waning moments of the game to keep his team in the contest – but Austin couldn’t muster enough on the other end of the pitch to make that effort amount to anything.
Nashville’s issues in conversion once again reared their ugly head – the Boys in Gold scored the single goal on 14 total shots, six of them on-target, and representing 2.3 expected goals in the advanced stats – but by keeping a fourth-straight clean sheet, NSC managed to win its second game of the year.
With a trip to rival Atlanta United looming next weekend, a climb to fourth place in the Eastern Conference table is all that Nashville needed out of the contest. Turning success on the margins into success on the scoreboard – or more success, as the case may be, since there’s little shame in victory – can be a task for another day.
The contest in Mercedes-Benz Stadium kicks at 2:30 p.m. CDT (3:30 local) Saturday afternoon. After Atlanta took last season’s three-game series by a slim 2-1 margin, Nashville will be hungry to not only continue its undefeated run, but level the score against a well-known foe.
- 34′ ATX Substitution – On 18 Julio Cascante, off 3 Jhohan Romaña (right thigh injury)
- 35′ NSH GOAL – 8 Randall Leal (right footed volley, bouncing), assisted by 99 Jhonder Cádiz (cross)
- 45’+4 Half time
- 57′ NSH Substitution – On 9 Dominique Badji, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 62′ ATX Substitutions:
- On 17 Jon Gallagher, off 9 Danny Hoesen
- On 20 Jared Stroud, off 11 Rodney Redes
- 67′ NSH Substitution – On 10 Hany Mukhtar, off 99 Jhonder Cádiz
- 69′ ATX Yellow card – 15 Danny Pereira (foul)
- 79′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 23 Taylor Washington, off 8 Randall Leal
- On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 19 Alex Muyl
- 81′ ATX Substitutions:
- On 14 Diego Fagundez, off 15 Danny Pereira (injury)
- On 23 Kekuta Manneh, off 10 Cecilio Domínguez
- 90’+5 Full time
Don’t forget to vote in the Community Ratings (quick, anonymous process) to have your vote count in evaluating Nashville’s performances this evening.