Photo from file. Tim Sullivan/Club and Country
Somehow, through three regular-season USL games, a playoff matchup in that league, and finally the series-opener in Major League Soccer, FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC had never been able to find a winner. The only result came in that playoff game, when FCC advanced on penalties in the opening round of the 2018 USL knockouts.
Nashville, uh, changed that on Saturday evening, largely courtesy of CJ Sapong. The striker scored twice and assisted Randall Leal to provide more scoring than the Boys in Gold needed to get the job done. In front of a season-high 23,832 fans, Nashville once again provided a victory and plenty of entertainment to the paying customers.
Sapong opened the scoring in the 13th minute. A Hany Mukhtar cross from a wide position wrapped around the Cincinnati backline, and an on-rushing Sapong got enough of the ball as he slid at the top of the six-yard box to redirect it on-frame.
The veteran went from recipient to server in the 35th. Moments after Taylor Washington couldn’t find him on a breakaway (and then had to make a recovery run to prevent keeper Joe Willis from facing two Cincinnati attackers by his lonesome – ultimately blocking Brenner’s pass for a corner), Sapong once again worked his way into an attacking area. After cutting onto his left foot near the corner of Cincinnati’s 18-yard box, he dinked a through pass to Randall Leal, and the Costa Rican hammered it past Cincinnati keeper Kenneth Vermeer.
Sapong would make one more strong imprint on the match before ceding way to recent signing Aké Loba. In the 57th minute, it was once again Mukhtar providing the service via a cross. This time, it was a free kick from a deep position, and Sapong’s forehead was his weapon of choice as he hammered another past Vermeer.
While Cincinnati had a couple late chances – including a free kick from the corner of the penalty area as time expired – it was Nashville who looked more likely to add the game’s fourth goal. Centerback Dave Romney slide a shot just wide of the far post after a nice slipped run, and Loba couldn’t quite reach the spilled rebound from a dangerous Abu Danladi shot in the 90th minute (after previously being too unselfish and serving a pass rather than ripping a shot 15 minutes earlier).
In the end, Nashville was the victor by a wide margin, and deservedly so. The victory improves the team’s record to 6-1-8 on the year – 26 points putting the Boys in Gold second in the Eastern Conference with just under half the season played. NSC will try to continue its seven-game unbeaten run in Canada next weekend, with a Sunday trip to Toronto on deck. A come-from-behind thriller over TFC kicked off the current streak without defeat, and a victory in Ontario could see this team finally cemented as a contender in the eyes of the MLS zeitgeist.
- 13′ NSH GOAL – 17 CJ Sapong (sliding, first-time right-footed at goalmouth), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed cross)
- 35′ NSH GOAL – 8 Randall Leal (right foot), assisted by 17 CJ Sapong (left-footed throughball on breakaway)
- 38′ CIN Yellow card – 5 Gustavo Vallecilla (unsportsmanlike behavior – dissent by kicking ball away)
- 45’+2 Half time
- HT NSH Substitution – On 22 Matt LaGrassa, off 18 Dylan Nealis
- HT CIN Substitutions:
- On 14 Nick Hagglund, off 5 Gustavo Vallecilla
- On 23 Isaac Atanga, off 31 Álvaro Barreal
- 57′ NSH GOAL – 17 CJ Sapong (header), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed free kick, FK earned by Mukhtar)
- 63′ CIN Substitution – On 19 Brandon Vazquez, off 33 Caleb Stanko
- 68′ NSH Substitution – On 72 Aké Loba, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 69′ NSH Yellow card – 17 CJ Sapong (time-wasting – failure to exit in a timely manner)
- 69′ CIN Substitution – On 15 Kamohelo Makotjo, off 6 Haris Medunjanin
- 74′ CIN Substitution – On 29 Arquimides Ordonez, off 2 Edgar Castillo
- 81′ CIN Yellow card – 12 Geoff Cameron (foul)
- 82′ NSH Substitution – On 19 Alex Muyl, off 27 Tah Brian Anunga
- 84′ NSH Yellow card – 10 Hany Mukhtar (foul)
- 89′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 7 Abu Danladi, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 6 Dax McCarty
- 90’+4 Full time